As students begin returning to St Andrews for the impending Candlemas Semester, there is one issue prominent on many people’s consciences; one with a bitter legacy which haunts even the most poised and prepared pupil: accommodation. Those familiar with St Andrews’ private rental market will, with an apprehensive disdain, recognise the obstacles that must be conquered to secure a private tenancy in our sheltered coastal town, and will be putting their tactics to play in order to pre-empt the forthcoming fortnight of flat-related frenzy. I hit the streets of St Andrews to respond to the most recurrent questions asked by newcomers to the letting market.
Whilst I hope this whistle-stop tour of private letting will point you in the right direction, be sure to grab hold of our special property feature, “Hunting for Prey in a Ferocious Rental Market” (released in The Saint on Thursday 7th February) for my comprehensive discussion and insight into how to find a flat in St Andrews.
Q: I’m waiting for the Letting Agents to release their student property lists. Should I prepare anything in advance?
A: First and foremost, find out the exact dates that each agency is releasing their student lists – most will be out by the first week of February. Subsequently, ensure you have all agreed on all of my “3 Bs” of property letting:
– Bedrooms (how many bedrooms do you need? Are you happy to sacrifice a communal living room for an extra bedroom? What sizes of bed do you require? Is anybody prepared to share a room?)
– Budget (what is the maximum you can go to and how will you divide the rent?)
– Bearings (where do you want to live; near to your lectures in the North Haugh, in a cheaper location further out of town, or bang in the centre of Market Street?)
Many agencies will offer application forms and require deposits to secure tenancies. Fill-out applications well in advance of deadlines (they are usually lengthy) and have your deposit funds prepared and waiting to transfer.
Q: I’ve never rented privately before and haven’t had a proper job. What kind of references will Letting Agents require?
A: By their very nature the student lists are targeted to a particular audience and the properties and tenancies are designed around accommodating students explicitly. As such they will usually be willing to admit a letter from your Halls of Residence warden and a character reference (for instance from a family friend or doctor). However, if you can offer employment references, these strengthen your application they demonstrate your trustworthiness as an individual. That said, the market is cut-throat and those who can provide references from previous landlords may be held in higher regard for their verified experience of renting.
Q: What’s the average rent prices paid by students in St Andrews?
A: This is a common enquiry to which many seek a clear response. However I’m afraid to say the rental market is complex and it fluctuates year-to-year, street-to-street and landlord-to-landlord. Broadly speaking – to give you some indication – prices in St Andrews are commensurate with rental prices in upmarket central Edinburgh, so anticipate top-end rates. These days you may struggle to find a decent three-bedroom property between The Scores and South Street for less than £500/month. The fewer bedrooms there are, the fewer people can split the total rent (and utilities bills) so smaller flats tend to accompany an elevated individual living cost.
Q: Other than the handful of Letting Agents in town, where else can I look to find private accommodation?
A: Your colleagues in older year groups will be vacating flats as they prepare to graduate later this year – networking with fourth years can pay dividends if you want to steer clear of the inevitable overnight queues outside Letting Agents in February.
Check the notice board upstairs in the Union and the “Private property letting” section of the University’s website for private landlord’s advertising their properties.
Q: I’m already slightly daunted by the whole procedure; where can I find more tips on finding a flat in St Andrews?
This is merely a brief overview of renting in St Andrews – collect a paper copy of The Saint on 7th February for our special property feature. If you can’t wait that long then check out the Union’s 2012/13 “How To Rent Guide”.
Remember: To read the full guide to property renting in St Andrews, read Chris’ feature article in our first issue of term, out February 7th.