In our quiet, coastal town there is rumbling in the streets. The air smells of blood, sweat, and the clean, clinical odor of furniture polish. In St Andrews in the air and war is being waged. House hunting is dangerous. Take a town full of ambitious, competitive students; add a very limited number of properties; then throw in indifferent and entitled estate agents and round it off with an element of exorbitant cost. You have to be “chosen” to get the property you want which will culminate in the rather exciting “prize” of that extravagant rent. It all seems a bit backwards to me. Yet in order to obtain shelter I had to join in the battle…
“So how’s the flat hunting going?” This question underlies all benign chat floating around the Bubble. It feels like a frighteningly mature and adult conversation to be having; I have now spent many an hour airing my qualms about the like of rent, bills and utilities, praying no one call me out on the fact that I am, in fact, clueless. Regardless, I found myself from estate agent to estate agent, booking viewings and (for once) reading terms and conditions – all very surreal stuff.
After the ridiculous number of hoops we students are made to jump through – pleading for nice references, panicking when those precious lists are released, and completing mountains of paper work – you get a viewing. That one-line address expands into a proper building, appearing before you in all its unmasked glory.
I turned up to my first one a few weeks ago; it had so much promise and charm. That is, until you find out that one unfortunate soul will be left with a cupboard for a bedroom. I left with a profound sense of disappointment. However, after a few glasses of wine my flatmate and I had overcome our anguish and hatched what we thought to be a crackdown plan that was going to afford us the place of our dreams. It went a little something like this…
The viewing had a 3 pm start time – in nabbing-a-property language, that meant 2:30 at the latest. Along I went, departing early from my philosophy tutorial and hurrying over to South Street only stopping off for the essentials (read: chocolate and coffee). There I met my equally frantic flatmate at 2:30 on the dot, took the plunge and pressed the buzzer. We were welcomed in by two lovely girls who were more than happy to show us our potential abode. Our viewing was then cut short as in walked a small army of other potential renters. The race to the estate agents was on. Arriving red in the face and short on patience, I was informed that I would have to attend the official viewing at 3 pm and was gruffly warned to get there before the estate agent. A two-second taxi ride later, I stood smugly waiting at the door for one more viewing and a quick run to the agent’s again.
It was on the second run back that the cracks began to show – the pressure of committing yourself to just one flat is daunting. In St Andrews it is no well-kept secret that unless daddy has the money for Hope Street, the flat you will end up in will probably be short on space. Doubts filled my mind: was it really okay to agree to a flat with no living room? On the other hand, the bedroom had a mountainous wardrobe and a girl must make sacrifices.
Ultimately, our application was successful. My pearls of wisdom go as follows: if you pretend like you know what you’re talking about it will probably work out; try not to stress too much. Ultimately, no matter what estate agents and other students may want you to believe, finding a property is not that horrendous. Just try to ignore the bitching and gossiping – it really isn’t that bad and you will find somewhere. Then you shall be left to consider the far more important matters, like whether or not it is too much to put a chandelier in a ten square foot kitchen.