January and February. The scramble for St Andrews begins. Freshers finally learn where the travelator is. Friends turn to enemies as they both eye up the same flat on College Street. Private accommodation hunting in this glorified three-street town is a pleasant experience for no one, not even I, who ended up with my dream flat this year. But it can be made marginally easier by realising the horror of it and being appropriately prepared. So here are some tips to help make the process a little bit smoother.
1. Form connections. Find out whose houses and flats are up for grabs. Worm your way in and have absolutely no shame about it. Are your academic parents leaving a flat? Do you know someone moving out and leaving a spare room? Know all these things and pounce on them. The easiest places to find are those that you already know about. The best case scenario is that you find yourself an excellent place to live. The worst is that you’ll know which landlords and estate agents to avoid because of your friends’ horror stories. Don’t underestimate the value of that.
2. The student accommodation lists from estate agents are the PH symbol of the house hunt. Attempt to avoid at all costs. I realise wholeheartedly those of you reading this article and still woeful about your lack of accommodation will find this to be an overdue and futile piece of advice. By all means, of course you can find a great flat in the lists. If you can possibly deal directly with a landlord rather than a third party, however, the experience is so much more pleasant. StudentPad, Gumtree, BubbleBrowse, and the Sinner accommodation message board are good places to start.
3. Pester. Be annoying. Be as annoying as possible and call it enthusiasm. Email landlords and make sure they know you by name, email address and telephone number. If you can, try and build up a rapport during the application process. This’ll help you weed out the dodgy non-HMO compliant property owners from the lovely landlords that leave out the party clause on the lease.
4. Have everything ready. Your references, your deposits, your sacrificial firstborn. Once you start the hunt, the failure to have these things will be your downfall. As cruel and unfair as you will inevitably proclaim it to be, an estate agent won’t even look at you unless you have all of your paperwork ready to hand over. If you’re dealing directly with a landlord, so are approximately 15 other people. Who all have these things and that firstborn.
5. Get rid of those commitment issues. String of Friday night Bop relationships? An inability to go on more than three dates? Irrelevant. You will commit to this flat or house the day you get the email from the landlord asking you to sign. Otherwise, you lose. And I speak from experience, losing that flat on North Street will haunt you more than that JSA that had the smoothest of Italian accents. In all seriousness, the sooner you’re willing to do things, the more likely you are to get the lease. Be, as they say, swift as a coursing river.
6. Always apply to the University as a back up. This is especially aimed at first years looking to move out of halls. Whether this be halls or managed accommodation, always have a safety plan in place. Most of you will scoff, but the University can always find people to replace you if you reject their initial offer after finding a private rental space. Instead of crying about being homeless when you’re running out of time, you can just cry about possibly having to share bathrooms in halls again (as much as you might think the latter is worse). Returning student hall accommodation applications open on 10 February at 9 am. Returners have until Monday 17 February to apply.
7. Realise that even if you are the most organised and dedicated person in this town, occasionally you’ll run out of luck. Essentially, that’s all house-hunting is. Luck. Sometimes you will miss out. Except instead of proclaiming the unfairness of the world at the Union into the small hours of the morning, try again. Try harder. Perhaps, fail harder. But if you’re organised and dedicated, there will be a place somewhere for you. Good luck. Godspeed. And remember, the Badlands aren’t all that bad.