If you are looking for a flat in London or another part of England, you are probably intimidated by the task. It’s far away, and you may not be sure how to proceed if you don’t even live in the same country. The good news is, these feelings are perfectly normal! Going to another country is nerve-wracking enough as is, without having to worry about living accommodations. How do you go about finding a flat in England? It’s not too bad as long as you get started early and have a plan.
Some people decide to wait until they get to England to find an apartment – this isn’t always the best decision, especially if you don’t have a lot of time between when you arrive and when you start classes. It can add a lot of stress to your arrival and could add some extra expenses that you may not be able to pay. So the first rule of all of this is do everything you can in order to prevent that potential stress; make sure that you have things set up before you step off of the airplane.
Before you do anything else in your search, you need to figure out exactly what you want. You may have to adjust these as you start your search, but having a general idea before you start will make your search much easier. There are several factors that you should consider when you are looking for an apartment.
Cost is the most important thing to consider when choosing housing. Your financial aid package may cover some of your home costs, but you still have to make sure to budget. If you are a student that has a working visa and low income, you also may be able to benefit from some of England’s resources, especially if you are living in the country for the entire duration of your studies. Make sure to do your research about any benefits you may be able to obtain. Of course, the aid you receive (from financial aid and from the government) will depend on your current income, your housing arrangement, and your monthly or weekly rent cost. Also, consider how much utilities will cost for that particular flat in your budget as well (in some cases, if you’re lucky, they’re included in the rent). Average rent in England is about £737 (1150 U.S. Dollars); it may run less if you’re looking for a 1 bedroom flat or a studio flat. Make sure to set a budget before you even talk to real estate agents and landlords. If you know what you want in terms of price beforehand, you don’t end up in a situation where you’re shown an apartment that you like that is way out of your price range.
Location is incredibly important. Some people think that they can opt for a flat in the out-lands, away from the busyness of the city. But this is often unwise, because it can end up costing you more because of transportation in and out of the city. So make sure that you’re looking for flats close to where you will be working and studying, it will make life much easier in the long run. What amenities are nearby? Where is the nearest Laundromat? Where is the nearest market? These should also play into your location decisions. Give yourself a range of several blocks or even several whole districts to start with, and expand as you go. Your university may be able to provide a list of districts and/or counties in the immediate area of your university so that you know where to look.
Furnished flats are great for people who are studying abroad, because then you don’t have to be concerned about purchasing furniture that you will just have to sell when you leave England. The cost between furnished flats and unfurnished flats is usually not a lot, and the landlords make sure that the homes are furnished nicely. If your flat is unfurnished, check out Gumtree; it’s the equivalent of the American website Craigslist, which is essentially an online yard sale or classified ad page. If you prefer having a furnished apartment though, make sure to tell the agent or landlord you are working with; they can usually help you look at a few furnished ones.
What else do you find important? The look of the apartment is always good to consider. How long is the lease good for? What’s the security deposit cost? Are there pets allowed? What floor is the flat on? No matter what other preferences you have, make sure that you think about them before you start looking. Write everything down as well, so you have a checklist to go through as you search.
Now that you know exactly what you are looking for, now you need to know where to look. The good news is, some universities will help you find housing or offer on-campus housing options. A handful of English universities will also provide you with guaranteed first-year housing if you are an international student. Most universities will have lists of people and agencies that you can contact in order to find housing near your university, even if they aren’t providing you with on-campus housing options. So, your first option when searching is to contact your university’s international students association or office and see what they suggest.
If this isn’t the case, or you don’t like the options that the university has given to you, there are always other housing options available. One of the best places to start looking for housing is the internet. Sometimes, the internet is a little behind on housing options, but it’s definitely where you should start your search. One website that is great to start with is Zoopla. Zoopla is similar to American housing sites like Apartment Finder; essentially, it’s a site where you pop in the location and you can go. Another great site to check out is Find a Flat, which essentially does the same thing as Zoopla.
You could also go to Google (or whatever your preferred search engine is) and search “real estate agencies near” whatever town, city, or region of England that you are heading to. Those real estate agencies will have contact information that you can use in order to get quotes and prices about what you will need. If you are looking to live in a city, such as London, this actually may be your best route. Most landlords in these large cities opt to work with agencies, so it’s easy to find a lot of flats to look at in one shot. In this case, you choose the apartment and then your agent comes with your choice of apartment. Many people who go to England to study prefer using small, local agencies instead of going to larger national agencies.
Make sure that you double check the price quotes. Sure, it sounds affordable at first, but some rent prices in England are per week. So be careful! If it’s per week, multiply that number by four and that will tell you what you’re really paying per month. If you’re talking directly to agents or landlords, you can request a monthly rate as opposed to a weekly one, and Zoopla lists both monthly and weekly rates for flats.
Finally, it’s time for you to start looking. You will look, and look, and look some more. It may take a couple months for you to be able to find the apartment that you want, which is why you need to start looking before you are in England. Don’t just settle for second best; sometimes, apartments that are available have a reason that they’re still available. Wait it out and see if you can find the best flat for your needs. You may not be able to look at the apartment, except through pictures, until you actually get to England. But that’s where the power of the internet comes into play; many places now offer virtual tours in order to accommodate these sorts of situations.
Finally, put in your offer. Unlike some other countries (including the United States), everything is not set in stone. In fact, it’s more like buying a house; almost everything can be negotiated, including rent, whether or not pets are allowed, and if it’s furnished or not. Be careful when you bid though; if you ask for too much you may not be able to get the apartment at your desired rate.
Overall, finding living accommodations in England is no different than finding living accommodations in your home country, it just poses unique challenges due to being so far away from your home country. Take your time, do research, and make connections, and you should be able to find living accommodations in England with no problems.
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