Finding somewhere to live is not as easy as you would think, as anyone who has gone flat-hunting will testify. Here are some ways you can make that search for your dream home as painless as possible.
If you’re renting, you may be tempted to sit back and let someone else do all the flat-hunting for you. If so- you’re in luck! Letting agents do just that.
Simply tell them what sort of property you’re looking for, how much you are willing to pay and when you need to move and they’ll do the rest for you; usually calling you with daily updates to arrange viewings of ones they think are right for you.
You should remember, though, that they’re not doing this for fun. It is highly likely that you will be charged an administrative fee, and occasionally other fees for things such as preparing an inventory (more about this in ‘Renting’ section’) or cleaning. Usually these fees only apply if they find you a property and you accept it, but every agent is different.
Always ensure that you find out about all charges before you agree to an agent searching on your behalf, and do not sign any agreement if you are not totally happy. Get somebody you trust to read any paperwork for you if you are not sure.
It’s important to remember that the charges which a letting agent can make are set in law.
Newspapers, magazines and newsagent windows
A good source of finding properties to let is in your local newspaper or freebie magazines. Some newspapers have a weekly supplement dedicated to homes while others publish advertisements daily. Contact your paper’s classifieds desk and find out on which day they print accommodation ads.
You can also buy newspapers that are made up solely of classifieds. Ask your newsagent to recommend the best ones. These are usually inexpensive and cover wide areas. Properties tend to be snapped up fast, so make sure you have an up-to-date publication.
Although some letting agents advertise in newspapers, most classified ads are from private landlords wanting to avoid paying an agency fee. The quality of such accommodation varies. Some may be real dumps but there are also gems to be found. But that doesn’t mean letting agents don’t offer dumps!
Never agree to take somewhere without seeing it first, and you should take a friend with you. As well as helping you stay safe, they can also give you an honest opinion. After all, your judgement might be clouded if you’re desperate to find somewhere to live.
Make sure you can pay the rent before you commit – trying to go back on a contract even if you haven’t moved in can be difficult. It can sometimes end up in a small claims court.
Most councils have properties available for rent that are reasonably priced. You need to contact the Housing Department of your local authority. If you’re not sure who this is, look in a Yellow Pages or telephone directory for your area.
Quality of council houses varies greatly, and you may find that there are considerable waiting lists. The length of time you spend on the list will depend on your personal circumstances. Councils have to give preference to people in certain groups e.g. ‘statutorily homeless’.
For more information and details on how to find your local authority, see our links.
Housing Associations operate in most towns and cities, offering many different types of accommodation.
Rents are usually cheaper than those charged by private landlords, but there may be strict criteria for becoming a Housing Association tenant. Some housing associations also offer schemes where you can go into partnership with them and buy a house. You pay them rent, which contributes to a mortgage.
Demand for housing association properties is usually very high, so you should contact the relevant housing association as soon as you can. Your circumstances may mean that you can ‘jump the queue’, so make sure you give them as much information about yourself as possible.