Aberdeen is a perfect storm for those who are looking to buy or rent in the city. With a rich populace, because of the oil industry’s omnipresence, relatively small area and a larger than average percentage of students – there are many factors that make finding a place to live in Aberdeen a struggle.
Last year I moved from university halls of residence to renting a flat with friends. The process was inevitable, and we knew that it would take time and effort – but we underestimated it. Luckily, though, we eventually got a flat that we were very happy with. I thought I’d share a few tips with any current and future Aberdeen students as to how to go about finding a flat.
Right now, mid to late February, is about the right time to begin your hunt for a flat for next year. It might seem way off, considering you will be coming back to Aberdeen for uni in September – but that is a dangerous assumption. Many tenancy agreements for students start/end in June, at the end of the academic year, so that is when people are moving out and freeing up flats for you to move in to. With the pressures of exams over, and a few weeks before coursework really builds up again, it is already time to get looking at where you will be living next year. Getting everything sorted long before the end of term gives you a peace of mind going into your exams that you can enjoy your summer without the house-hunting hassle.
First of all, you’ll need to set out what you are looking for. Figuring out who you want to live with next year and whereabouts are two of the most important things. I’d recommend staying with only two or three friends, (bigger flats cost more money) and looking for something at most twenty minutes’ walk from university. Being closer to the city centre is also a bonus if you can find somewhere on that side of campus. Aberdeen’s an expensive place to live, and rents are far higher than what you might find in Glasgow, Dundee or even Edinburgh. You could be looking at paying anywhere between £200-£400 per month yourself, so bear that in mind when looking for places. Don’t rule out expensive properties, because they may be much better than cheaper ones, but don’t rule out cheap flats because you think they are too good to be true. Above all, look at what you will be able to afford with your SAAS payments and any jobs, and work out an upper limit for yourself to avoid any money worries next year.
In the modern world, the internet is the most useful tool at finding something that you are looking for – and flats in Aberdeen are no exception. Varying your search will give you the best chance of finding somewhere that you like. You can use sites where people put up their own adverts, like Gumtree, or more traditional rental sites, like Zoopla, Citylets and Rightmove. Even AUSA (for Aberdeen University students) has some properties listed on their website. All work well, although the rental sites might be a bit more informative. Getting in touch with the people offering the flat as soon as possible is key. Send them an e-mail if you and whoever you are sharing with are keen, although if there is a phone number that is even more effective. Secure a viewing as soon as possible, and be ready to make an offer if you like the place at the time.
You’ll likely go through more than just one flat viewing as part of your search. With often tens of applicants for each property, the odds are against you – but there are things you can do to secure a place you like. When you are at a viewing, make sure to ask questions and seem interested – find out things like how much bills cost, how the previous tenant’s enjoyed the location etc. It will help your cause and make you more memorable. Make sure to see every part of the flat, and know things like where the washing machine is and whether the shower is electric or not. If you like the place, ask how to make an offer straight away. Different people will give you different responses, but if you can get an offer in before other people have even seen the place, your chances will be good. Some people offering flats for rent are just interested in renting the property, so it will be a first-come first-served scenario.
When making an offer, there will be different ways of going about it depending on who is offering the flat. A general piece of advice is to offer a little bit more than the asking price, to sweeten the deal for them. If a flat is going for £800 per month, offer £850. Prices in Aberdeen vary wildly depending on how close you are to the universities, how big the flat is and how new the property is – but being £50 over and above the asking price will generally be enough to be recognised. Remember you will also be asked for a deposit, which is typically one month’s worth of rent, in advance – so bear that in mind when making your offer.
These are just a few things that I picked up from my personal experiences of finding a flat last year, and may or may not apply directly to how you will go about things. I wish any of you following my advice the best of luck, and hope you find somewhere that you really like.
For more information, you can visit AUSA’s page on accommodation and when you to secure a flat remember to visit Aberdeen City Council’s website to get yourself a Council Tax Exemption Form, seeing as students don’t have to pay it!