Renting a home Finding a property to rent

Most rental properties are advertised both online and via letting agents 

There are a number of key things to consider when looking for a property to rent. Thinking about these things in advance will help to make your property search less stressful when you start to attend viewings. 

Your property search criteria

One of the most important things to think about is what you need, versus what you'd like. For example, although you may like to have a spare room, this may not be something that is essential.

Things to consider include: 

  • How many bedrooms do you need?
  • Would you like a garden/some kind of outdoor space?
  • What are your transport needs - do you need to be near a bus-stop/train station or within walking distance of your work/college?
  • Will you need a parking space?
  • Do you travel late at night/early in the morning? Will you want somewhere safe and well lit?
  • Will you want a bath, or is a shower room fine?
  • What storage space will you need?

One important thing to think about is whether you would like a furnished or unfurnished property. Unfurnished properties tend to have slightly lower rent but moving into a furnished property may work out a lot cheaper in the short term as you won't need to buy potentially costly items, such as kitchen appliances. Moving into a furnished property will also cut down on the cost and hassle of moving.

There are no hard and fast rules about what unfurnished/furnished properties will or won't include. Unfurnished properties may include no furniture at all, or a few extras such as a bed and a fridge. Similarly furnished properties may come with just the minimum you would need, through to a television and a full range of kitchen appliances - it's entirely at the discretion of the landlord.

Once you have your list of key criteria, it will help you to narrow down your property search and to figure out what is realistic for your budget.

To keep costs down, you may want to consider living in shared housing and renting a room rather than an entire property. Doing this could save you money on both rent and bills.

Find out more:Where should I live? - how to find the perfect neighbourhood to move to  

The lettings market

Consider how busy the rental property market is. For example, are the local letting agents desperate for tenants to fill their landlord's properties, or do they have too many tenants and not enough properties to let?

If you can find a good area that has lots of property to rent, it means you can take your time choosing the right property and probably offer to rent at less than the advertised price.

If the local tenant demand is high, it's important to appear keen and reliable - always turn up on time for viewings and have references and reservation fees ready. You could even have your own credit report ready to show prospective landlords/letting agents that you are well organised and can afford the property.

Letting agents 

Letting agents will know the local area well, and will be able to tell you what kind of property you can expect for your budget. If you let them know what sort of property you are looking for they can also tell you as soon as something comes onto the market.

If you use a letting agent make sure you use one that is signed up to a redress scheme, as this will give you better consumer protection. Using an agent who is not a member of a scheme will leave you with limited options to complain or get your money back if you have problems. 

You should look for agents who are members of the Property Ombudsman, the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) or the National Approved Letting Scheme (NALS). 

Letting websites

There are various websites you can use to search online. Some are specific to renting whole properties, such as Rightmove.co.uk and Findaproperty.com, while others are more likely to concentrate on letting rooms, such as Spareroom.co.uk and Gumtree.com.

One problem with looking online is that, when demand is high and rooms or properties are moving quickly, many may not even reach the internet because they're let before the agents have had time to advertise. 

You could also check:

  • any accommodation agencies, especially if you are a student, nurse or work for a large company that helps people find homes/rooms for rent
  • local newspapers and specialist publications such as Hot Property, Loot and Daltons Weekly
  • advertisements in local supermarkets or post offices/newsagents
  • noticeboards at work/college/university.

If you receive state benefits and are struggling to afford a home yourself, you may be able to receive help from your local authority or housing association. Visit or phone your local authority for more information.

Know your rights: Moving out before the end of a tenancy - find out if you can leave without being liable for the remaining months' rent. 

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Your home may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage.

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