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Fresher pressure: how soon should you start looking for student housing?

Many first-year university students start looking for accommodation for the next year before having a chance to settle in

More than a quarter of first-year university students begin house-hunting for the following year within weeks of starting their course, according to new Which? University research.

A staggering 27% of 2017 freshers told us that they started searching for their accommodation for the 2018/19 academic year between September and November 2017.

And, overall, 41% of students said they’d started looking before the end of their very first uni term.

Below, we run through regional differences and why we’re concerned about our findings. Plus, we give our top tips to help all students secure the best student house for them.

How to find student housing for second year – step by step, we explore each key step of the process to help make it as straightforward as possible.

A different picture across the UK

The pressure for freshers to find accommodation for the next academic year soon after starting their course is much higher in certain areas, our research suggests.

As you can see, a much higher percentage of first-year students in Wales, the South West and the East Midlands started the house hunt much earlier than those living in other places, most notably Northern Ireland, London and Scotland.

London-based freshers were the most likely to leave the accommodation hunt for the next academic year until later, with 43% not beginning their search until after March 2018.

Why we’re concerned about our findings

We’re urging students not to make rash housing decisions that they may later regret, after four in 10 first years told us they felt ‘very’ or ’extremely’ pressured to start looking for accommodation when they did, and to secure somewhere quickly.

A first-year student based in the West Midlands said: ‘We started looking at alternative accommodation shortly before the Christmas break as others were starting to sign contracts and we were scared of missing out on the best places.’

Along a similar theme, a fresher based in the South West said that ‘it felt very much like a race. You have no negotiations with price as there are more students than properties.’

Reflecting on our findings, Alex Hayman, Which? Managing Director of Public Markets, advises: ‘As stressful as it might sound, try and remember to not let the pressure get to you. There is plenty of advice and guidance available to students looking for private accommodation for the first time, to help navigate the process and make an informed decision.’

Top tips when looking for private student housing

Sorting out a student house with your friends is exciting, but it can also be stressful.

There are a few key steps you need to take before you sign the contract. Depending on which stage you’re at, click the links below for our advice on getting through it all as smoothly as possible:

Once you’ve found somewhere you like, it’s time for the fiddly bits such as negotiating your rent and sorting out the tenancy agreement. Before signing your names, consult the tenancy agreements guide on Which? Money to know what to look for.

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