Being a student is a very stressful phase.

When I say this adults, especially working adults, laugh at my audacity to say this and then proceed to compare how easy we students have it and what is in store after graduation.

Anyways I still hold this belief, being a student is hard.

Among the important aspects a student has to worry about, student housing is among the top 3. From budgeting just how expensive your dream accommodation will be to fussing about your potential housemates, there are a lot of moving parts to deal with.

One will expect after living here for a while I would have gotten used to it, but this past week has shown me that house hunting is something no one gets accustomed to.

Luckily I have been fortunate regarding apartments, enough to quickly realize that comfort and safety are two very important necessities, both of which I got at my previous abode.

So why did I decide to move?

Due to the constant “advice” from my mother, I finally decided it was time to move. I say advise because as an African child, any advice from your parent is just an indirect order.

My mother was of the view that I had been living alone for a long time and it will be in my best interest to have a student experience, which was to have housemates.

However, based on my previous experience I was very wry of randomly selecting people and moving in with them. As luck will have it, 2 amazing people decided to include me in their search for a new place as their 3rd housemate.

Hence began our journey for a new place we will call home.

Looking back on this experience and my two other house searches, I realized there are 5 important questions students should ask when searching for a place to stay.

What is your budget?

This should be the first question, just how much are you willing to pay?.

As students when we are asked this question, the most commonly used response is “the cheapest one possible”, but this answer may not be adequate.

The fact is although we are students we all have different budgets. There are the ballers amongst us and the month-to-month paycheck. What might be below budget for one, might be considered as an above budget for another. This is very tricky when having housemates who are either on a different budget as you.

Therefore considering what your budget is and what are the limits you will be comfortable going above, is necessary even before searching for a place.

Let me illustrate with an example, I and my housemates saw a beautiful apartment, spacious rooms, with furnished living room and a pool, basically a student’s dream.

The amazing pool.

However, it was above our budget.

We were actively considering going above our budget if certain necessities could be included, but unfortunately, it was not possible. We had to increase our budget to get the house.

There might have been an issue if one of us had considered the given price as below the budget and was very open to taking the place. This would have led to arguments that might lead to the final decision to forgo living together.

So unless you or your parents are extremely wealthy people, establishing a budget and the possible limit is necessary, not only if you have housemates, but also if you are planning to live alone. This is so you do not incur unnecessary expenses or get manipulated by greedy landlords/agents.

How close is the accommodation to the University?

When searching for a place to stay, this is often the most overlooked or underestimated question.

Mainly because we are overwhelmed with the array of choices outside our budget, so proximity to the university seems like a less important factor to consider.

The focus understandably is on the affordable apartments are available, given that accommodations close to the university always tend to be very expensive. The aspect of proximity we believe will be considered after.

While searching for a new place I was given various suggestions on why I should consider living outside the university’s proximity.

From the opportunity to widen my options of finding affordable accommodation to experiencing a new lifestyle outside of the condition student area. These were some of the reasons given to me on why living outside school was the best.

However, after weighing the pros and cons, I understood that the cons over time will outweigh any possible pros.

Finding an apartment close to school has a lot of benefits, such as little to no commute time where you get to attend lectures early, especially if you are like me who wakes up 30mins before classes start, to the option of staying longer in the school library for those exam crashing reading periods.

Plus the flexibility to plan your learning activities or impromptu, social events with fellow classmates without the burden of considering the commute back home.

A picture of where we finally got.

When should you start searching for accommodation?

Honestly, as soon as you can.

House hunting is a long tedious journey people don’t talk about, from the moment you decide you want to move to the actual process of moving into your new apartment, there is so much to do.

House hunting involves calling various house owners or agents to set up a preferable time and date to view the house, then going through each house to decide if it fits into what you desire. If it fits into what you want, there is the negotiation that needs to be done and then the signing of contracts all these before the actual getting the keys and moving in.

For some lucky ones, this can be solved in a day, for others, it might take a total of 3 house visits before you find the right fit. This further gets complicated if you are moving in with others, as they also have to like the house.

Finally, there might be the occasional issue of the house is still been currently occupied, so there is a waiting period for the current occupiers to move out. This sometimes takes weeks before you and your housemates settle into the new accommodation.

So give yourself(ves) enough time to go through these steps and to adjust to the new environment in time for school.

What works for me is a period of one month, therefore the sooner the search begins the better.

Are you getting the value for the accommodation?

Yes getting affordable accommodation is key, but it should not be at the expense of other equally necessary requirements.

Sacrificing key elements such as comfort and safety, in order to get affordable accommodation will in the long run be negative.

In order to determine if an accommodation offers the best value for your money, consider some tips:

  • Is the accommodation close to essential shops and hospitals?
  • Are you in a relatively safe environment?
  • Will I have access to public transport?
  • Are there on-site maintenance, security, and/or property managers?

These are things that over time will either add to the enjoyment you get from your apartment or make living there a nightmare. I remember asking my landlord if there will be maintenance should we encounter problems with the taps or light fixtures, because let’s face it no one wants to be fixing stuff immediately after they move in.

Living Alone or with Housemates?

Living alone or with housemates are two different experiences. Having experienced both, I can say they both have their pros and cons/

If you want to develop your sense of independence, living alone will be beneficial. You are not bothered about what another person will like or find annoying, you can schedule plans, there is little to no interference or consideration need for another person, and for introverts, the peace it gives is key.

On the other side, Living with housemates also has its benefits, from having people you can occasionally talk to, sharing school work with, to having someone in moments when you are ill. Having housemates with shared values is bliss.

What option to go for depends on your personality and the phase you are currently in.

Additional bonus

Always ensure you sign a contract. A contract ensures there is a written document that shows what to expect, the terms and conditions and if need be how disagreements will be solved. It protects you from crazy landlords and is a sure way of knowing if an apartment is legitimate or not. You can find other helpful tips here.

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