The whimsical world of home hunting

To be honest I have felt an urge to write about home hunting since my first year in England. Especially because I had never experienced it before but also because I never thought it would be so stressful.

My house in Portugal was built by my dad and later decorated and finished off with my mom. We never had to move or discover another city as my life and my parents life was always in the this little village.

However, Nicole decided to venture out to England when she was 18. Nicole is me and I my first real adventure in England was definitely finding a house.

On my first year my friend had already found us one so when I landed I had the idea that I was getting the keys two days after, I was running around from overly-priced hotel to overly-priced hotel and after a week…I was definitely stressed. We all were.

The documents necessary for the rental of the house and the rents in advance was also a punch in the stomach. Us, international students, need to have a guarator (someone that lives in the UK (over 25) that can certify that we will pay rent). You can either call in a favour from a connect you have or you can pay for a guarator. If you don’t have one this can result in the pay of, in this case, three months rent in advance. For a working adult this may seem reasonable but for a bunch of student newbies and their parents…this is dawnting. We decided to pay the rents in advance as it was the best option. Neither of us had connections in England to have a guarator and paying for one is money lost.

Bare in mind that most contracts require a six to twelve month rent in advance to be paid. We were actually the ‘lucky ones’.

Having paid the deposit, the three months in advance and the first month…we were broke. This is so much to be asked of a student… Student accommodation is even more expensive with the deposit and twelve month rent in advance with crazy rents for a tiny living space


Our landlords were in Spain enjoying their vacation and couldn’t give us the key. Really considerate having in mind that our contract had started on the 15th. Basically I was paying for the hotel and my rent at the same time.

We later got the keys, after one week of living in shared hotels. A year went by and we were now waiting for our deposit. I never came. I didn’t know at the time but our deposit should have gone to a deposit holding company, instead it went to our landlords’ pockets. Emails were sent and no one could do anything for us. The landlord’s said it had to be done with the agency and the agency said that it had to be with them (the agency was from their daughter).

One deposit was gone but never again.

Top tips I learnt from my misfortunes:

  • Deposits must be held by a company and that’s just a legal requirement in housing occasion.
  • everything you want/can think of that you would like to have in the house you can negotiate with the landlord. Some landlords have more than one house and can put one more fridge or closet if you want.
  • Make sure that everything you agreed on is on the contract. Read that part carefully. It must specify that you required that extra fridge or closet and should be showed as granted (depending on what you agreed).
  • State the obvious. Say you want the cooker, fridge, hot water to be working on the day you move in. Make sure it’s on the contract. It may sound stupid but believe me when I tell you it’s not.
  • Ask the landlord if it’s okay to put things on the walls (some say yes, others say no so it’s good to check so you don’t get your deposit taken away).
  • This is a tip that I am using for accommodation but can be used in most occasions, write emails, don’t call so much. If you do call, ask them to say that in an email so you have proof if anything goes badly. Or state what you understood of that conversation and ask them to confirm.
  • Take photos of the house before you move in. Get the keys, take photos of everything, have them dated and then move in.
  • No question is a stupid question. Ask everything and anything. Didn’t understand the rent system? Ask. Don’t know where your deposit goes? Ask.

My second house, in which I lived in for two years was great. It was the landlord’s childhood house and his only property so in case of anything going wrong he was there.

It was during this time that I realised how important communication is with the landlord. By having an open relationship with him, he starts understanding you move and may be more prone to help you in the future. Be professional and respectful. That comes a long way.

If you have any questions on how housing in England works please do comment on this post and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.

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