Student Property in Southampton
House hunting time! OK it is not the most romantic subject, with respect to the date, but a job to do.
As you no doubt imagine, this task was not the magical mystery tour for me as it can be for many others. The questions are deeply ingrained in my head: Gas or Electric? Does it stay warm in the summer? Are the neighbours noisy? How far is the nearest supermarket/pub/barber? Is there a reliable net connection? Although, there is obviously no need to ask about how many the Council Tax is and therefore knowledge of house prices in 1991* can be safely put to one side.
The student bodies – both the university and the student union – are keen to point out the number of student properties in Southampton is more than sufficient to account for the combined number of students in the area. This has had two effects: 1) the rents are very competitive and do not vary a great deal, which means finding a property within budget should not be too difficult given a little patience and 2) the various tenancy agencies seem to be behaving like the doormen outside a nightclub on a quiet evening, where in order to create the illusion of a busy club they allow a queue to build up. So any impression of there being a shortage of properties in Southampton should be taken with a pinch of salt.
Given all that, I was determined to be cautious and picky. The experience of making some bad snap judgements in the past has reinforced this way of thinking. That being said it took two days of looking and six properties before the tutor group settled on a house. In all honesty, it is a truly cracking setup. Otherwise, I would not have been happy with making a decision in such a short timeframe and the deal looks to be a good one. The group were very much in favour of the property from the initial viewing. Although, I felt it necessary to force at least an hour of deliberation to ensure we were not missing anything obvious.
The problem that I encountered was the Guarantor form, or rather lack therefore of. As neither of my parents work (one is retired and the other is soon-to-be retired), this ruled them out from signing one. I understand that if you are a student with no credit history and no references then the need for a guarantor is justified. After all, if you are running an agency then one of your responsibilities is to find tenants who can pay and will pay. But hold on a sec, I do have references, I do have a credit history and I do have proof of funding for the next couple of years, so should that not be sufficient? it was good enough for my previous Landlords/Agencies. Apparently not, judging by the expression of one of the women in the office. They had just been bowled a googly and had no idea to respond. Not quite “Computer says no”, but not far off. Perhaps I would like pay a year in advance? No thank you. Call me old fashioned, but I’m not keen on trusting my bank with that kinda money, so they stood no chance. Fortunately persistence and patience pays off: a word with the director of the company and sanity prevailed.
Our soon-to-be Landlord is an interesting character. It is usual to be accompanied by a representative from the agency, but it is more unusual for the Landlord to be present also. During each viewing, he would give a brief history of the property, what work had been done and also what could be done in the future if we so required. As I would later find out, the guy owns a fair chunk of Southampton, yet is seemingly quite content to drive around in a V-reg Honda. Respect is due.
Now the place to live for the next year is settled, better make sure I’m at the Uni to enjoy it :).
* The amount of council tax is calculated using the value of property or assumed value of property in 1991. Successive governments have decided against revising these figures to a later date. Such a move would take a brave politician. However as a nation, we tend not to elect many brave politicians a second time.
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