Our step by step guide to navigating a new home rental
So, you’re looking for a new place in the city. Whether you’re a first timer, or a seasoned renter, it can be a daunting task. So you can plan ahead, and get in the right frame of mind, we’ve set out all of the important steps below, and shared some of our top tips for a successful move.
Step 1: Get the right housemates
Before you decide anything, you’ll need to pick who you want to live with. This can make a huge difference between a move being a delight and a disaster.
How do I find them?
The first step is to be shameless on social media. It’s where your close friends will find out you’re looking, and they should be your first port of call.
If that doesn’t go anywhere, it might be worth sending an email around work, especially if they have a grad scheme with lots of people the same age as you.
If all else fails, there are some great people looking for housemates on sites like Spareroom, Easyroommate, and Unlease.
How can I be sure that they are great?
First, never move in with someone you haven’t met first. Get out for a coffee or a drink with them, and check that you can rub along nicely together.
It’s particularly important to check that you like some of the same TV, or there could be some major standoffs at home!
If you’re a bit worried about someone, ask if you can speak to a previous housemate, and take a reference.
You can read our more detailed blog article on this subject here
Step 2: Choose the right area
It sort of goes without saying, but you should do this before you start looking at properties. Trying to house hunt in multiple locations is very hard work. By narrowing in on one area, you can get a good feel for what is decent value in the area, and which are the good streets to live on.
How long will my commute be?
This is one of the most important questions you should be asking. This research by the ONS finds that a commute over about 45 minutes can have a big impact on your happiness.
Zoopla has a useful travel time search tool you can use to look for properties, and you should always try to remember when you’re viewing a place for the first time, to hit google maps on your phone and look for the travel time and route to work. Try not to be too tied to your current mode of transport either. Moving might be a good opportunity to start cycling to work, or saving some money by taking public transport.
Some other things to think about when choosing an area include:
- How safe is the area? – don’t just go on reputation, you can find detailed crime data for any area in the UK here
- Does it have a good local shop or supermarket where you can pick up essentials?
- Is there a fun high street nearby, with some decent bars and restaurants?
- If you’re interested in sports, are there any clubs for your sport nearby, and is there a decent gym?
- Also, don’t forget to think about where you’re friends live; it’s much more fun if they are not too far away
After doing a bit of thinking and research, there’s no better way to get a feel for an area and the kind of properties available, than by visiting. You don’t even need to have any viewings arranged, you can just pop there for a coffee and see if it’s your sort of place.
Step 3: Find a great property
Narrowing down your location will make life a lot easier when researching properties, but there’s still some work to do.
Which property websites should I use?
The obvious place to look for properties is on the main property sites, Zoopla and Rightmove. They are a great start, but you shouldn’t constrain yourself. These platforms cost money to list on, so lots of landlords without a big portfolio of properties will list their properties other places which are cheaper / free, like Gumtree, or only on their lettings agent’s site (there are now several online specialist lettings agents like OpenRent, which are worth checking out too). You might even be able to find something by posting that you’re looking on Facebook (parents of your friends are quite a good bet), or in ads of your local paper.
At this stage, you need to make a couple of decisions, like what your total budget is, and whether you are looking for somewhere furnished or unfurnished, but aside from that, you should just start emailing the agents / landlords for a couple of properties that you like the look of.
How should I approach property viewings?
Looking at a couple of properties on different streets can be really important in crystallising in your own mind exactly what you want, but is also an important opportunity for you to build a relationship with the agent.
If agents can find tenants they like at the right price, without listing the property externally, they will. If you can convince them that you’re a good bet, they might also show you things before they go on the market openly. (Note, this may mean that you need to go and view a couple of completely inappropriate properties with them as a favour, so they can tell the landlords that they have ‘generated lots of viewings’.)
Estate agents will be looking for things like:
- Good, reliable jobs which suggest you will always be able to pay the rent
- Groups of tenants who have lived together before, so they are less likely to chop and change
- Signs that you care about the way a property looks, and that you would look after it
If any of these things are true, you should make sure that you make them obvious!
Step 4: Make sure you get the property you want
You will now want to agent or landlord to take the property off the market as soon as possible (ie stop showing it to other people). To do this, you’ll need to both persuade them that you are the right people for their property, and probably pay a holding deposit.
How do I persuade the landlord / agent that we’re the best tenants?
First, you should be aware that the agent / landlord has been building a view of you for some time already, from things like how responsive you were to emails or calls, how polite you’ve been, whether you turned up for viewings on time, or what you wore to the viewing; so you need to start thinking about this right from the beginning.
If you’re working through an agent, they’ll often need to persuade the landlord that you’re the right tenant. One way to help them do this, is by writing it for them by email as a follow up (see an example below). That way they can just forward it / read it out to the landlord on the phone, and it’s involved literally no mental effort on their behalf.
One thing to check before going to all this effort is that you meet the landlord’s tenant criteria (these will typically be about income, credit worthiness, or things like pets).
What admin will I have to do?
Once you’re sure that you meet any eligibility criteria, and you have laid on the charm offensive, it’s time get on top of the admin.
The first steps are to submit your tenancy application, and pay your holding deposit.
The tenancy application can feel quite onerous, but unfortunately there have been lots of examples of fraud or bad tenants in the past, so it’s fair enough that they are careful.
What you are asked for will vary a lot by landlord and estate agent, but would often include, for each tenant:
- Name and DOB
- Employer & Gross Salary
- National insurance number
- Some sort of photo ID, like your passport or drivers licence
- A recent utility bill
Most landlords will use this to run a credit check on you. They may also ask for the contact details of a referee at work who is able to confirm your employment and salary levels (this would usually be someone who works in HR).
Should one of your housemates fail the credit check (which is quite common when you don’t have much financial history, or have recently moved from abroad), most landlords will allow you to use a guarantor, which is usually someone older, with a better credit history, like a parent who guarantees your ability to pay the rent.
If you are having any problems with a credit check, it’s worth signing up to one of the free credit checking services like Noddle, Clearscore or Experian, which can give you the details of anything which might be an issue.
Unfortunately, despite new legislation tabled by the chancellor in 2016, you may still find yourself paying for these credit checks, and other arrangement fees, since the rules haven’t been introduced yet (£100-200 is typical – unless you live in Scotland where they’ve already been banned). It’s worth noting that several of the newer online only letting agents do not charge these fees to tenants.
You will also likely have to pay a holding deposit. This is just to prove your commitment to renting the place, and as long as you don’t withdraw your application, you should get your money back. It usually varies between about £200 and £700 per property, depending on its value.
This deposit is paid in return for the property being taken off the market, so once you’ve paid it, it is worth checking that the agent has done so.
Once all that is completed, and you have been approved, you’ll have to pay your security deposit (usually around 6 weeks worth of rent), and one month of rent upfront, less any amount you’ve already paid for the holding deposit.
How can improve my chances of getting the property?
So you’ve persuaded the agent / landlord that you’re the dream tenant, and gotten your tenancy application, and holding deposit in, what else can go wrong?
Well at this stage it becomes all about speed. Get your admin hat on and start chasing.
- Has the agent sent out all the forms you need to fill in?
- Have your housemates all filled in their details and sent back?
- Have you chased the HR team at work to get back to the letting agent?
- Have your housemates chased their HR teams?
- Have you called the letting agent to check that there aren’t any problems they haven’t told you about?
It’s all quite hard work, but worth it to make sure you get the property you want.
Can I haggle on price?
That’s a tricky one.
The UK rental market is pretty competitive right now, so haggling can be hard, but it’s worth looking out for a few things.
First, does the property seem over-valued? You’ll get to be a bit of an expert on this if you’ve seen several similar properties in the same area.
Second, has the property been on the market for a while? You can sometimes see this from the property advert, or you can ask the agent directly.
Is there any reason why there might not be much competition for a property like this? This can be true if the property is quite an expensive one, which only a few renters could afford, or if it has some unusual aspects, like a weird layout.
If any or all of these are true, it may be worth trying your luck!
Step 5: Have a seamless move
So you’ve secured the property and you’re moving house. Exciting times!
Any tips for making packing easier?
There’s no silver bullet here, but your life will generally be lot easier if you have the proper packaging for your move. If you buy them online, from somewhere like Amazon, you can buy all the things you need for £20-30. If you’re lucky, you might even find what you need on freecycle from someone who has moved recently, or if you leave it until the last minute, you can get them from your local self storage place.
We’d recommend getting a good number of boxes like the ones below, and a couple of large laundry bags.
Make sure you get a marker pen too, and clearly label everything, so you’ll know where to put boxes the other end, and where the priority things are that you need to unpack (like plates and cutlery).
If you’ve got some furniture that you’re dismantling for the move, put all the screws and fixings in a sandwich bag, and use some masking tape to stick it to the item in question. It will save a lot of time later.
If you’re feeling flush, there are some moving companies that will pack all of your things for you, and even unpack them the other end.
How do I keep my security deposit?
In your old place, it’s probably too late to make much a difference, other than being careful as you move, and leaving it as clean as possible. It’s also not a bad idea to turn off the water if you know where the switch is, to make sure that there are no leaks which can be blamed on you whilst the property is unoccupied.
In the new place, make sure you go around and take as many photos as possible before you move any of your stuff in. If you find anything that is already broken, take several photos, and send them to your agent or landlord so that they can either get it fixed, or at least not deduct anything from your deposit for them.
If you have any specific issues with your deposit, it’s worth reading our detailed blog post on the subject here.
What are my moving options?
If you have very little furniture you might be able to do the move in several trips with your car.
If you’ve got some bigger items, you’ll need a van. You could rent one, but we’ve always found that for a small amount more you can use a ‘man and van’ service. These usually cost £15-30 an hour, and a normal house move will take 2-3 hours, assuming you’ve packed up everything beforehand (obviously depending on how far the distance between the two houses is!)
The best way to find one of these is to get a recommendation from a friend, but if you can’t find one that way, there are online services like AnyVan, or you can just try Google.
Remember to take care with movers. Most are trustworthy, but especially if you’ve found them online, you should at least make sure that you travel with them in the van when going between properties.
Step 6: Sort the new home admin
Nearly there! You’re moved into your new home, and unpacked (sort of), but just a few more things to work out.
Here’s our checklist of things you might need to sort:
- Gas and electricity bills (make sure to find the meters when you move in, and take photos of the latest readings)
- Water bill
- Council tax
- Broadband (and Phone)
- TV Licence
- Sky / Virgin TV
- Work out the bin day
- Where are fuse box, heating thermostat, boiler and water stopcock?
- Whatsapp group for house admin
- A joint bank account (or you could make use of a bill splitting app like Splittable)
- Mail re-direction, and address changes (banks, insurance, phone, subscriptions, DVLA, HMRC, your employer)
- Forwarding address for old tenants (or just write ‘return to sender, not at this address’ on the envelope and put them back in the postbox)
- Electoral roll
- Parking permits
- Doctor registration
And the most important thing…?
As a home insurance provider, we would say this, but don’t forget to buy your home contents insurance.
Contents insurance protects your valuable possessions from things like theft, fire and flood, and can be extended to cover items when out of the home, or for accidental damage.
Urban Jungle is a home insurance provider which specialises in renters, so you can be sure that everything we do is designed for you. To find out more, visit us here.
Step 7: Party time
So all of that was quite hard work, wasn’t it?
Time to reward yourself with a bit of a get together to show your flash new place to your friends.
Enjoy, and best of luck finding the right place!