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Articles > Student Life January, 31, 2012

Renting a student house? Never trust an estate agent…

Matthew Scholar
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In late November I was surprised by one of my high school chums informing me that he had already put a deposit down for renting a student house for his second year at university. This immediately put me into a state of panic, as I assumed that everyone else had started finding student accommodation whilst I had barely thought about it.

renting a student house

Where you might end up if you start your student house search too late. Photo by Peter Facey

Driven by fear of being a homeless student I wandered into the closest estate agent and pleaded for assistance with finding suitable, affordable student housing for myself and two of my current flatmates. I was told by an agent to peruse the student properties on the companies website and email him after we had found some houses we would like to look at. This seemingly easy task was made infuriating as, for reasons still unknown, the estate agent wouldn’t respond to an email unless I sent it to him multiple times. I decided that the reason for this derives from the stereotypical estate agent being a wanker. It wasn’t his fault, it was merely part of the job description. After numerous emails sent, in return for little advice or insight, we eventually secured a viewing of three houses in early January.

We met a representative to guide us on the adventure of our student house search, then ventured inside the first house on our list. After knocking on the door and getting no answer she assured us that the current tenants were aware of the situation, then promptly let herself in. I personally felt like we were breaking some kind of law entering someone’s house without knowing whether they really gave their consent. However, we wandered in anyway and found one of the tenants still asleep and unaware of what was going on. At this point I started to doubt that he had given his consent. After looking around briefly and quietly we decided to move onto the next house.

Like at the first house the agent knocked then let herself in. Although this time the two people who were in knew that we were coming and provided us with more information about renting a student house than our estate agent did.

At the third house the sales rep didn’t get a chance to use her set of keys as a chap with a broad grin opened the door slightly and told us to give him five minutes. After waiting five minutes we entered the house to be greeted by a strong herbal aroma and another guy who was also clearly in high spirits. We explored the house a bit and in one of the bedrooms found two plant pots with a light above them, which were obviously for growing bedroom tomatoes. After looking around for a short while we decided that we liked this house the best as it was the cheapest, at the best location and smelt nicest.

The next day I emailed the estate agent three times, as I was now accustomed to him being awful, telling him we would like to put a deposit down on the third house. A couple of days later I received an email from him telling me to ring him. I attempted to ring him several times but he was equally difficult to communicate with over the phone. Eventually he picked up the phone and apologised as the estate agents had advertised the house we wanted incorrectly.

Apparently the price and number of bedrooms were incorrect. I understood how the price could be incorrect but the number of bedrooms we saw was three and the number advertised on the website was also three. How they managed to hide a bedroom was a mystery that made the house even more desirable to me. But then he told us it was no longer available anyway. Neither were the other two houses. After finding out that all the houses we viewed that day were now unavailable we found ourselves back at square one.

After this ordeal we have decided to cut out the middleman and not bother with estate agents. Instead we’re concentrating exclusively on finding student accommodation where we can speak directly with the landlord. This way you get a good idea of whether or not you’re going to get on with the them, you save paying all the ridiculous agency fees and you don’t have to deal with the bastards that are estate agents. Hopefully we’ll have more luck finding student housing this way…

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  1. Jason wade

    That is out of order i would contact your landlord or take court action!

  2. Kristina Doy

    Gosh, that’s not scary at all!! You should never have been put in such a position to have to go round them houses like that. I bet your family were furious. Did you report the house growing weed?

    • Matthew Scholar

      Are you suggesting that those plant pots may have contained an illegal substance?!?
      It never occurred to me that they could be growing anything other than nutritious, delicious, unsuspicious vegetables.

  3. Thom

    Damn estate agents always barging in on me at the crack of dawn when I’m trying to peacefully lounge around in my pants watching neighbours and eating cornflakes! Oh, the humanity!

    Seriously though, why do they have to do that? Whatever happened to privacy…

  4. Stephan WILLIAMS

    Yes, quite a disappointment. i am sure that the experience is normal when no cash has changed hands to register, then finding out the poor communication, and respect for the current students in residence.
    Having run a student hall of residence in London for 825 students in SE1, I can imagine the difficulties . As costs always increase the situation will only get worse. I found my current bedsit via the local newspaper and spoke directly with the landlord who is both efficient and caring which I admit is not always the case.