Student House Hunting: The Ins and Outs of Finding a House as a Queen’s Belfast Student
Although most first year students move out of their home and into accommodation when going to university, it’s not until their second year that they move into their own house. Finding and securing a house can be a stressful but rewarding experience.
As I prepare to move into my second-year house, I thought I’d tell you about my experience of getting a house in Belfast and give some advice.
Before you start looking
First and most importantly, don’t leave it until the last minute. Even though a few properties are released later, most are on the market in January and February and as soon as they open for viewings you need to be ready to go. Therefore, I’d recommend that when you come back from the Christmas break to start talking to people you want to move in with.
Start discussing options with your potential housemates as early as possible
When thinking about who you want to move in with, you don’t need to have a fixed number of people before you start looking. For example, I was in a group of three looking for a house and after we put a deposit on a four-person house we found our extra housemate. Although, I wouldn’t recommend trying to find a house on your own as it can be hard to find multiple housemates. Instead look for people with a spare room – this can be done by asking friends if they know anyone or online, e.g. through Facebook groups.
Student houses in Belfast
There are two main types of student houses in Belfast. There are terraced houses which normally share a wall with a house on either side unless you have an end terraced house. These houses normally have living and kitchen spaces on the bottom floor with bedrooms above. A lot of these houses in Belfast are three story with 4-6 bedrooms and 2-3 bathrooms. The other type is a flat or apartment. These would normally be smaller properties but can be cheaper than a whole house. The flats in Belfast are normally either ground floor or first floor and second floor.
Belfast offers a wide range of private housing for students
When house hunting in Belfast, the three areas you’ll most likely be looking at are the Holylands, Stranmillis and Lisburn Road areas.
The Holylands area is known for its student population and is probably the busiest out of all the student areas. It is right beside the main student campus and is also a 15-minute walk into the city. It also borders Botanic Avenue which has a range of cafes, shops and restaurants as well as a train station if you don’t want to walk into the city.
The next area is Stranmillis which is between Botanic Gardens and Stranmillis Road. This place is perfect for people studying Engineering and Sciences with the likes of the Ashby and David Keir Building at the top of the road. Also, there is direct access into the gardens at the bottom of the road. There’s also a couple of shops along Stranmillis Road but the walk to the city is only 20 minutes.
Stranmillis, the Holylands and the Lisburn Road are in walking distance to Queen's
The third of the main areas are the houses around the Lisburn Road. These houses are ideal for people studying Medical Sciences as the Medical Biology building is minutes away. Most houses are also 15 minutes’ walk to the city, but the City Hospital train station is also close. There are also shops, pubs, and clubs along the Lisburn Road, including a big Tesco – perfect for your weekly shop.
Rent in Belfast is one of the cheapest out of the major towns and cities in the UK. Most of the houses will not have bills included, therefore they will be on top of your rent. The average price per person to rent a student house is £300-£400 a month. Most contracts are also for a whole year starting in June, August or September at the start of the month. Larger houses with more people normally work out cheaper per person but are less common.
Remember to factor in additional bills when considering the cost of housing
Finding your house
When looking for a house, there are many different student lettings companies and estate agents to choose from. So, when looking for a house I would highly recommend using a website called Property Pal. The website shows nearly all the houses up for rent on the market. There are many filters when searching including the number of bedrooms, type of house and price. Also, you can view the properties on a map. This allows you to draw an area so you can only see the properties inside your drawn area.
When you first go on to the website, you should create an account which you can link to other potential housemates' accounts to share properties. From this you can ‘save your search’ with all your desired filters. The website can then send you regular updates when new properties come on to the market in your saved search. This means you can quickly contact the agents as soon as a house you want becomes available. You can do this through the website, but I would advise ringing the company that’s listing your property. From this you can organise a viewing or get a date for an open house.
Filter your search with Property Pal
Securing the house (my experience)
When it comes to securing the house, this varies widely depending on the estate agent/lettings company that you go through. Some are more online focused while others are more in person, but this can be quite a stressful period as you may be competing against other people to get the property first.
My friends and I were able to get the first house we looked at, but this was mainly down to luck. After ringing the lettings agent, I was told that the property we were looking at will have an open house. Me and my course mates who I’m moving in with turned up 15 minutes early as we went straight from a lecture. We walked down the road and stood outside the door waiting for the agent to arrive.
As we waited a couple more people arrived, then quite a few more, then a lot more until there was a queue of nearly 100 people waiting outside the property in which we were at the front of. Then as the estate agent arrived, he let us in first – not only had we just five minutes to look around the property, but it was first come first served at the estate agents.
Student housing can be snapped up quickly - you need to act fast!
After a quick dash around the property and an agreement that we liked the house, we had to reach the estate agents before the other people behind us. After reaching the estate agent we filled out a couple of forms and put our deposit down (which is equivalent to one month’s rent). After this we were given a month to fill out the rest of our forms, including setting up a standing order and getting a guarantor.
Although we did get our first house many people don’t, so I would have many options in mind when looking. Also, because of the potentially short amount of time you have to look round the house, I’d definitely look through the details thoroughly online on Property Pal first. Overall though, my biggest tip to both finding and getting a student house is to be early!
When looking for a place to live after first year at uni, although it’s the most common, student houses aren’t the only option. You can still stay in the Queen’s city centre halls after your first year, although these can be quite competitive. Also, there are many private halls around the city centre but these tend to be more expensive than both uni owned halls and living in a student house. Also, if you have a larger budget or are a couple you could consider renting an apartment. These tend to be around the city centre but they are less on the market than houses.
Queen's accommodation in the heart of Belfast city centre
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Chemical Engineering | Undergraduate Student | England
Once a week I take 10 min walk from my Queen's Belfast Accommodation to the local Lidl but living right in the city of Belfast means I pass some amazing sights on my little trip to the shops.