Got into school abroad? A new job is taking you to a faraway land? Avoid making rookie mistakes by following these 5 steps when looking for a new rental or flat share.
I have moved 12 times throughout 4 countries in the last 4 years. I’ve lived in spacious 1 bedroom apartments, apartments with housemates, and not-so-nice teeny tiny studios. One thing I can say for sure, I wish someone had shared these tips with me when I was looking.
1. Where to Find the right place for You?
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What type of person are you? Do you like to be close to the action? Or are you happy on your own curling up with a good read? Are you into outdoor activities? Do you hate long commutes to work? They say location, location, location – and that’s true, but where you live has to suit your personality as well. Since during the day you’ll probably be busy at work or school, your home should be a place you’re happy to walk into at the end of a long day.
If you’re unfamiliar with the city you’re moving to try this:
For the social butterflies:
• Check out the most popular neighbourhoods on tripadvisor or other local websites
• Try googling up-and-coming, artistic, or young neighbourhoods in your city and map the location to your work or school. If it’s not too far, try finding a place where you think you’ll be most social. There’s nothing worse than living near work and, while everyone else heads home for the day, you’re left in the deserted neighbourhood of the financial district.
For the outdoorsy types:
• Some may dread moving to the city, but have no fear! Cities are surrounded by rural places… many also have bodies of water nearby. Try finding a place near a park, near the lake, or maybe in the country.
• Make sure your commute is easy. Whatever you choose, be sure to be close enough to transit, a highway, or a major train station to make your morning commute easy-going.
2. Who Should You Live With?
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Living with other people isn’t always a choice. Sometimes, you have to because it’s cheaper. Don’t get me wrong, some people prefer to have housemates because it can be fun, and you’re not always home alone. Living with people definitely has its ups and downs though so make sure you’re asking the right questions when looking for a flat share.
• Are you social enough to be able to engage in daily conversation with your housemates?
• Can you share your space? (kitchen, bathrooms, and common space)
• What type of people do you feel comfortable living with? (people your age? older? Students or professionals? Men or women or mixed?)
• What is the minimum size place you’re willing to live in? (That goes for room size too)
• How many people are you willing to live with?
• What are the terms of the rental and what does the price include?
• What other items do you split the bill for? (internet, phone, food, etc.)
• What is the cleaning situation? (do you take turns? do they have a cleaning service?)
• Do they have pets? Are you allergic? Keep in mind that not everyone may be as clean as you are, so if your housemate is bad at keeping it tidy… Imagine the smell of cat pee on top of that!
• What kind of daily schedule do your housemates have? Is it similar to yours? (Do they go out drinking on weeknights until 6 am? Are you cool with that?)
• What do they do in their spare time? (Do they have similar interests to you? Could you occasionally do things together like cook, go grab a beer, play a board game?)
3. How to look for a place?
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Most major cities around the world have sites dedicated to rental property listings and house shares. A lot of locations will have Facebook groups dedicated to listing rentals and other people looking for new roommates.
• Make sure you leave yourself enough time to look. Start browsing 2 months before your move to become as familiar as possible with the layout of the city.
• Try to get to know the various neighbourhoods near your work or school that you could easily see yourself living and are easy to commute to and from.
• If you can, head over some time before to scope out your finds and check out some listings.
• If you can’t, get a short term rental for 1 month through Airbnb and look once you’re there.
• Don’t sign a 1 year lease without looking at the place and the surrounding neighbourhood.
4. What Type of Building Do You Want to Live In?
This part is actually more important than you think. Finding the right building space for you is key to ensuring your comfort throughout your stay in this new place.
• Go visit the apartment or house during the day and make sure there is enough daylight. The worst is when you find a cute place, but it’s always gloomy because it has no natural light.
• Ask yourself if you want outdoor space because then maybe a house or apartment with a balcony/terrace is what you need.
• Are you okay with stairs? Lofts with adorable mezzanines are definitely popular and cool, but are you ready to climb up that ladder or narrow staircase every time you forget your phone on your bed?
Realize the differences between living in a place with an elevator and 5 floor walkup. I lived in a 5 floor walk up for a year… but the apartment was awesome, and the stairs were a good workout. Just ask yourself what your limits are and what you need to live practically.
5. How to Furnish your new place?
This is always super exciting but be careful with what you’re willing to invest.
If you’re not staying for a very long time, it’s not worth investing in that designer L shaped couch you saw online. Also if your stay is short, keep it minimal. Moving that stuff in is fun… but moving it out, not so much.
• House shares often come furnished or partially furnished, so you might just have to furnish your room. Ikea is great obviously for this stuff… and there are tons of online tutorials on how to DIY inexpensive pieces look great! Just search for Ikea Hacks.
• If you are staying awhile in this new place, take your time to furnish your new space. Make it your own and see if you can get some local art pieces, or bring art from your hometown to make it feel homey. See if there are antique sales or markets on the weekend for carpets or retro chairs. Private sale or daily deal sites are also great for finding luxury furniture at a fraction of the cost.
• Of course, for both cases head to your nearest dollar, pound, or euro shop to get daily staples like cleaning products, candles, and bath & kitchen stuff. No need to spend more at the more expensive stores.
I hope my tips on finding a flat will be useful to those looking for a new place. Feel free to comment below!