Did you get accepted to Imperial College? Congratulations! Now it’s time for the real challenge – finding a place to live in London. Something nice, clean, quiet and close to the campus.
Well, unless you’re a millionaire, I don’t think such a place exists. If you’re based at South Kensington campus, you probably won’t be able to afford living close to the college, since its neighbourhood is one of the most expensive parts of London. The only exception: student halls, which are offered only to undergraduates, so not for me L But worry not, you aren’t doomed! Everyone finds a place, sooner or later. I went through this process last year, so you can learn by my mistakes.
- Don’t start looking too early.
I expected that finding a room in London would be challenging, so I started looking for it about a half a year before I was supposed to move there. Big mistake. I was going from one agency to another, only to get frustrated by agents smirking at me and telling me to come back a month before I need a room, preferably even later. The market in London changes really quickly: you see an advert and an hour later it’s gone. I rarely do that, but this time I can recommend acting last minute – it’ll save you a lot of time and stress. You won’t find anything earlier!
- Never ever pay any money without signing a contract.
It sounds obvious, but really isn’t. When you understand HOW quickly rooms appear and go, you’ll be tempted to pay as soon as you see something reasonable. Resist the temptation! I know it’s hard, especially when you’re moving from abroad. However, it’s better to spend some money for a hotel, where you can live until you find a permanent place, than donate all your savings to a “scam charity”. It happens more often than you think!
- Consider a student accommodation.
If you’re an undergraduate student, you can apply for a room in one of the Imperial halls. But even if you’re beginning your postgraduate studies, there are options for you. In London you can find a lot of private student halls, such as Gradpad. Yes, they’re more expensive than a shared flat. However, at least you know what you’re paying for, it’s safe and stress-free. Also, it’s a great way to make friends!
- Ask, ask, ask.
Keep asking around: in person, on Facebook, by e-mails. People prefer to rent a room to a friend of a friend than to a complete stranger. So let people know that you’re looking for a place to stay and ask them to keep an eye out for any adverts. Many Imperial students have found a nice flat that way. Also, renting a place from a person you (or your friends) know is a bit safer (though not completely safe!).
- Read your contract.
Twice. Three times. Ten times. Learn it by heart. Make sure you understand every single part of it. You can even take it to the Student Hub, they could help you check if everything in your contract sounds right. You don’t want to be surprised by extra fees, restrictions or any other ideas of imaginative landlords. Ask if anything isn’t clear and don’t hesitate to negotiate parts of the contract.
Best of luck!