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Flat Hunting Hell

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As you’ll now know from my latest Journal entry, Matt and I are moving back in with his family to save up for a deposit to buy a house. However, we’ve been renting for the last few years and I used to work in a letting agents whilst I studied at university, so I thought I’d share some tips that we found helpful!
One thing I would say obviously everyone’s experience is different, some agencies have really unhappy tenants, and some people get on really well with their landlords – each experience is different. 
Deposits & Fees

Firstly, it is a criminal offence to be charged to register with an agency or to see the properties.

However, agencies can charge you for:
  • A holding deposit
  • Carrying our credit checks
  • Drawing up documents such as a tenancy agreement and inventory
  • Getting references
  • Administration charges
  • Renewal fees
  • ‘Check out’ fees
You’re perfectly within your rights to question every details of these fees, and some agencies charge extortionate fees so if you feel they are too expensive you can always choose not to progess. You’re not tied into an agreement until it is all signed. 
Also, make sure you’re clear about how long your holding deposit is held for, where it is held, how long it will take to get it back and other details like this. 
Agency Vs. Landlord

We’ve lived in a flat managed by an agency and a house managed privately by a landlord. Both have their positives and negatives. 
We had a really positive experience with our agency, they always fixed issues and communicated really well when they had arranged work on the flat or viewings as we came to the end of our tenancy. I do know that not all agencies are all as organised as ours, so it is always best to have a look at what people are saying about them on the net – that perfect home isn’t always worth it if everyone that is managed by them is unhappy. We also got charged more fees on move-in than we did with a private landlord. 
We’ve not left our house with a private landlord yet, so I can’t say what the overall experience has been like. However, it is definitely much harder to call up a private landlord when there is an issue as there isn’t agency rules in place, anyone to mediate and they have the final say on everything. It was cheaper on move-in but we’ve not seen what costs are like on move-out yet (I’ll keep you updated!)
Timescale

Different areas will have different time scales, but often inner city you’re looking at a fast time scale with properties appearing and disappearing within a few weeks. It’s always best to have an idea of what you want, when you want to move as it will stop you from feeling rushed or pressured into getting something that isn’t quite right. 
Realistic Expectations

One thing I used to find when working in a letting agents was how people would have a clear idea of what they wanted, but unrealistic price expectations. Quite often looking for somewhere to rent can involve compromise – it is unlikely you’ll find exactly what you want for the lower end of your budget, however looking at different areas can always be a great way to save money.

We found that getting parking and any kind of outdoor space in the city centre would have sky rocketed our monthly outgoings, so we looked at local towns near to the city where we got much more for our money. 
Organisation

From the viewings to the paperwork when you sign, being organised with lists and diaries is a great way to make sure you don’t fall into the trap of hidden fees, end up packing last minute or losing out on the property you loved. 

Move-In

When it comes to getting your tenancy agreement and inventory, it can be easy to feel like you want to get everything signed and out of the way. However, make sure you read every single inch of your tenancy agreement and add a whole load of detail onto your inventory – even adding in your own pictures if you want. Whilst it might seem pernickety when you’re doing it – it’ll mean you’ve got less chance of losing a chunk of your deposit to that scratch on the mirror or being surprised by cleaning fees when you leave. 

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