The start of Uni is on the horizon, and loads of freshers are eagerly awaiting the exciting moment when they get their hands on the keys for their first home-away-from-home. It’s a biggie – moving out for the very first time.
I’ve been thinking about my own experience of this, and it was mostly fun but also a huge learning curve. I first ‘left home’ 18 years ago this week. That makes me feel older than I am, and I can’t quite believe it’s been that long!
In the past I’ve been on the management team for a large student accommodation complex, so I’ve seen it all (and smelt it!) – so here’s five things you need to know about moving out for the very first time:
Before you even look at a place, do a proper budget. Whether you’re self-supporting or are fortunate enough to have financial help, you need to be realistic about what it costs to live away from home. It’s usually more than people think. Use your family, friends and the internet to research every bill you will have to pay (include Council Tax if you’re not a student), and put it in a spreadsheet. It’s so incredibly dull, but you’ll thank me later, when at the end of the first semester you still have funds in the bank!
2. Location, location, location
Not just the name of a thrilling TV show (come on, you love it), but honestly, do your research. Ask anyone you know from the area you’re moving to for their advice on where’s the best place to live (and where you might want to avoid). Search online for information about the place; go and visit a few times at different times of the week/day to get a feel for the locale.
3. Checking the accommodation
You’ve called endless estate agents, housing offices and gumtree weirdos – so now’s the time to actually view your potential digs. This is where you need to really look – take your time and if you can, take someone with you to help, and a checklist is always useful. Make sure you check:
- is there any damp on the walls (dark spots, visible mould, peeling paper or paint), especially around windows and doors.
- do the windows and doors open and close properly (I know that sounds ridiculous, but I had a mate who lived in a flat where his bedroom window was painted shut).
- do the sockets and light switches all look in tact, properly in the wall, and safe?
- does the landlord have an up to date Gas Safety Certificate (with no condemned items that haven’t been replaced) – they should offer this up, but if not, ask to see it. If there’s no gas appliances, this doesn’t apply – um, obviously.
- does the place smell okay? Yes, this one’s subjective, but in my experience if the flat stinks when you’re viewing it, then it’ll always stink. Ugh. Run away. No amount of bleach is going to solve this problem.
4. Contracts, deposits and all that stuff
This is the easy part, honestly. Just make sure you have:
- an assured shorthold tenancy agreement (in most cases), signed by you and the landlord – keep your copy safe. I usually scan mine and save on my hard drive just in case I lose the paper version.
- confirmation that your deposit is registered with a deposit protection scheme (DPS). This ensures your money is kept safe by a regulated third-party, and when it comes to moving out, you get to challenge any unfair costs. Just don’t, under any circumstances, give your landlord or estate agent your login details for this – they’re not given them for a reason. I’ve had ‘reputable’ (ha) estate agents ask for mine in the past.
- an inventory that you have taken the time to check with your landlord/estate agent – don’t be rushed into signing it if you’re not completely happy with what it says. It could mean charges when you move out if you don’t get it right.
5. Basic household maintenance knowledge
This is literally the last thing you want to think of when you move out for the first time. I know, you’ve spent approximately 1000 hours working out what to wear for your housewarming party, I don’t want to rain on your parade, but it’s so important to know a few basic bits of information before you move your stuff in. Surprisingly, research done by Lightbulbs Direct has shown that 1 in 4 Brits don’t know how to change a lightbulb*. That’s a lot of people in dark rooms.
- check where your stopcock is – this shuts off the water if there’s ever a need to. Often under the sink, occasionally in a very random place. Find it, make sure you can turn it.
- know the location of the fusebox – and how to turn the mains on and off. Ask the landlord or estate agent where it is, and ask someone to show you how to use it. Same goes for the gas.
- understand how to use the heating and hot water; and timer functions if you have them. Again, the landlord/estate agent will be able to talk you through this. If you have an immersion heater, make sure you know where the switch is – and don’t leave it on for days and forget… not that I’ve ever done anything like that. Ahem.
- find out which bins are used for what (most households now have at least 3), and which days they’re put out on. If your landlord doesn’t know, ask a neighbour, or just keep an eye out to see when everyone else puts theirs out.
- ensure you’ve got spare lightbulbs for your rooms, and know how to change them (ask nicely if someone will show you if you’re not sure).
- get someone to show you how to test the smoke detectors, if they’re not mains wired, and how to change the batteries – it’s a good idea to keep spares in too.
Moving out for the first time is so exciting. The prospect of having your own space, no-one telling you what to do; enjoying your freedom; discovering new places. But it is worth being as prepared as possible. If you’re about to leave home, I hope you have an amazing experience – enjoy it!
*survey carried out by Lightbulbs-Direct.com, sample size 1010.