This article is part of a mini series of posts that cover the basics of some of the things you will need to do after you move to the UK. Last time we talked about getting a cell phone, and gave a list of some of the UK providers that give cheap international rates. In this post, we talk about finding a place to live.
Once you have a phone number, you’re going to want a fixed address, and for a couple reasons. For one, it’ll provide you with a reliable roof over your head. Living hotel to hotel or even extended stays in hostels won’t last you very long, and is a sure fire way to drain your bank account. Consider that a weekend in the cheapest hotel you can find could cost you more than it would to rent an apartment for an entire month.
Are Hostels Cheap?
This could be controversial, but no. Hostels aren’t as cheap as they’re made out to be, especially if there are several people who are looking to stay. We’ve heard of people living here who use them for long term stays, but to us, the numbers don’t add up.
Let’s do some math. Say you’re looking to live in Edinburgh, as we were. Prices can range anywhere from £8 to £20 a night for a dorm, but since we’re looking for something cheap, let’s just say you find a 14 bed suite that charges £10 per person per night. Don’t expect to find anything cheaper than this; do expect to find most are more expensive. And remember that you’ll be sharing the room with up to 13 other people.
At that price, it will cost one person £300 to stay for one month. For two people, it will set you back £600. Hostels might be a good place to stay, but not to live. Of course, many hostels will offer a deal if you stay for extended periods of time, but it’s still going to cost you more than it would for the better option.
Find a Cheap Apartment
Do this as soon as you can (but get a phone first). Finding an apartment in the first week, or better even, weekend, of your new life in the UK will be critical when it comes to saving money. Strongly consider looking for a bedroom in a shared apartment. You can always upgrade later.
We found our double bedroom in a shared apartment in Edinburgh for £270, and looking around at some listings in the area, we have managed to find entire apartments for about £320. Going back to the hostel scenario, this is the same price as for one person, and half the price for two. Let’s not even imagine how much it’d cost to stay in a hotel.
That’s not to say you won’t have to shop around, or make some sacrifices in comfort. If you have the money, it might make sense for you to get something a bit fancier. If you don’t, wait until you have a job and then look around for something that is closer to your dream home.
So where can you find places to live?
Where to Look for Places to Live in the UK
Gumtree & Other Online Classifieds
Every country has its own online classifieds websites, and the site of choice in the UK seems to be Gumtree. When we asked the locals where to look for places to live, this was the number one name that was thrown around, and it’s where we eventually found our apartment.
We found that many of the places we contacted had already been rented out, even those that had only been listed for a short time. It seems that the high exposure of the internet means quick turnover, so you may find yourself resorting to “cold calling” as many places as you can without doing too much research, just so you can find a place that is still available.
The plus side of this is that there are new listings every day, so it really shouldn’t take that long to find one.
Cravify is a special case of an online classified, because it doesn’t actually accept listings itself. Rather, it is more of a skin put atop already existing listings posted on other websites, including Gumtree. In effect, it’s a search engine that displays its results on a map of the area you are searching in, which is very handy if you are looking for a place in a specific area.
The visual interface of a map is intuitive, and when you combine this with the option to hide listings you have already viewed, and the fact that you are looking at listings from multiple websites, you have yourself a powerful tool.
Really, you could skip Gumtree altogether and just check out Cravify, and the results would be the same if not better.
Bonus: Newspaper Classifieds
Yup, they still exist. Doesn’t hurt to check.
Letting, or rental agencies, exist in nearly every neighbourhood. Finding a place to live in an area could be as simple as finding the letting agency for that region of the city. These can be a great way to look for a place if you are staying somewhere that doesn’t have internet access . Rather than spend all of your time online looking for places that are right for you, you can tell a real person what your needs are, and have them find your place for you.