Over the course of the past two years, I have been to many a viewing in many a different-sized houseshare. I have shared with seven people, with one other person and pretty much anything in between, and whilst I do not claim to be an expert in this field, I have picked up a couple of tips and tricks to minimise your chances of ending up somewhere you really dislike.
As I sat down to write this blog post, I realised that I had a lot to say. To avoid a four-page long essay, I decided to turn to my good old YouTube channel, and pop everything in spoken words instead. In case you don’t feel like listening to me ramble on for almost 20 minutes, though, I have also popped a brief summary of my points down below.
(Note: Most of these tips can be applied to any houseshare website, but a few are specific to SpareRoom as this is where I’ve been most successful in the past!)
1. Broaden your search criteria.
You might be completely set on what your perfect houseshare and room should be like, but leaving a couple of options variable will help you to find those hidden gems, also known as adverts which weren’t put up properly. If you are, for example, looking for a double room, don’t search for double rooms only. Sometimes, the room size is not specified in the ad, or it is declared as a single bedroom when in fact the room is a good size. Yes, this means that you have to spend a bit more time sifting through your search results, but it also means that you have a higher chance of finding a great place.
2. Read the ad carefully.
Are the bills included in the rent, and if not, how much are they approximately going to be? Is there a minimum or maximum tenancy term? How many flatmates are there and how old are they? Is an agency involved? These and some other questions should be in the back of your mind when you are reading through an ad.
3. Don’t be afraid to ask.
If there is anything missing in the ad, if you want to see more photos, or if you want to know more about the area in which the property is located – ask! Send the advertiser a nice message and get it all answered before you arrange a viewing to avoid wasting anyone’s time.
4. Prepare for rejection and no replies.
People find it a lot easier to ignore you than having to come up with a response to tell you that they don’t want you in their place. I can’t even begin to tell you how many of my messages were unreplied to, even though SpareRoom gives you the option to send an automatic response a la “Nope, sorry!” Don’t take it personally – it just happens.
5. Be patient.
Not only when it comes to sorting your search results but also when waiting for your dream room to pop up. I usually set aside one or two afternoons, make some coffee, get some biscuits and just sift through it all. I would advise sending a lot more messages than you think you need, and even message those ones that aren’t 100% what you are looking for!
6. Pay for the EarlyBird feature.
This one is specific to SpareRoom but it is such a useful tool. Usually, ads cannot be contacted for the first seven days, unless you pay for the so-called EarlyBird feature. Prices start at £10.99 for 7 days, and it allows you to contact ads before anyone else (well, before those without that special access, anyway!). It helps to get viewings with your favourite places straight away, rather than waiting for a week and letting others snatch it in front of your eyes.
7. Set aside enough time for each viewing.
It’s tempting to cram in as many viewings as possible in a day, but I wouldn’t advise you to do that. Firstly, you want to have enough time to check out the neighbourhood in which your potential new home is situated. What is the area like? Are there shops, bars, restaurants? How long did it take you to get there and was it easy to find? Secondly, you want to have enough time to look at the flat and have a good chat with your potential flatmates. I have made the mistake of whizzing through and not taking everything in properly. Have a good look (or two or three!) at your bedroom, the other rooms, and really envision yourself living there. Chat to your flatmates and see whether you get along well. Do your lifestyles and work schedules match? Is the conversation really awkward?
It is also useful to come prepared. Before you go into the viewing, double-check the ad again. How much was the rent and did it include the bills? What did the photos look like, and did you have any questions?
End each viewing on a polite note and check how many viewings each of you have scheduled after. Agree on a date where you’ll be in touch, and keep to it! At the same time, give yourself enough time to let all viewings and impressions sink in to make your decision, which I’m sure your gut feeling will help you with.
’til next time x