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Worried About Finding an Apartment in a New City? Read This First!

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One of the first things you need to do when you move to a new city to study English or start a new job is find somewhere to live.

This can be stressful for anyone, but when you’re searching for a house or flat in an unfamiliar country, using a second language, it can be really scary!

To make things easier, it’s important to start your research before you arrive in the new city. Decide what is most important to you and use this to help you work out where you most want to live.

For example, maybe you want to live somewhere that is safe and quiet, with plenty of parks and open spaces nearby? Adverts for apartments often describe areas like these as “residential” or “peaceful”.

Or perhaps you love being in the heart of the city, in an area that’s busy at any time of day or night? Adverts will often describe areas like these as “bustling” or “lively”.

Perhaps it’s important to you to be surrounded by history and culture, close to museums, theatres and art galleries?

Or do you just want to make sure you have the shortest travel time possible to work or university?

Read as much as you can about the different districts in the city to get an idea of what it would be like to live there. Of course, living very close to the biggest tourist attractions, in an area famous for its bars and nightlife, or in the very middle of the city will probably be much more expensive than living in a less exciting area, or away from the centre. If you’re on a tight budget, you might have to be a bit more flexible.

In a really big city like London or New York, the most famous neighbourhoods are extremely expensive to live in, but there is usually a great public transport system. Instead of trying to live in an area that is walking distance from where you want to be, it is often more realistic to look at which stop on the tube/subway/metro, bus or tram network you could live nearby in order to travel to your work, university or favourite part of town as quickly as possible.

Once you have a good idea of where you want to live, you can either choose to look for a flat directly or ask a letting agent to help you.

Typically, agents add a lot of extra fees. They will ask you for a deposit that could be one or two months’ rent, they will probably charge you for things like inventories (when they go through everything in the property to check what is there when you move in and what is there when you move out), and they will charge you “agent fees” for their time. Many agents, especially in cities like London, also charge hundreds of pounds just for doing things like changing your name on the contract, or will make you pay a cleaning fee when you move out.

The benefit of dealing with a landlord directly (or through a website such as Airbnb), is that it often costs you a lot less. They may not ask for a large deposit and they are often more relaxed about how long you need to sign a contract for or what you need to do to get your deposit back when you move out.

The downside is that, if something goes wrong, it can be harder to sort out. For example, letting agents in the UK typically put your deposit into a special scheme that protects your money and allows you to get it back automatically when you move out.

Lastly, if you’re looking to share a flat/apartment/house, you will need to decide who to live with! If you have friends in a city already, or you’re moving with a boyfriend, girlfriend or friend, that makes it a little bit easier. Otherwise, you will need to look for rooms advertised in houses where people already live.

Even if you’re desperate to find a flat, be careful about who you decide to live with. If you are very different personalities, it can quickly become a disaster – especially if you like to go out and party a lot and they prefer to stay in and get an early night, or the other way around.

It can also be tempting to live with people from the same country as you. However, if you are brave and decide to live with native English speakers, or with a mix of people from around the world, you will find that your English improves much faster. You may also learn more about the local culture or make lots of friends quickly, too!

 

What are your top tips for finding the perfect apartment? Let us know in the comments section below!