The Great St Andrews Flat Hunt

There’s no “we” in real estate.

Before diving into the world of renting , there are a few things you should know.

As first semester draws to a close, thousands of students will prepare to embark on what may be the most critical journey of their fresher year: the jump from halls to private accommodation. Simultaneously, scores of non-first years will have come to the inevitable realisation that they can no longer tolerate their current flatmates, forcing themselves back into the arena that is the St Andrean housing market.

Combine six thousand students, three streets and less than a dozen letting agents, and we have what has come to be known as “the accommodation crisis.” The crisis was best illustrated by last year’s queue for a Bell Street flat viewing, captured in a photo so iconic that Art History students may soon study it.

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Maybe there’s a Dont Walk ticket hidden somewhere in there.

The queue is a physical manifestation of the outrageous demand for centrally located housing. Without a guaranteed place in halls after first year, students are left to fight their way to a lease signing, plunging into the oblivion of application forms and budgeting and interviews and references, their odds of success virtually unknown.

Perhaps the most crucial piece of advice would be this: divide and conquer. Yes, it’s sweet that you and all eight of your best friends (i.e. the first people you met during freshers week) have dreams of finding a house on Market Street, but part of being an adult is learning to settle. Four bedroom flats appear to be the highest in supply, with three and two trailing closely behind.

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Most student flats aren’t this luxurious.

The moment you select your future flatmates is the moment to begin filling in applications. Create a folder on your desktop labelled Housing. Use it to store forms downloaded from Lawson & Thompson, Eve Brown, Town & Gown, Inchdairnie, even “rentmepleaseitsnotascam.com” because a tiny little virus isn’t as bad as going back to DRA, right?

Fill out every piece of information you possibly can, from home address to NI number to what subject you study to how you like your eggs in the morning. If done properly, you should have at least five forms ready to be sent in the moment property lists go live at the end of January.

Next up, the letters. A character reference, usually from a tutor or an employer, couldn’t hurt, and is often required by the letting agent. Aside from that, the most vital recommendation you can obtain is from your current landlord – in this case, the hall wardens. These are usually simple enough to receive, provided you didn’t light the place on fire or throw the sort of party that ends in a police raid.

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To be young again…

If you follow the outlined instructions, you should be poised to apply for any relevant property within minutes of its posting. Congratulations won’t be in order, however, until you secure a viewing of said property. This past year, letting agency Lawson & Thompson received 200 applications in one day, with over a dozen per minute at peak times. All you can do is hope your carefully curated portfolio will make the cut.

Should you pass this initial stage, you will be offered a viewing and, potentially, an interview. Take heed, young fresher – now is not the time to reek of whiskey and last night’s mistake. If anyone asks, your favourite cocktail begins with the word “virgin” and you think a boat race can only take place in the North Sea.

They will analyse you. They will question you. They will eye you up like a vulture debating whether a slab of meat is rancid enough to devour. If by the end of the session you feel exhausted, beaten, like less of a human being, don’t worry. That’s part of the process.

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Matching outfits are required for all interviews.

Ultimately, you must prepare yourself for disappointment. For every fresher with a painstakingly crafted personal statement, there will be someone with an academic dad on Hope Street. Even flats that appear to be a sure thing can vanish in an instant: Current tenants make promises they can’t keep, friends back out of leases, payment deadlines are missed. When it comes to accommodation, it seems that anything is fair game.

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