The return of students to the University of St Andrews after the winter holidays has always marked the unofficial start of the race to find housing. Letting agencies and landlords begin advertising their available properties, university halls provide information on how to apply for accommodation, and students finalize their plans for flatmates and location. For many, this process is stressful and confusing, but in the spring semester of 2021, this endeavor poses new challenges as well as some positive opportunities.
With the majority of students attending classes remotely this semester and the COVID-19 restrictions around gatherings of those within St Andrews, the large showings that letting agencies would usually hold have been halted. Agencies would arrange viewings for multiple groups at once, resulting in packed flats of students coming and going, which is obviously not possible or safe at this time. Instead, agencies and landlords have been upping their online presence and support for flat hunters by posting video walkthroughs, photographs, and supplying more information about individual flats before requiring applications. In ways, this has made the process of finding housing more accessible to students, as everyone is able to apply online and in some cases tour virtually as well.
The challenges posed by this new system include the finding of available properties, and for those students looking to share a flat with others who they do not currently live with, coordinating factors like budgets, location, and various other details without being able to meet in person can be a struggle. Communication plays a key role in this process, regardless of whether there is an ongoing global pandemic. The most important thing is to clarify early on is that everyone is on the same page.
Facebook is a great tool to find housing right now through letting agency pages, groups created for the St Andrews flat search, and also other students’ posts about available rooms in their flats and houses. Facebook can also serve as a way to identify letting agencies in town and, from there, explore their websites to see when they will be advertising available flats or if they are accepting applications for any of their properties. And while the reputation of finding accommodation in St Andrews is intimidating, there are properties out there, it sometimes just takes a bit of time to find the right one for you.