Finding student accommodation will always be more challenging during a pandemic but estate agents and private landlords have created ways to get around the issue of remaining Covid secure by creating virtual house viewings. Try to watch the house tour carefully and make a note in your head or write it down if there is anything you particularly like or don’t like because the little things can often be a deciding factor in knowing which house to choose. However, while you should not have to compromise on things that are important to you, also be aware that you are unlikely to find the ‘perfect’ house and to keep an open mind. Also, it is very important to know what area you want to live in, and this will of course depend on a number of factors such as which campus you are based on, how close you want to be to town, accessibility needs and budget. Make sure you research the area, go and have a wander around it and note down how far it takes to walk to campus and town. This can be helpful to make sure you know the area relative to the university, something which is lost through doing an online house viewing. If you want to live near town then houses on Powderham Crescent, Edgerton Park Rd and New North Rd are really nice, but consider avoiding the popular streets like Pennsylvania and Queen’s crescent because, while very popular, they are very noisy and definitely overrated as a location. If you want to live around lots of students and near the university consider Victoria St, Union Rd or Hoopern St, but if you want to look for somewhere slightly cheaper but still very popular with students then Monks Rd and houses around it are great.
One piece of advice I would give to students moving off campus and into the community is to think practically. For example, students often forget to consider that some houses, such as those on Victoria St and Springfield Rd, do not have a front garden or area in which to store their bins, a chore you won’t have had to worry about in halls. While this may not seem significant at first, it does when you realise that every week you have to drag your bin through the house and into your back garden because you cannot leave it on the street as it will be confiscated.
I am currently in my final year at Exeter, so thankfully I have not had to navigate finding a house during the pandemic, but after two rounds of house hunting, I consider myself a seasoned pro! Both times round, my housemates and I were looking for a pretty specific kind of house – for second year we wanted two five-person houses next to each other or at least on the same street, and for third year we were looking for a 9 or 10 person house. We managed to get what we wanted both times round, and if you are looking for a specific or uncommon kind of house, I would strongly recommend getting in touch with estate agents directly to ask whether they have anything that meets your requirements. My housemates and I contacted the agents before listings became available, so we went into the market knowing what was on offer that met our needs and had realistic expectations around what we would be paying and which area we would live in.
A big factor in deciding where to live is, of course, budget. It was very important for my housemates and I to stay on the lower end of the price range – which in Exeter is now around £110 - £120 a week, although there are cheaper houses out there. Whilst this still very expensive compared to other areas of the country, it is important to keep your expectations realistic about what is ‘cheap’ for housing in Exeter! Pinhoe Road and the surrounding area is a great place to start looking for more affordable housing and is around a 30 mins walk away from the University. I have found particularly if you are flexible about kitchen or living set up and size, you will definitely be able to find a nice house. In second year, I lived on Pinhoe Road in a house owned by STAR Students Letting Agency, and even though it was a fair way away from the Uni and town centre – especially on rainy days! – it ended up being so worth it from a financial perspective. I would also recommend STAR Students as an agency, they were very quick to resolve any issues we had and were very fair and transparent with our deposit at the end of our contract.
This year I am living around the Belmont Park area, and it is very nice to be that bit closer to the centre of town and to the University. Whilst it is slightly more expensive that my house last year, it is still on the cheaper side of Exeter prices. This year, we are renting with a small agency, which I definitely think is a good think to look for to keep the renting price down. However, always remember to try and get student reviews of a letting agency or private landlord before you sign on to one of their houses – whether that’s through asking the current tenants or posting on the Overheard at Exeter Facebook page asking for reviews.
Finally, Exeter really is a lovely place to live - it is such a walkable city, is close to the beach, and has some lovely outside spaces. Outside of covid-times, there is always something interesting going on, and there are so many fun places to go (we miss you Cavern!). Good luck with house hunting!
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