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Moving to a new country creates huge changes. A new place to study, a new job, a new home, new friends and new surroundings are a lot to get used to. Your home is your base and having your own space to relax and unwind in creates a sense of stability which is extremely valuable while you adjust to a new life overseas.
Do your research
Your living situation can affect your life hugely. Considering how much time one spends at home it’s important to live somewhere that you feel happy and comfortable in. Arranging accommodation should be a top priority – and be sure to do your research. Before moving, spend some time researching housing trends in your local area. This can include average rent prices and the types of accommodation that are available in your city.
Some university and tertiary institutions provide halls of residence and on-campus accommodation. These tend to be a little more expensive than independent renting but both are easy and convenient living options for students which can be worth the extra money spent if you’re facing a lot of big changes. Halls of residence and on-campus accommodation also provide the “full student experience” as most are based on or near to campuses, meaning you can completely immerse yourself in student life.
These providers value their students’ wellbeing and there are often accommodation advice and support services available. Even if they don’t offer student accommodation they will often be able to assist you to find a flat with other students so it’s worth enquiring before you start your course. Try asking your student union or administration staff.
Classified ads and community forums
New Zealand local classified ads and the community noticeboard site on TradeMe advertise houses and apartments to rent and has a “flatmates wanted” section where established flats can advertise if they have a room available. Gumtree is a similar Australian equivalent and UK-based Rightmove is an online real estate portal advertising properties to rent from real estate agents and developers.
All of these forums will be able to give you an idea of how much the rents are and provide you with some accommodation options and the different areas available. Most people will want to meet a potential flatmate or tenant in person so you are probably best to leave seeking out a flat until you arrive in your new city.
However, doing some research beforehand will prepare you for when the time does come to find a place to live and you can use the time to send messages to potential flatmates or landlords to register your interest, ask questions about the property and start the process.
Finding a room in an established flat is often much easier than renting an entire house or apartment on your own (regardless of who else you live with). There are lots of groups on social media which makes communicating with potential flatmates, sharing photos and arranging viewings easy. Have a look around – try typing the name of your new city and “flatmates wanted” into Facebook’s search function and you are likely to find free, public groups which you can join to see what’s available and advertise yourself as a future flatmate.
Location, location, location
When considering flats or houses think about the ideal kind of accommodation you’d like. What’s most important to you? Do you like convenience, being close to shops and other facilities and being around people? Or is space, natural surroundings and quietness more important to you?
If convenience is an important factor for you when choosing a home, you might be best placed in an inner city apartment. Most university cities have apartments within walking distance of the campus, many of which will also be close to shops, main roads and other amenities like movie theatres.
Apartment living is often reasonably cheap and can reduce time and money spent on transport which is great for those new to student living. However, apartments are often loud – noise travels up, so the higher up a building your apartment is, the louder it is likely to be. Apartments can also be cramped and those that aren’t are often out of students’ price ranges.
Peace and quiet
If you prefer a quieter lifestyle and like to have some space and greenery around you, you may struggle living in an apartment, and somewhere suburban or rural is likely to suit you better. The further away a house is from your city’s centre the cheaper rent is likely to be.
Living further out certainly has its benefits. Your home is likely to be quieter and have more space in the form of a yard or a garden and less population density means there are likely to be fewer people in the area meaning your neighbourhood will have a more relaxed and tranquil atmosphere. A downside of living in suburban or rural areas is that you are likely to have to pay more for transport (whether driving or using public transport) as most campuses are located close to a city centre.
Live your lifestyle
Ultimately, it’s worth considering what’s most important to your lifestyle. You may have to compromise somewhat, but by thinking carefully about what kind of area you’d like to live in and doing some research in advance you’ll be able to find somewhere that suits most of your requirements.
Choosing a flat
Once you’ve determined what area you’d like to live in, it’s time to explore some options.
If you decide (and are able to afford) to live alone, then selecting a house will be a matter of what the house and its surroundings have to offer. However, if you chose to move into an established flat as many do then selecting one can be a little more complicated.
Even the most active, social people spend a large portion of their time at home so if you’re looking to move into an established flat your flat and flatmates are likely to have a big impact on your life.
If you’re a social person, try to arrange to live somewhere where there are lots of other people that you can spend time and interact with. Likewise, if you prefer to keep to yourself you may wish to seek out a flat with fewer people particularly those who are quiet and keep to themselves.
When attending flat interviews or viewings, some things you may wish to discuss with potential flatmates include:
Generally, people with similar lifestyles tend to flat together as those who aren’t the right “fit” for a flat often choose to move out in favour of living somewhere with people similar to them. So if you attend a flat interview with people who appear quiet and introverted but you yourself are outgoing and social, use your judgement – are you going to be the right fit for that flat? Be honest about your lifestyle – there’s no point trying to fit in if you aren’t going to be happy living there long-term. Even if things don’t work out, others will appreciate your honesty.
Things to check
Aside from flatmates, there are some common things worth checking when considering a flat. If you’re a high internet user, check what internet access is like to make sure that you don’t get hit with massive bills if there is a low data cap. It also pays to check things like water pressure, storage space and the number of power points in bedrooms. These things, while not vital, will all contribute to a comfortable living environment.
Once you’ve decided on a flat, take the time to finalise things correctly. Always check your rental or flatting agreement before signing and take some time to read over the details carefully so you know exactly what to expect.
Take note of the notice period you are required to give when moving out, and what notice landlords will have to give you, should they want to sell or renovate. Some places may lock you into a year- long contract, which means it can be hard to leave when you want. Many shared flats require a 21- day notice period which means if you move in and find that you aren’t comfortable in the area or don’t enjoy living in the house, you can leave without too much delay.
The home stretch
It’s said that “home is where the heart is” and while finding somewhere to call home can be time consuming and stressful, it’s worth doing well. Don’t rush – start early as it’s likely to take you longer than you may expect. Seek advice and talk to others whenever you can. Ask your friends, family, neighbours and other students about their homes. Find out what they do or don’t like about their living situations and ask if they have any recommendations – they may be able to suggest areas or types of accommodation that you haven’t considered. If you take your time, do your research and chose a place carefully you’ll reap the benefits of having a happy, comfortable home from which you can build your new life.