1) How big is it?
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Think carefully about what you actually need. If it’s just you renting on your own, one bedroom may be more than enough (same goes for if there’s two of you) – but think about whether you want another room for guests.
Have a look at the size of the kitchen and living area, rather than focusing on the bedroom. These are the areas you’ll spend the most time in and you’ll want to have enough space.
If a property is unfurnished, it could be smaller than it seems at first glance – try to visualise how it’ll look with your stuff in it – if in doubt, take measurements.
At the end of the day, you may not be able to afford the biggest place on the market, but you’ll need to be confident that you’ll be able to live in it comfortably.
2) Can I afford it?
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It’s easy to look at the rental amount and think you can afford to live somewhere. But you’ll need to take into account your other bills, outgoings and how much you earn.
Don’t forget that there may also be added fees from the letting agent – as well as your deposit and first month’s rent – which you’ll likely need to pay upfront.
3) How much is Council Tax?
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The local council’s website should have a handy calculator to help you work out the tax band of the property – or simply ask the agent.
The different bands could mean very different things for your bank account – it’s worth looking to see how much you might have to pay before you fall in love with the property!
4) Am I safe?
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Do you feel comfortable in the area? Do you feel that you could walk home at night, if you had to, by yourself? The last thing you want is to be stranded at home every night because you don’t dare go out to the local shop!
Look for cameras outside of the building (if it’s an apartment) and check the locks on the doors when you go to view the place, as well as the windows.
Again, if it’s an apartment building, ask the agent about the security protocols for entering the block – there should be a password, card, key-fob or code for the doors.
5) How far is it from work?
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Think realistically about how long you’re prepared to commute for, especially if you don’t drive. Nobody wants to be stuck on the train for 4 hours a night! Make sure you’re not so far away that you wouldn’t be able to get to the office if your car broke down or there were public transport strikes.
6) Do I need outside space?
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This depends entirely on where you’re renting. In big cities, like London, a garden could be a bit of a pipe dream and you might be better off seeing what local parks you’re near to. In smaller towns and cities, it might be the norm for people to have at least a patio.
If outdoor space affects rental prices in your area, ask yourself if it’s worth the extra money. If you’ve got a pet, or the thought of not having a BBQ in the summer terrifies you, then outdoor space may be a good investment. Be warned though, you’ll probably be expected to do some basic gardening within the terms of your tenancy agreement!
However, if you’re more likely to be out and about than sat at home, you may not use the space all that much and would be better off saving your money.
7) Where do I park?
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If you have a car or bike, it’s important to know where to keep your vehicle. This is easy to forget until you move in and find you’ve got nowhere to park or store your bike securely.
The agent will let you know whether you’ve got your own parking (and how much), need to buy a permit from the council or have a shed/outbuilding to keep your bike in.
8) What’s around me?
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While you don’t need to have everything on your doorstep, think about things that you might want to access quickly. A corner shop or small supermarket always comes in handy, as may an off license, coffee shop, doctors, pharmacy and dentist.
This list isn’t set in stone and isn’t extensive – it’s personal to you. Making sure you’ll have quick access to basic amenities is always a good idea – especially when there’s a snowstorm and you need milk!
9) What’s pictured on the listing?
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You can often glean far much more from a property listing than you may initially think, if you look carefully at the pictures. A listing without photos, or one just of the building itself, could mean the inside isn’t exactly appealing.
Don’t write these listings off though, call the agent and ask to see more photos – the lack of them on the website could put others off and mean you get first refusal.
Another thing to keep in mind is that photos of rooms are mainly taken from a far wall or doorway, to get everything in. With this in mind, you should be able to visualise how big the room is. A mistake many people make is to think “oh there’s probably more out of shot” – there usually isn’t.
10) Is there room to socialise?
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We’re not talking huge, all-night parties here – just normal social gatherings of friends. If you like to have people over for dinner or just to chill out, think about how many people will fit in your living room or kitchen.
If you love a property, but it’s too small to have more than a couple of guests over, you’ll need to decide whether you’re willing to compromise long-term and maybe go elsewhere to see friends and family.
This also applies to Christmas Day, when you’re likely to have a few people round if you’re hosting - although a small house or flat could get you out of cooking the Christmas dinner!