Guide to Student House Hunting in Brighton – The ‘Solo and Broke’ Edition

As if moving away from home and adjusting to university life was not hard enough, a new ordeal pops up between the months of December to February of your first year; the search for your accommodation for next year. Without any exaggeration on by behalf, completely true, cross my heart I am not lying when I am saying this: Student House Hunting has been one of the most stressful and traumatising experiences I have  ever been through, and sadly it stills agonises me even in my second year, so much so that it has been the major trigger of my many nervous breakdowns and depression in my first year.

You are somehow miraculously expected that within the first semester of absolute daze and confusion, you’d be able to find not only friends, but friends that you trust enough to room with.

*cue anecdote time*

I did find “friends”. I found three girls from my home country and I was so excited and thrilled to the idea that I was going to live in an awesome sisterhood and was looking forward to the house-sharing experience, especially after my disappointing uni-halls one. Not going to drag this too long, the group fell apart. Here’s the funny bit, because all of my anecdotes have this ‘no way!’ element to them somehow. Two of the girls fought and refused to room together because they could not agree *brace for it* on the mode of transport that we were to use to get to the house viewing.

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Please read that again. Yes. One was adamant about using the train because she apparently gets car-sick in a bus and the other one refused to pay the ticket fare of the train because she had bought a 7-day-long bus ticket and didn’t want it going to waste. The bus ride was only going to be 10-minutes long and the train ticket would have costed 2 pounds! One thing led to another, words were said and blood was spilled, the housemate-ship was over before it even got started. I guess, in the end, it’s better that it did because if this group couldn’t agree and make concessions on something as simple as how to get to the place for viewing, more serious problems were bound to happen sooner or later.

My studio search in the next four months was no good. The options were very limited and what I could afford fell into the ‘Cupboard-under-the-stairs’ category. I found myself obsessing and crying over how hopeless my accommodation situation seemed, everywhere I looked all I got was disappointment and rejection. I had no clue where I was to live next year and this whole insecurity went on for four months until June.

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TL:DR, It was February and I was left solo and was coming to terms with my possible homelessness for the next academic year. Every other friend I was asking had already paid down the deposit for their homes. I had nowhere to go to, my time was running out, and I had very limited options based on what I could afford.

So, how did I do it?

Here’s my advice tips on what to do if you’ve found yourself with no housemates and accommodation for your second year.

  1. Go to the university’s Housing Office at Bramber House.
    They are the professionals after all and getting your situation known to them will prove very helpful in the long run. The majority of the advice that I am writing in this post, it was given to me via them. Either way, you should still pay them a visit because you never know what new services they may have introduced.
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    I just can’t stress enough what an amazing job they do and all the ways the can help you with. Yes, they do help you with private sector accommodation – they can read with you and advice you on your tenancy agreement as well as help you resolve problems with your neighbours.
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    I am including a link but honestly, do pay a visit to them as soon as possible and tell them your problem. You will remember my words. http://www.sussex.ac.uk/residentialservices/privatesector
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  2. Join the University of Sussex House Hunt Facebook Group
    This is overseen and managed by the Housing Office. In the Group, students posts adverts about a spare bedroom or that they are looking for house-mates to group together and look for a house. The group is quite big so there is a great chance of you finding something. It has 5,000 member though it may very well be the case that not all of them are actively searching any more, yet nonetheless I still remember ads being posted on it daily.
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  3. Ask the Housing Office for their Lodging List
    You know what lodging is? It is a form of ‘temporary’ accommodation where people rent out rooms in their house, sometimes for months or sometimes for three years. You can get some pretty sweet deals some times such as a cozy attic room with its own bathroom, or a renovated garage, or a complete stand-alone basement studio. Actually, if you are not even that particularly fussy about sharing your bathroom and/or kitchen with a grandma or a young couple, the lodging list has five pages worth of options for you to chose from, all at very decent pricing.
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    Lodging has a lot of advantages. To begin with, the rooms come furnished (often over-furnished to your own benefit) and let me tell you, this is more than what you get even if you were to lease a house with your mates. Moreover, bills and internet are often included in the rent. Trust me, the trouble I had to go through to set up my bills in my current accommodation, let me just tell you, nightmare, especially if you are an international student. So having that out of your way is a huge pro for me. Some offer breakfast/dinner as well, isn’t that just plain awesome?! Since this is a landowner-managed accommodation, you may even be able to have pets. Lastly, you get to stay with locals and even make some nice friends.
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  4. Try out your luck by applying to be a Residential Advisor
    Residential Advisors for the university-managed halls get to stay on campus for even the entirety of their degree course and also have something sweet and cool to put in their CV.
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    Now here’s the catch, it is very hard to get chosen to be a Residential Advisor. I did the whole interview/application process which let me tell you, it is lengthy and difficult. There will be a future post entirely on my RA application experience. But for now, let me just tell you that a lot of people apply and you have roughly 1 in 35 chances of being selected. The whole selection process consists of submitting an application document where you answer some questions, then some are invited to the big two-day-long interviews event (and by some I mean the whole Jubilee Lecture Hall was stuffed with candidates).
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    But! Worry not! This is where I come to give you my ingenious advice. Here’s the deal: the whole of Jubilee is filled with students who want to be RAs, meaning those students very possibly are also solo in the house hunting or want to move out from where they are currently staying. Well, grab the chance by the hair. Chat up the people sitting next to you, the people placed in your interview group, or even people you recognise from your course. Keep contact with them and after the results come out, chat up and find out who didn’t make it, then ask them if they’d want to house hunt with you.
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    Frankly, because the whole interview process was so demanding, by the end of the day most students had their enthusiasm wore down and were coming to terms with the pragmatic truth that their chances were very little and probably didn’t make the cut. I remember sitting in the Jubilee lobby right after the first set of group interviews finished and I had already found two girls that were very keen on my proposal.
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  5. Check your ‘nationality/country’ Society
    This is how I found my current housemates. I checked the Facebook Group of the Hellenic Society/Brighton Greeks and found a post where two people had already put down the agency fees for a three-bedroom house and were looking for someone to replace their third group member who decided to leave and live by himself. Just the Brighton Greeks had three posts of people advertising a spare bedroom.
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    You should try this out, especially if you are an International Student. Not just the Sussex society but the Brighton Uni one as well. Sometimes things are just easier when you are dealing in your mother tongue and with people from ‘home’.
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  6. Last but not least, studio hunting and Eastbourne
    Oh boy, this is going to be a big one. I’ll try to be very synoptic. In one sentence; Affordable Studios in Brighton Suck!
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    They are overpriced corridors walled into a ‘studio’ which in fact are actually bedsits where you have to share a tiny bathroom with five strangers – not student-strangers but proper strangers-strangers. The location of most is bad, with very poor transport links to the university – either it’s near Regency Square or near Hove or in Kemptown. Most students live along the Lewes Road, but you won’t find studios there.
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    Also, when studio hunting, here’s the advice I wish I was given! When searching for studios on rightmove or zoopla, studios have a short advert expiry date. Meaning, any studios you look in March, are available now or the latest for May. Before you start getting frustrating after checking day after day the site for any studio available in the summer/September, just stop. Studios available for those months will be advertised on rightmove/zoopla roughly a month before their move-in day, so you either have to look for a July studio in June or come during August and view some then. That’s it, that’s how it works. And with studios, my other bit of advice is to always view the property. It goes without saying but it is really important in studio-hunting.
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    Now, let me bestow more knowledge to you my young grasshopper. Repeat the mantra said above, ‘Affordable studios in Brighton suck!’. If you are not very particular about staying in Brighton, you should really give the nearby city of Eastbourne a chance. Eastbourne has a University of Brighton campus with its 2,000 students staying locally. Eastbourne has a direct train to Falmer Station, that finishes at Brighton Station, every hour. Southern Railway has monthly/quarterly/annual student travel tickets for any day travel for as many times as you want in a large area extending from Hove to Eastbourne, costing only a bit more than what the Brighton student bus card does. http://www.southernrailway.com/tickets-and-fares/ticket-types/16/

    For some inexplicable reason, studios in Eastbourne are just amazing. For the same amount of money that you find a bedsit in Brighton, you find a studio in Eastbourne with the kitchen and the bedroom in separate rooms and with modern bathrooms. No more of that weird typically British bathtub with two faucets and no shower head. Seriously though, what’s the deal with the archaic plumbing!
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    You’re wondering what Eastbourne is like? In short, Eastbourne is kind of like Brighton, in terms of picturesque southern sea-side town, but simply take out all the hipsters and replace them with retired couples. Done.

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