Flat Viewing: a treacherous, tedious, emotionally draining, and frustrating process. Between the mass group viewings, provoking property managers and shoddy organisation, the system of choosing a flat is anything but pleasant. Flat viewings can be an absolute whirlwind of a process, and it’s easy to get blown away.
What starts as an exciting notion of choosing your own place is quickly killed off as viewing after viewing passes without you finding what you want or being successful at getting a flat. In order to make the most of a viewing, and take a little stress off your shoulders, here are a few things to make the process a tad easier.
Prepare. Prepare on so many levels. If it’s your first time viewing properties, prepare to be disappointed. Nothing will look like the photos and everything will smell a bit weird. But beyond that, prepare for the viewing.
A lot of information can be found online. Familiarise yourself with the neighbourhood, the letting agents, the basic details of the property and how you can quickly go about securing the flat if you happen to love it (some viewings you might want to take cash to). You can also prepare by predetermining what you want to look for in the property, and what you want to ask letting agents. Save The Student has an excellent checklist of things to look for at a viewing, just search for their ‘House Viewing Checklist’ and print this off to take with you.
Once you’re in the property, take a careful look at appliances. It’s easy to get carried away in the anticipation of a flat viewing, you might be so caught up in the fact there’s a dishwasher that you fail to notice there’s no washing machine. Make a note of everything that is in the property and consider whether it would suit your lifestyle. Check if the hob is gas or electric, you’ll want to know these things. Heating is especially important, the second flat I lived in didn’t even have radiators(!) but none of us noticed that at the flat viewing.
Finally, ask the property manager what actually comes with the property, there’s no point in getting excited about finding a flat with a leather sofa and 32 inch TV just to find that neither will be there when you come to move in.
Don’t let yourself be hurried through the process. Student flat viewings in Edinburgh are an absolute calamity. Most of the time, there’ll be about six groups of people, all trying to cram into one boxy flat. You’ll have ten minutes to scan all the rooms, and most of your questions will go unanswered. Try not to let the other viewers or the letting agents push you around. If you want to spend five minutes examining the kitchen fixings then you do that. Take your time to explore the rooms, ask questions, write things down. After all, if you might be living there for a year, you’ll want to see it for more than ten minutes.
Talk to the current residents. I can’t stress how helpful this is. Find out what they think about the flat itself, the agents, the location, the noise, most of all, find out why they’re moving out. A ten minute flat viewing can tell you which bedroom is biggest and which has the best view, but it’s not until you live there that you’ll know which is coldest or which gets the most noise. No one wants to move in six months after a viewing only to learn the bottle bins are emptied at 5 am every morning and you’ll never have to set an alarm again. Speaking to the current tenants might just enlighten you to all these little secrets.
Consider the security. Flat viewings often solely focus on the aesthetics of the place. People will gaze in awe out of a floor to ceiling window with a view of Arthur’s Seat without checking whether said window even locks. The worrying truth is that many student flats aren’t as secure as they could be, it’s definitely worth inspecting the doors, windows and communal staircases before you choose to rent, rather than moving in and having to spend half your time chasing up your letting agents.
Don’t panic! As stressful as flat viewings can be, keep the faith that you will eventually find a flat and make it your own. It might take patience and a whole lot of viewings, but you will find somewhere.
illustration: Xu Suye