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It’s finally happening, you’ve moved to university, you’ve survived a year in halls of residence and now you’re keen to get your own place with your friends. You can get quite overwhelmed by all the talk of rent and the plethora of bills you might have to pay. Not to mention the overbearing landlords who will show you around trying to tie you in to a contract on the spot.

The trick to finding a good place to rent is starting early and getting as many viewings as possible; twenty is probably around the right number but anywhere between ten and twenty is usually enough. If your university year starts in September, or thereabouts, then it is advisable to start looking in the January, or even December beforehand. By starting this early you can take your time with a decision, if you rush your choice you could live to regret it (for a year at least).

When you are viewing, you need to look out for these things that will help you cut costs down.

Firstly, I would recommend asking the agency if they include utility bills within the rent. Some companies do this and it can be extremely beneficial and cost efficient, not to mention the ease of mind you gain from not worrying about every time you put the heating on! But don’t be taken in every time by this, because sometimes it is demonstrably NOT worth it. Try to gauge how much your bills would be before looking. Water bills are usually about ?300 for the year, gas and electric varies but ?30 a month per person is probably close. Don’t forget a T.V license as well as any internet/T.V plan which adds to your overall costs. Once you’ve worked these costs, roughly, out you can make an informed decision on whether to take up a rent that includes bills.

Secondly, if you’re not getting an all-inclusive rent, then it is important to check the windows. If they are double-glazing then you’re in business, they keep heat in well and therefore cut down on heating bills. Also check the size of rooms and how many heaters are in each room; if the rooms are huge with high ceilings and only one heater then it will take a lot of heating to get them warmed up. The doors also play a part in this, make sure you have strong, modern doors that do not let drafts into the property.

A useful but often overlooked factor in renting a property is if the washing machine has a cold wash setting. Although the majority of people prefer washing clothes in hot water, it can be just as effective, and cheaper to wash your clothes on a cold setting.

Finally, check the amount of lights in the apartment. Sometimes you have lights that look good stylistically but are essentially pointless because one light would do just as well. Also look for wall mounted lights and lights above cookers, all of these will add to your electricity bills every month and can be avoided. Obviously don’t go for a property that is dark and dreary but try to strike a balance between functionality and fashion.