Moving out of your childhood home, or even out of Uni halls, is a huge step. I remember feeling completely and utterly lost in a million conversations about rent, bills, tax and copious other household cursewords that I'd never had to deal with before. As any seasoned private renter will know, there is a lot more to successfully moving out than simply finding a house or flat and getting that contract in place but it can be a very smooth process if you arm yourself with as much knowledge as possible when you look into moving into private rented accommodation.
HOW TO ADULT...
- Find a suitable property: This is a lot easier than it was 10 years ago. Sites like Zoopla and Rightmove are full of private flats and houses you can look to rent and it's easy to filter by the features you need, for example parking or proximity to public transport. However, with the cost of renting soaring across Britain, it also makes sense to check sites such as http://www.spareroom.co.uk/ to look into houseshares. You can filter the options by "Cleaning Included" or by "Professionals Only, No Student Tenants" or by "En-Suite Rooms". You can choose whether you want to live with females, males or a mix of both. You can even opt to have the monthly rent include all bills so that you're only ever going to pay a flat fee each month. This makes a houseshare a much safer and more viable option that it was a few years ago, and it's also the most cost effective way to find somewhere to live in a city centre.
- Determine your budget for Council Tax: Council Tax is a tax levied on households by local authorities in Britain, based on the estimated value of a property and the number of people living in it. Your local council website (Reading Borough in my case) should be able to give you notice of which council tax band the property fits into. The estate agent you're using should also be privy to this information. The property will be associated a "Band" such as Band C and that banding will be used to calculate how much Council Tax you must pay each month. A is the cheapest band and H is the most expensive. I pay roughly £140 in Council Tax each month so it's an expense you need to consider before leaving home. It's worth noting that if every resident in the house is a full time student you will be exempt from paying Council Tax. Hooray!
- Set aside money for gas, electric and water bills: This can be very hard to work out in terms of monthly payments. If your property uses a meter then the bills you pay will be accurate and based wholly on exactly how much of each you use (if the providers can be bothered to come take a reading). Some providers work on estimates and take yearly meter readings which may mean you underpay or overpay throughout the year and then settle up at the end. Other properties will have a pre-pay system in place where you need to top up a card for electricity, for example, so you can only use what you've already paid for. Energy comparison websites (Go Compare, Money Supermarket, Confused.com, the usual suspects) have tools that you can use to estimate your consumption of gas and electricity and they're a fairly good indication. Your local water supplier (Thames Water in my case) should be able to give you a good estimation of a typical water bill by number of occupants and type of usage. All this information is online which makes it easier for you to find.
- Include broadband in your calculations: An internet connection at home is an absolute essential in 2015 and you'd be hard pushed to find a property that didn't have an existing broadband set up in place ready for you to use. Sky and Virgin in particular and extra keen for new customers this year and so there are always a load of deals on for new customers.
- Forgo your TV license: I've never owned a TV license. I just don't see the point. You only need a TV license if you're streaming live television and not if you're watching things on catch-up. I've hooked the Xbox up to the living room TV and we use it to watch Netflix, BBC iPlayer, YouTube, Amazon TV and 4od. We never ever watch live TV and most channels upload the latest episode of your favourite TV show a mere 30 minutes after it's aired on live TV. This saves us £145.50 each year. The TV Licensing company will send you some pretty shitty letters in the post accusing you of stealing from the Queens TV Fund but you can reply to indicate that you don't watch live TV and the letters stop.
- Consider Contents Insurance: Contents Insurance is designed to protect your belongings from damage via theft, fire and floods. It typically covers things like beds, sofas, computers, gaming consoles, televisions, clothes, jewellery and ornaments. You can also pick a policy which includes accidental damage; if you get drunk and spill water over your laptop you can get your insurance company to replace it for you. A typical contents insurance policy costs about £10-20 per month (depending on your valuables it could be more or less) but it means that if the worst were to happen and your new place were to be broken into, you wouldn't have to fork out to replace everything that was stolen.
- Think about your home essentials: 99% of rental properties come with "white goods" which typically will include a fridge, freezer, cooker and washing machine. Perhaps a dishwasher if you're very lucky. You might not have ever needed to own your own vacuum cleaner before. Things like a mop and bucket, towels, crockery, cutlery and bedding can quickly amount to a few hundred pounds. My advice would be to put these things on your Christmas List if you're planning to move out.
I hope you find this helpful: good luck with your property search!