As soon as we learned we were moving to the United Kingdom, we were ready to find a place to live. We wanted to know where we could set up our new home and what it would look like and how many bedrooms and how big and all about the kitchen….you get the idea.
In our experience In America, if you wanted to find a place to live it is not unreasonable to look several months in advance. However, in Durham, you usually cannot secure a place more than 3-4 weeks out. Agents told us that properties usually didn’t come available any earlier than that. That wasn’t what we wanted to hear, but we were ready to follow the process. So what did we do? We prayed diligently and got to work.
First, a quick vocabulary lesson.
To Let: This means that a house or a flat is available for rent.
Letting Agent: A real estate agent
Flat: An apartment
Fully Detached: A house that is not connected to any other houses. A “stand alone.” These are usually the most expensive. (See picture below)
Semi-Detached: In America, we called this a “duplex.” Two homes in one structure. (See picture below)
Terraced: A home that is one of many in a combined structure (See picture below)
Now, on to the search. The type of place you want to live will, of course, depend upon your situation. Will you want a place by yourself? Do you want to share a place with a roommate? Do you have a spouse (and children)?
The University has a service to help students. This may or may not be helpful, depending upon your situation. For example, we are a family of four: my wife and I and two kids. We discovered that most of their listings would not work for us as they are geared towards single students. Their website is: http://www.durhamstudentpad.co.uk/Accommodation
Your College may have some housing. I have some friends who do live with their families in college housing. Check with your college. (More about the College system in Durham in a later post).
Letting Agents are a good source. We found that many of them do use an aggregation site. We were successful using Right Move: http://www.rightmove.co.uk. There are others and a quick internet search will show you some great options.
Social Media is helpful. Look for Facebook and Twitter feeds that are related to your college and/or department. Often times students will post availability. Of course, it is always a good idea to ask on these platforms for ideas too. We found the other students in Durham to very friendly and helpful. There is a very collegial spirit among the postgraduates.
We found that terms and lengths of rental vary. For example, in many student-only housing situations, the terms are by the week. These can include utilities, television, internet, etc. Be sure to ask.
Depending upon the landlord, you may be able to set the length of your lease to suit your needs. Many houses were available for a one year lease, which is quite reasonable. However, we needed a 10 month lease. We were able to work out an agreement without too much trouble.
We were able to secure our home online and over the phone. We did most things by email. When we needed to call the United Kingdom, we used Skype landline calling. (We cover that in a separate post.)
Our next post will include some ideas about where to live.
We always welcome your question and comments.
*(NB)Please note: We do not assert that the way things are done in America are better, and the way they are done in then England is worse. We are here to tell our story of some things that we learned along the way that were simply different. Maybe these accounts will help someone else make a smooth transition to their new home in wonderful Great Britain.
**Rob is a Post-Graduate Research Ph.D. in Theology at St. John’s College, Durham University. He, his wife Beth, and two children moved to Durham for Rob’s first year of research. The remainder of his Ph.D. work will be field work outside the UK.