FINDING accommodation would probably be top of the to-do list for students new to Melbourne, and one best to get out of the way before the semester begins. Faridah Wu takes you through the things you’ll need to consider when house hunting.
Finding a roof over your head can be really daunting as a new student in a foreign country with plenty of factors to consider – from location to budget to the type of accommodation that would best suit your needs.
Before you begin
For the majority of students that are looking to rent, here are four questions you should ask yourself:
Am I willing to go the distance? While finding accommodation a stone’s throw away from where you’ll be studying may be more convenient, it’d also likely be much more expensive, especially in the city centre. If you’re looking to save or on a tight budget, then finding accommodation farther away may be the way to go. Neighbouring suburbs may provide a more affordable option.
Do I want to buy my own furniture? Some accommodations are fully furnished while others are partially furnished or unfurnished. You’ll probably find unfurnished places are cheaper, but don’t forget to work out the time, effort and costs associated not just with buying but transporting furniture.
Am I open to sharing? While most would probably prefer to have a bedroom to themselves, you may be up for sharing bathrooms, living and dining areas, sometimes with strangers. Staying in an accommodation with common areas might not only be kinder on your wallet but also provide more opportunities to interact and meet new friends. But if you’d rather have free reign over the kitchen and veg out on the couch in the privacy of your own home, that’s perfectly fine too.
What am I willing to pay? Price is the ultimate factor for every search. When it comes to budgeting, you should not just factor in rental prices but also expenses such as electrical, gas, water bills and wifi.
Choosing the right accommodation
Once you’ve got a sense of what your needs and non-negotiables are, you can start exploring your options:
Student accommodations are often popular choices as they cater specifically for students and their needs. They are also usually located near or next to universities and colleges, which makes them ideal because of their convenience.
They are fully furnished so all you have to do is unpack!
Most student accommodations come with individual kitchens, living rooms and bathrooms, and some also include extra common areas such as game rooms for you to lounge in, watch television, and talk to other students.
Not all student accommodations are equipped with washing machines and dryers in every unit however, and you may have to use the communal laundry areas.
Price-wise, student accommodations may be more expensive compared to homestays, share housing, and private rentals.
Some students may prefer to go with student accommodation in their first year, and look for other options once they’ve settled in and know their way around Melbourne.
Extra benefits: Some accommodations offer community building activities for you to get to know your neighbours.
Homestay is when you live with a local family in their home. It usually includes a furnished room and meals, and access to cooking and laundry facilities. Bathroom, living and dining areas are shared spaces.
Homestays are usually further away from universities and colleges, so it is best to factor in extra transport costs. However, this gives you the opportunity to experience life in the suburbs.
Extra benefits: Homestays are also a great way for you to immerse yourself in the Australian culture, and are very affordable options.
Shared housing is one of the cheapest options that come with independent living. People interested in share housing lease a property from a landlord or real estate agent, which means that you will be living with several people. One way you can live with people you know is to gather a group of friends to lease a property together.
There are many houses near educational institutes that are available for share housing but they may either be furnished or unfurnished. Each person will have their own bedroom and share common living spaces such as a kitchen, living room and bathrooms. The cost of rent and bills are split among the tenants.
The Tenants Union of Victoria provides some useful information about shared housing, and things to be wary of and is definitely worth a read.
Extra benefits: Share housing is a good way to meet new people, and it is a cheap option to consider.
Private rentals can be a costly option, but it does afford you the luxury of privacy and independent living. Private rentals are often handled by real estate agents who will schedule an individual or group inspection. Inspections usually start on time and run for less than 30 minutes, so make sure you are not late.
Location-wise, there are may private rentals near educational institutes, and some are near real estate agents which are convenient. They may either be furnished, partially furnished or unfurnished.
Bathroom, living and dining areas are private areas, unless you plan to live with someone else. There are plenty of studio, one, two or three bedroom apartments/houses on the market.
Extra benefits: Some apartments are equipped with facilities such as a gym, swimming pool or sauna.
Know your rights
House hunting can be very stressful, especially when there are so many other people also looking for accommodation. However, do not rush while house hunting because it can lead to bad decisions. Be thorough, consider all your options before you make a decision, and be wary of rental scams.
Do also know your rights as a tenant. Consumer Affairs Victoria and the Tenants Union of Victoria offer good starting points to learning about your rights.
And finally, don’t be afraid to ask for advice or help from your education institution if you are unsure. The Study Melbourne Student Centre also offers a point of contact and referral where you can access a range of information about accommodation, financial management, legal services, health matters, general wellbeing and safety.