How to find great student housing in London

London’s rich cultural heritage, world-class universities, and vibrant atmosphere makes the city a top destination for students seeking higher education. However, the its allure also comes with a significant challenge: finding suitable and affordable housing.


Pali Feledi

8/18/20235 min read

The demand for student accommodation in London is extremely high, and the limited supply has led to soaring rental prices and increased competition among potential tenants.

But London's housing crisis is not limited to students; it affects the entire city. Monthly rents in London hit a record high in the first quarter of this year, standing at an average of £2,500, according to the property website Rightmove. However, students, with their limited budgets and particular needs, bear the brunt of this crisis. The demand for housing far exceeds the supply, driving up rental prices in many areas, particularly those close to universities and with convenient transport links. But planning, being vigilant, and exploring your options will help you find a great home at a reasonable rate.

Types of housing.

Image: Imperial College London. The university offers fantastically located, if expensive, accomodation in Kensington, right at the heart of London. Source: Studios2let

University-owned accommodation is a popular choice

One option that many students opt for is university-provided accommodation. Most universities offer on-campus housing options, ranging from traditional dormitories to modern apartments. While university accommodation can be well-located, it often comes at a premium price. Additionally, the limited availability means that many students have to explore other alternatives.

Private student accommodation fills the student housing supply gap

To cater to the increasing demand for student housing, private companies have developed Purpose-Built Student Accommodation (PBSA) in London. It offers purpose-designed, modern living spaces with communal areas, study rooms, and a range of amenities. While PBSA provides a hassle-free and secure option, it can be more expensive than other housing choices.

Shared housing delivers great value for money

Shared housing is a popular choice among students, particularly those looking for a more affordable option. Sharing a house or flat with other students allows for the splitting of costs, making it easier on individual budgets. Websites like SpareRoom and various Facebook groups have become go-to platforms for finding potential roommates and available rooms.

Image: Commuters cling to railings on the tube, in a Japanese-style drawing. It is not uncommon to commute 1-2 hours each way to work or school in London.


The commute conundrum

As rental prices continue to rise in central London, many students are looking to live in more affordable areas on the outskirts of the city. However, this choice comes with its own set of challenges, primarily the daily commute. Long commutes can be time-consuming and costly, potentially impacting students' academic and social lives.

A teetering tower of costs

Affordability remains a major concern for students living in London. The combination of high rental prices, council tax, utilities, and living expenses can place a significant strain on student budgets. Many students find themselves having to take on part-time jobs or rely on financial support from their families or loans.


Early planning allows you to be strategic

In many cases, the key to finding suitable student housing in London is early planning. Begin your search as soon as possible, preferably several months before your intended move-in date. This gives you ample time to research different areas, consider housing options, and evaluate their suitability to your budget and preferences. However, if you decide to rent a private apartment, be aware that flats are taken off the market at an incredibly fast rate. This means that you will have to make that final decision quickly, so that you can indeed secure your preferred flat before someone else does.

Look at less central areas with good transport connections

Consider living in areas slightly further away from your university's central campus. While the commute might be longer, you can often find more affordable housing options in these neighbourhoods. Ensure that the area has good transport connections to your university and other essential amenities. Sometimes, areas which are actually further away as the crow flies may offer faster commutes than others, thanks to newly built infrastructure like the Elizabeth Line. Take a look at the Official London Housing Guide to find out more information about different boroughs, neighbourhoods beloved by students in London.

Account for hidden expenses when budgeting

Before beginning your housing hunt, establish a realistic budget that includes rent, utilities, and other living expenses. Factor in potential costs like agency fees and a security deposit. By having a clear aggregate budget in mind, you can narrow down your choices and avoid overspending. Some areas very far out may be cheaper, but the additional cost of commuting in by National Rail may outweigh the savings on upfront rent.

Your university may offer locally relevant guidance

Reach out to your prospective university's accommodation office or student services for guidance and support. They can provide valuable advice on housing options, help you find suitable roommates, and offer resources to navigate the housing market.

Utilize online platforms

Take advantage of online platforms and apps dedicated to student housing in London. Websites like SpareRoom, Zoopla, and Rightmove allow you to search for available properties and connect with potential roommates. Join Facebook groups specifically designed for students seeking accommodation in London to increase your chances of finding suitable options.

Be wary of scams

Unfortunately, rental scams exist in any housing market. Be cautious when dealing with landlords or agencies. Always visit the property in person before making any payments, and ensure that the landlord is trustworthy. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is a scam.

Check if you’re eligible for financial support

Explore financial support options available to students, such as scholarships, bursaries, and grants. Additionally, research any housing-specific financial aid programs or schemes provided by your university or local authorities.

Be open to compromises

When searching for student housing in London, it is important to be open to a wide range of possibilities. Flexibility in terms of location, room size, and amenities can significantly broaden your options, and increase your chances of finding a place to live that is both affordable and pleasant.

Conclusion: Think ahead and stay smart!

In a nutshell, navigating the student housing market in London can be a challenging task, but with careful planning, research, and perseverance, it is possible to find suitable and affordable accommodation. Start your search early, set a realistic budget, explore alternative areas, utilize online platforms, and seek support from your university. Remember to prioritize your safety and well-being, and be vigilant of scams. By following these recommendations and staying proactive, you can secure suitable housing and make the most of your time as a student in the vibrant city of London.