Flat Hunting Tips

Flat Hunting Tips

Every year Critic tells freshers not to sign up for a flat in first semester. Every year, they fail to heed our advice. So, we thought, what the hell, let’s just roll with it. Although the global pandemic might have delayed flat hunts a bit, rest assured the season will soon be upon us in full heat. The following is a range of Dunedin-specific advice that won’t be found in your average university-affiliated propaganda. Mainly because we use words like ‘fuck’.


How to look for a flat:

  • Join a bunch of Facebook Groups, like Otago Flatting Goods, Dunedin/Otago Flatmates & Flats Wanted. The more pages the better. A lot of flats will only be advertised on here instead of the big, official sites.

  • Scour TradeMe and real estate pages. Accept that you’ll have like over 30 tabs open, make peace with the chaos.

  • Ask your friends. Make embarrassing posts on Facebook. Some particularly good, central flats only travel from word of mouth.

  • Don’t: knock on flat doors, unless you’re really desperate. But just, it’s weird. Let people live, okay? I need at least an hour to emotionally prepare for a Zoom call from my friends, let alone an unannounced flat tour from strangers.


Before you look at the flat:

  • Do your research beforehand. RateMyFlat is a bit of an outdated website, but gives you a solid impression of what some tenants from 2014 thought of the flat lol.

  • Have a talk with your group around expectations. If the rooms are different sizes, would the group be willing to reduce rent for a smaller room? One shit room can make or break a flat if no one’s willing to be the one to sleep in it.

  • Have a list of priorities. For my flat, we all wanted decent sized rooms and a nice lounge. That was it. When we found that, we signed, despite not having a garden, despite the entire house kind of existing on a lean. I can live with a lean, I cannot live with sleeping in a single bed. For you it might be the total opposite.


When you’re inspecting a flat:

  • If the tenants are there when you’re viewing the flat, literally just ask them their thoughts. Note that this isn’t always the most reliable source - some landlords give their tenants a bonus if they help get the flat signed for next year - but it can’t hurt to ask. Ask them specific questions so you don’t just get the generic “yeah haha it’s a really good flat” answer.

  • I know it’s hard with different timetables, but it really pays off bringing your entire flat group to the viewing schedules. If you like the place, you can all agree just to sign it/apply for it right then and there, and voila. If only one member has seen it, there’s often a lag with convincing your flatmates it’s a good flat, they’ll want to see it too, and often by then the flat is as good as gone. There’s nothing more shitty than losing a flat you liked because you were too slow to get your shit together. Having your group at the flat viewing also gives you more confidence to really inspect the place. Talk through the rooms, see how sound proof they are! Just fucking go nuts babe.

  • If you can’t bring your flatmates, take lots of photos. Send them to the group chat immediately. But remember, judge a flat by its worst room, not its best room. Someone has to live there, after all.

  • That being said, don’t be intimidated by large flat viewings. Turning up to a flat open home involves 30 other hopeful residents, which makes you anxious and feel like you have to sign straight away. If you’re unsure, then feel free to wait. Honestly, the right flat is often like your dating life. Sometimes you consider the wrong people, because of your circumstances and the pressure from the other people around you. But the right one? Then, often, you just know.


A possible checklist of things to consider before signing a flat:

  • Does it have somewhat decent parking on the street or property? Even if you don’t have a car, this is a question worth asking. Moving into a flat becomes a massive problem if there’s nowhere for a friends or parents car to park to unload furniture and belongings.

  • How much sun does the flat get? God I know this sounds like the most middle-aged thing ever, but it turns out wine mums are onto a good thing here. North-facing windows are the best. Try and avoid south-facing, if you can. It’ll help with your mental health, mold, and everything, I promise. If I had a north-facing window I’d probably have a boyfriend by now. I miss direct sunlight, that bitch works hard.

  • Shower water pressure. Dunedin showers are notoriously bad, I’ve bathed under a dribble before, which can suck for masturbating/recreating human warmth. I know it can look weird, but don’t be afraid to quickly test it in an open home. The shower pressure that is, not the masturbation.

  • How soundproof are the walls? Having to repeatedly hear your mate have sex is the quickest way for a friendship to collaspe. Or get weird.

  • Can the size of the kitchen withstand a few dirty dishes? In my 2nd year, I had the cutest, but the fucking tiniest kitchen. We all loved it, until like one person forgot to clean up immediately after dinner and there was no avoiding the mess. You want enough bench space that if a few dishes build up, you’re not going to want to immediately move out.

  • How would the space work if you want to host parties? Is there an obvious flow to the house?

  • Do the windows close properly? Once I viewed a flat on a beautiful, dunner stunner where the flat windows were all open to let in the sun. I signed the flat and needless to say, come winter, they did not close properly and we had a problem.

  • Is the source of heating in a good place? If it’s in a lounge, great. If a heat pump is in the hallway, or a bedroom that used to be a lounge in the 19th century, then not so great.

  • How private are the bedrooms? Will you have to close the curtains every time you get dressed to avoid the neighbours? Are the neighbours cute?

  • Where is the bathroom located? Look, from all my flatting experiences, my bathroom has always been located off from the lounge. It’s not a biggie, but literally every time there’s guests in the lounge I have to be self conscious of how loudly I shit or piss. If the bathroom is off a corridor, that’s ideal.

  • What’s the neighborhood like? If you’re looking to study in a party-area, you’re going to get fed up pretty fucking quickly. See if you can hear the neighbours, and check for overflowing bins as a sign of a party flat.

  • What’s the vibe you get from the landlord? Personally, I've alway avoided signing with agents in favour of independent landlords that are much more likely to fix things, keep in contact and just altogether be a good cunt. Things will go wrong, you just want someone there to help make it right again. 

  • How well do you know your flatmates? If any flatmates have chemistry, be cautious. They’ll probably fuck and then make things weird for the group dynamic.

Most importantly, don’t settle: If a flat just doesn’t give you good vibes, don’t sign it. Even if it’s the end of the year and the flats are all drying up. Even if you’ve literally looked at 20 other places. Even, even, even. In my years as a Dunedin student I have realised that there is nothing worse than a shit flat. Even if the rent is cheap and you can put that money into power. Even if the location is close to uni. If the vibe is off, it’s off. Winter is already hard enough as it is, you don’t want to make it worse by living in a damp, cold, small room. It’s better to live further out and have a decent house. There’s lots of flats in Dunedin, there’s no shortage. Worse case scenario? You might not live with your friends, which is not the most terrible situation to happen. If you have a shit flat, you will probably get miserable and hate your friends anyway. Your friends can always come round to your room as visitors, but you don’t want to be the person telling them to shut the fuck up past midnight on a weeknight. By not settling, this doesn’t mean to be unrealistic. You’re probably not going to get a kitchen island or a cute vintage fireplace (still, every year, I hope). This means standing your ground in the face of peer pressure to be chill and cool. Signing a flat is a big deal. That’s your home for a year, come good, come bad, come breakup and party. Can you cry there? Can you laugh there? Dear friends, can you build a life there?

This article first appeared in Issue 6, 2020.
Posted 4:06pm Sunday 10th May 2020 by Caroline Moratti.