More than 70,000 South Africans are starting university this year (excluding UNISA correspondent students). The lucky ones are able to commute from home or have found places in university residences or have already sorted a year’s lease on digs but the rest are still hunting for accommodation before orientation weeks begin later this month.

Online is the best place to start looking. Gumtree SA has more than 1200 listings across the country specific to student accommodation and plenty more that could be relevant for this market.

Claire Cobbledick, GM-Director Gumtree SA, has some tips to make the search easier.

  1. Research the most popular student areas for your varsity and narrow your search to those suburbs.
  2. Find some other people from your varsity who are also still looking and join forces – it’s often easier to find a whole property for rent than it is a single room.
  3. Use price comparisons to establish fair value but understand that Cape Town, Stellenbosch and Pretoria are always going to be more expensive than P.E. or Pietermaritzburg.
  4. Make sure you know exactly what’s included in the monthly rental (electricity, water, wi-fi, security etc.) so you can compare prices properly.
  5. Understand the full cost picture – a cheaper rental far away from campus might cost you more in the long run because of greater transport costs, and you’ll find it harder to participate in varsity activities.
  6. Always inspect the property and check the lease thoroughly (including which services are included) before signing.
  7. Don’t act out of desperation – if you can’t find anything within your budget then opt for some kind of short-term arrangement and then look out for gaps to appear in residences or established digs as students either don’t take up places or start to drop out.

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