• With Reading and Oxford universities suffering from a shortage of affordable student accommodation, SpareRoom reveals up to 22 people are competing for every room in university towns and cities

• Oxford, where students are worst affected by the shortage of university accommodation, is among the university cities seeing the highest competition for rooms, along with Edinburgh, Leeds, Glasgow, and Birmingham

• Four in 10 (40%) rooms in private shared flats and houses in the top 25 university towns are not available to students

With two UK universities struggling to meet demand for first-year student accommodation, flat and house share site SpareRoom.co.uk reveals that up to 22 people – professionals and students – are competing for every room available in university towns and cities.

Competition is at its most fierce in Edinburgh – where 22 people are hunting for every room available – and in Oxford, where a hundred students currently have no accommodation for the start of the semester and 15 people are searching for every room available.

A growing number of over 35s are staying in shared accommodation, rather than renting alone or buying their first homes, hence the pressure on the rental market and the lack of supply for student sharers. Almost a third (32%) of sharers using SpareRoom are now over 35 and the number of flat sharers aged 45+ has risen faster than younger age groups over the past five years.

Just 40% of rooms in existing house and flat shares in the UK’s university top 25 cities are available to students, because some landlords are unwilling to let to students.

Room to Let

Students attending Loughborough and Durham have the best chances of finding student-friendly house shares, with 84% and 80% of rooms in the respective areas available to undergraduates.

Students in Reading and Guildford aren’t so lucky, especially in Reading where the shortage of accommodation is a particular problem at the moment. In these cities, just 34% and 43% of rooms in house and flatshares are available to students.

The table below shows the average monthly rent and demand in the UK’s top 25 universities and the percentage of rooms available that are on offer to students:

Student room rentsSource: SpareRoom.co.uk – August 2015 data

Matt Hutchinson, director of SpareRoom.co.uk, comments:

Heading off to university for the first time is a daunting enough experience, without the additional worry of having nowhere to live.

“Most freshers will expect accommodation to be ready and waiting. Even those who’ve been through clearing normally manage to find a place in time for the start of term. But those affected by the shortage of student accommodation in Oxford and Reading are now facing a mad scramble to find somewhere to live.

“There are some rooms available in existing flatshares but with just 225 rooms available to students in Reading and 276 in Oxford, plus high demand for rooms from professionals too, the situation is far from ideal. You don’t have to be a genius to see the bottleneck in rental market supply, particularly as it’s becoming all the more common for people to flatshare well into their 30s and 40s.

Matt’s tips for students:

1. If you were expecting to live in halls you might not fully understand how renting privately works. Spend 30 minutes online and find out your rights when it comes to tenancy deposits and agreements so you know what you're signing.

2. Be aware that if you end up sharing with non-students you might end up paying council tax as, although you're exempt, they're not and the bill is per property, not per person.

3. Don't part with any cash for a property unless you've seen it and met the landlord or agent face to face.

4. Be aware that lettings agents will probably charge you fees for all sorts of things. They legally need to inform you what they are in advance so make sure you don't get any unexpected surprises.

5. Make sure you get an agreement, in writing. A tenancy agreement means you've got some protection if things go wrong. Even if you're moving in last minute make sure you check to see what's covered and ask if you're not sure about anything.

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