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Help! My child needs student accommodation fast!

Liezl Hesketh in Matrics 

student accommodation

How to beat the crowds and find a room close to campus

It’s December and Holiday Season is upon us. The past 11 months were mad enough with you trying to juggle ridiculous deadlines at work, finding the perfect gifts for your sister’s twins and planning which snacks to pack for the long trip down to the coast. This year, however, is different. Your 18 year old has just finished their last Matric exam and is on their way to Margate for a blissful summer of sea, surf and sand, leaving you with the daunting task of getting everything ready for the next phase of their lives – Campus life!

Most parents would prefer to send their soon-to-be-a-student to the closest university. However, due to the ever increasing number of applications, it is by no means an easy task getting Max, who simply must study Ethical Hacking, into university at all. Many aspiring students and their parents have to face the fact that they may end up studying at the other end of the country in order to pursue the career of their choice.

They’re in! Now what?

Whether your child is studying at their home university or further afield, finding student accommodation close to campus is probably your main concern. This isn’t  merely a matter of convenience, but it has a high impact on the rest of your allocated budget and planning as well. Here are your options:

Finding a room at a university residence on campus is what most students dream of. Life at Res is filled with wonderful experiences and it is here where students can expect to be fully submerged into university culture. Most residences offer catering and self-catering options and men and women are usually housed separately. Single and sharing rooms are available and other facilities such as a library, study areas, gym, entertainment areas, etc. are close at hand.

Staying off-campus is a reality for many. If you can’t make it into Res, finding a room close by is also great. There are usually many private student accommodation residences, communes, flats and rooms to rent within a 5 km radius around campus. Finding accommodation for your child could be tricky, but some universities have off-campus accommodation listings on their websites. Local newspapers and estate agents are also a great help, but be aware that most landlords only start advertising student accommodation closer to the end of the year for the following year. This leads to a mad scramble for accommodation, but is an option if you haven’t managed to secure a room beforehand. You can also search online for student accommodation or have a look at notice boards around campus.

Making sure your child has a room to rent

  • Start early. As soon as the ink has dried on your child’s university application start looking for student accommodation. The longer you wait, the higher your stress levels will be and you may end up paying more for a room than you can afford – but need to take.
  • Do your homework. Don’t take the first available room that you find. Look at several options, then decide. Consider your child’s personality as well – will they be able to focus while sharing a room with two others, or should you rather pay a little bit more for a single room to ensure that they can complete their studies successfully?
  • Ask a friend. We all know someone who has a child at university. Ask them for a recommendation on the best student accommodation around campus. If your child is studying away from home and you can’t get them into Res, ask for references from the landlord that you’re considering and give a few people a call to find out what it’s like living there.
  • Consider different locations. It is not always the most economical choice to find accommodation close to campus. You may end up paying less for a flat that’s 10 kilometres away than a room that’s within walking distance.
  • Be vigilant. Unfortunately, due to the high demand and overall shortage of student accommodation, scams are on the increase. Don’t pay any deposits until you’ve double checked the validity of the accommodation and the landlord’s reputation. If the room that you’re hoping to rent is close to home, go and have a look at it first before signing on the dotted line – or ask a friend or family member to view it for you.  If none of these are possible, insist on a virtual property viewing, using a video call through Skype, FaceTime etc.
  • Let them stay with you. If you can’t find suitable accommodation and you’re within commutable distance, let your child stay at home for the first semester. Once they’ve settled it you can always start looking for alternative accommodation. A lot of students drop out or change their minds after the first few months, leaving you with more choice of more suitable rooms and flats to rent than at the start of the year.

Having a child at university is an expensive exercise. However, you can both have wonderful memories of their time as a student if you plan in advance.

Looking for student accommodation in Pretoria, Johannesburg, Stellenbosch, Bloemfontein, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth or Durban? Register a renter profile on and we’ll help you find a room to rent.  Get started by completing a Renter’s Profile for your child, and we will email you places as they become available. Fill in the form here!