House vs Halls: Which is the best value for money?

Ever wondered which offers the best value for money, houses or halls? StudentCrowd has been gathering together student reviews of accommodation and you can be the first to hear the latest results.

What follows are some of the highlights and top tips from current students.

Location is important, but not everything

Location is a big factor, particularly when it comes to halls, as many universities offer accommodation very close to all the action. There’s also proximity to services like shops, bars and transport to think about. Here’s what one student had to say about their hall:

“Affordable. The small size means you'll know everyone who lives there and there is a unique community feeling that no other halls have. There's a bus and a Co-op nearby, and it's in a pretty, quiet part of the city.” - University of Southampton student

Whilst students generally would like to be able to roll out of bed straight into the lecture hall, the evidence suggests that if halls or houses are further away but excel in other ways, students still enjoy the experience of living there and rate them highly.

An Anglia Ruskin student cited “location from university and town” as a negative factor of the house but praised the “open garden, amazing value for money, decent beds” in a review entitled “amazing”.

Social spaces

Halls are designed to be social spaces by nature with shared kitchens, bathrooms and some with social areas like a common room or bar. What is offered in halls clearly varies a great deal:

“No table and chairs, or sofa in the blocks” - Loughborough University student
“On-site bar, music rooms, gym and basketball court on site... lots of opportunities to socialise… free wifi in the bar” - University of Manchester student
Houses offer a different kind of social space that usually comprises the kitchen and lounge. Some students hit the jackpot whilst others have to make do:
“Amazing social areas. Great social kitchen and lounge. 42" TV included and comfy sofas. Great for parties…” - University of Leeds student
“Kitchen and bathroom are small but liveable. Majority of wall marked by previous owners and living room carpet stained.” - University of Nottingham student

Rooms sizes

All students are created equal but some are more equal than others. Hall blocks or apartments are usually pretty uniform, with identical room layouts across whole blocks or a higher premium for those rooms that offer more space or an en-suite. However, this isn’t always the case, as highlighted by one student:

“Some of the flats are good value. However, if you are given Flat A or B, don't go!! £550 for a box room and no seating area is rubbish!!” - Robert Gordon University student

Student houses are more likely to be made up of different sized rooms, which was the case for this University of Reading student: “Room sizes vary, some being very small.”

The main difference here is that students have the option of viewing the rooms in a house beforehand so they know what they’re getting. Students also usually deal with a landlord or agent on the specifics of the house so it’s possible that concessions can be given for smaller rooms to make it fairer. Failing that, students have been known to reapportion the rent amounts between them or draw straws to see who gets the room in the basement!

London is a different animal

It should be said that the usual sliding scale of value for money doesn’t really apply in the capital. Interestingly, accommodation provided by the university in London is not the most expensive nationally but private accommodation certainly is, according to the NUS/Unipol Accommodation Costs Survey. The social scene might be fantastic but it will cost you.

“It’s in London. If it wasn’t they wouldn’t charge what they do… Rent is massive, rooms are tiny...” - a University of West London student

And the winner is…

So which was rated the best for value for money? The average score out of 5 for houses was 3.4 with halls sneaking ahead with 3.5. So not much difference according to the numbers.

Of course, what one student feels is important in assessing value for money is not the same for another. What’s important is knowing what your accommodation will be like before you get there, with first-hand accounts from students who’ve been there before you. That’s where reviews come into their own.

Why reviews are so important

Reviews and review sites are gradually transforming how we spend our money. With rent or hall fees the most expensive outgoing item after tuition fees, students should be informed to make good choices and benefit from others’ experiences. StudentCrowd wants to give students the best choice so they can make the right decision about where to live during their university years. If you’re searching for a house or hall for next year, check out properties in your location on StudentCrowd.

StudentCrowd asked students to rate their experience of their accommodation across several factors including value for money and give some of their pros and cons.

Want to pass on your experience? Think your hall is the greatest? You can review your house or hall here (with a chance to win a £50 Amazon voucher).