Top tips to understanding ALL the costs of student accommodation

Compare apples with apples (and WiFi with WiFi) when choosing student accommodation.

When you’ve never stayed in university accommodation before, it’s difficult to know what questions to ask of your potential landlord – and it’s just as difficult to know whether you’ve actually taken all the hidden costs into account when you’re choosing your apartment based on your budget.

“Many students moving into on-campus or off-campus accommodation for the first time have never managed a household, so they don’t realise all the hidden costs and optional extras that often see the bills piling up,” says Craig McMurray, CEO of Respublica, a leading provider of student accommodation.

“When you’re comparing accommodation options, make sure that you’re stacking them up against each other using the same variables – to make sure that the one you choose based on its low rental really will be the one that costs you the least at the end of every month.”

McMurray notes that while there is a severe shortage of student accommodation in South Africa, competition among the various service providers is fierce, particularly with financial constraints playing a leading role in accommodation choice.

The average rental cost (calculated across numerous Pretoria residences offering single and shared accommodation) is R4,210.45 per month, but once extras are taken into consideration, this can easily rise to R5,731.36.

This means that even though a residence may look like it’s the most cost effective choice if a student chooses to share a room for R2,800 per month, they could actually end up spending as much as R13,450 per year more to cover essential extras like laundry, transport, WiFi, water and electricity, gym memberships, room cleaning service and even the use of appliances, for example.

“This is why it’s vital to find out exactly what services are included or excluded from a facility’s quoted rental rate so that you’re making a properly informed decision,” McMurray adds. “We’ve noticed that many of the facilities in Pretoria advertise a low rental rate for example, but then students get an unpleasant shock when they move in to realise that they’re short of a bunch of things that they need – or that they’ll have to cough up extra cash for things that they assumed would automatically be included.”

McMurray suggests that students should ask the following questions when comparing accommodation options:

  • What does the rental include?
  • Is a deposit required – and how much is that?
  • Is that deposit refundable?
  • Are there laundry facilities on-site – and what do they cost?
  • If there is WiFi connectivity, how effective is the speed and what does it cost?
  • Is the cost of electricity and water included in the rental?
  • How much will I have to spend on transport, getting from my new home to lectures?
  • Is there a gym on-site – and how much does it cost?
  • If you have your own vehicle, is there place to park it? And what does a parking bay cost?
  • Is there a room cleaning service? If there is one, what does it cost?

“Knowing which questions to ask, and understanding the real costs of living away from home, means that an all-inclusive rate of R4,200 per month for shared accommodation, or R4,600 per month for single accommodation, is visibly good value for money,” says McMurray. “Respublica’s Eastwood Village, for example, offers an all-inclusive rate, giving students – and their parents or sponsors who are paying the bills – the peace of mind that comes with being able to budget properly for the academic year ahead.”