The beach. The character. The vibe. Whatever your reason for moving to the sunny shores of Brighton, know that the process of finding somewhere to live is like no other. With over a third of the city’s housing dedicated to the rental market, you would think that simply rocking up and picking a nice flat would be simple. If only!
At peak season, the competition for flats is second only to London. The average duration of a Rightmove listing shrinks to just a couple of days, and flats have been known to get snapped up in mere hours. If you want somewhere vaguely appealing to call “home”, throw the old rule book out the window and follow our secrets to cracking the Brighton rental market:
Don’t be fooled by the lingo
If it’s described as “seafront”, that doesn’t guarantee you sea views. A “studio” often means a bedsit, and “self-contained” only suggests that you have a hot plate and shower next to your sofa-bed. Estate agents will use any phrase they think will snare you in, so if it sounds too good to be true, prepare to be disappointed.
Don’t expect flats to be pristine when you view
The demand for housing is so high that anything will find a tenant, and you will absolutely see some sorry-looking flats. Visible damp on every wall, rusty buckets sat under dripping boilers and floors stacked unsurpassably high with the current tenant’s stuff… and the estate agent will probably just shrug it off. They have seen – and let – worse.
Don’t try and haggle over price
You might have heard that you can usually negotiate over the letting price, even if it’s just a little. Sweetie, if you try this in Brighton you won’t even be laughed out the door. You will be yanked out by the horde of prospective tenants that are queuing up outside, while they desperately shower the agent with £50 notes, Faberge eggs and their first-born children, just to be considered. Seriously.
Don’t assume you can bring your car
Street parking in Brighton is divided into zones, many of which have a waiting list – sometimes up to 10 months. Most flats won’t come with allocated parking, and if they do, you’ll be paying handsomely for the privilege. You may be able to find nearby streets with few or no parking restrictions, but factor in a ten-minute walk to your car each morning and every chance you won’t get a space.
Do get help moving
Navigating the one-way systems and city parking allowances is a pain at the best of times. It’s made a whole lot worse when you’re new to town and have rocked up in a hired van with all of your earthly possessions in the back. If you don’t want to be found four days later still sobbing in front of the parking meter, hire a local man-with-van service and enjoy the least stressful removals Brighton can offer.
Do take a blind chance
In any other city, a property listing without pictures would set alarm bells ringing. In Brighton, no pictures doesn’t always mean that the flat is in bad shape. Agents are known to put flats on the market before they can book in a professional photographer, so it can be worth taking a gamble and arranging an early viewing. There’s still a chance the flat will be terrible, but it’s also an easy way to snag a hidden gem.
Do choose your area wisely
A spot in the heart of the city might seem appealing, but it’s also a guarantee for being charged the highest rent in exchange for the pokiest rooms. The average price for 2-beds in Brighton currently sits at around £1,250, which can get you a reasonably-proportioned home in the Seven Dials, Kemptown or Hanover areas of the city. For an extra five minutes on your walk into town, you can get an authentic “Brighton” feel without feeling like you live in a shoebox.
Do pick your season to move
Thanks to the two universities, Brighton housing demand peaks and plummets according to the academic calendar. Speak to estate agents about when they expect more properties to come back onto the market, or take advantage of the slow seasons to get a better deal. Even a few weeks can make a big difference.