Living in Oxford

Living in Oxford

With 800 years of history, and as a centre for cutting edge research, Oxford has long been considered a highly desirable place to live. Most libraries and colleges are centrally located so this, as a library trainee, is where you would spend the majority of your time at work. Having not one but two universities in the city means that there is always plenty to do, and, which is perhaps more pertinent to this post, plenty of accommodation, and plenty of people looking for housemates.

That having been said, relocating to an entirely new city (Oxford alumni are very much in the minority in this trainee cohort) is a daunting prospect and so I hope this post can shed some light on the process and provide some guidance on how best to find accommodation. Below you will find information specific to living in Oxford, as well as more general tips for your house-hunting process, and some useful links.

Finding Accommodation

By far the most popular living arrangement for library trainees is in privately rented accommodation, either through a lettings agent or directly through a landlord. To reduce costs, most trainees share a house with a few other people; this year there has even been a trainee house, so it’s definitely worth getting in touch with fellow library trainees while you’re looking for accommodation. One key advantage to living with other professionals is that council tax will be split with the whole house. Living with students may mean you end up paying a larger proportion of the bill.

An important consideration before you start your house search is whereabouts in Oxford you want to live. Most libraries and colleges are situated fairly centrally so you may want to think about how close to the city centre, and work, you want to live. There are obvious advantages to living in the middle of town, but the more central you live, the more expensive the rent, and areas slightly further out, like Cowley, also have plenty going on. It is reasonable to expect that most of the appropriate houses for trainees to be about 20-30 minutes’ walk from the centre, for around £500-£650 per calendar month for a shared house.

House viewing has, in some ways, become easier since the pandemic since most places will offer virtual viewings. This can be especially useful if you live far from Oxford. It’s important to be aware (and I wasn’t until I moved to Oxford!) that existing housemates at a property will often be seeing a lot of potential housemates in one day and will conduct (very, very informal) interviews to get to know you a bit better, so keep your options open and don’t assume that, because you have a viewing and like the property, you’ve secured it. I know this from bitter experience. I also know, from finding a housemate for a room in my own house, that in-person viewings generally have more of an impact, and are more likely to result in you being offered the room. Therefore, if you can possibly view a house in person, I would recommend you do, even if you’ve already done a virtual viewing, and even if it’s just to sign the contract, meet your new housemates and get a feel for the property. On the other hand, once you’ve viewed a house and are confident you want to live there, it’s worth making this clear quickly, as properties can get snapped up pretty fast.

Travelling to Work

You may also want to think about getting to and from work. Oxford as a city is used to cyclists and having a bike certainly reduces the impact of living some distance from the centre. If you do not have a bike, however, the buses are good. There is also the option to live outside Oxford and commute if you live within a reasonable distance. Both the trains and bus service into the city are reliable, but parking in Oxford is often tricky so, unless you have somewhere to park in Oxford, you’ll need to use the Park & Ride. You can read more about commuting to Oxford in this blog post.

Useful Links

Below are some links to local lettings agents:

SpareRoom is the main site for finding rooms or housemates, but it’s also worth joining the Facebook groups OxGradHousing, and Oxford Housing Group to post your own advert and find people searching for housemates. Be very wary of scammers, however, especially when viewing properties through these groups. Never send money to anyone before viewing a property, and make sure there is a secure tenancy deposit scheme if possible. Read the advice on the National Fraud and Cyber Crime website.

It’s not necessarily difficult to find places to live in Oxford, the challenge is more in finding accommodation that fits your requirements exactly – as with any city, it’s best to be open-minded and flexible with your criteria.  It’s a good idea to decide in advance which things you are prepared to compromise on, and which you are not.