Six Differences Between Living in purpose built Student Accommodation and Living in a Student House

Posted by Sarah Heys on

An age-old dilemma faced by many students who move out for university is where they are going to live. This may seem like a tough decision at first glance, however, if you do your research, you’ll reveal that one option is much more convenient and makes a lot more sense than the other.

Read on to find out!

Finding suitable accommodation

Looking for a student house isn’t as simple of a process as looking for a suitable purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA). The process for booking a student house goes something like this:

  1. It’s best to find your housemates in advance.
    1. You will be sharing things such as bills and likely bathrooms – so you’ll want to be sure you can trust those you’re living with to pay their way and do their bit.
  2. Find a suitable estate agent.
    1. Ensure they are legitimate and compliant with the necessary tenancy laws.
  3. Go to viewings
    1. You may have to view more than one property to find the most suitable one for you. You may also need to work around the agents or current tenant’s schedule.
  4. Consider any upfront payments that will be due and when they need to be paid.
    1. Once you find a house, you’ll likely have to pay a deposit and perhaps a holding deposit upfront.
  5. Sign the contract
    1. Make sure you’re happy with the contents and question anything that doesn’t quite look right.
  6. Move in!
    1. This may be on a date that in line with the previous tenant’s departure, not always when your term starts.

The process for purpose-built student accommodation:

  1. Research the properties that are in the area and decide which one ticks all the boxes for you
    1. PBSA websites are usually very straight forward and list the rooms by size or type - so you know what you’re getting.
  2. View the properties
    1. As there are usually staff based in the properties themselves, walk in viewings are usually not a problem and even virtual viewings are very common, if you don’t fancy travelling.
  3. Apply to your chosen accommodation and sign the contract.
    1. You usually have a period of time that you can hold a room for before you are required to pay any deposit (if you are waiting for a specific date before you can pay then this can usually be arranged if you let them know).
  4. Pay the required deposit.
  5. Move in!
    1. These dates are usually in line with when term starts.

The biggest differences between the two is that student houses require more effort and organising. You’ll have to put extra time into arranging and moving into one. Whereas, the process of finding and moving into purpose built student accommodation is a lot smoother.


Bills, bills, bills

The only time you want to hear “bills, bills, bills” is in a Destiny’s Child song. Apart from then, those words are never very pleasant! Another difference between a student house and accommodation are usually the bills you need to organise and pay between you and your housemates.

In a student house you’ll typically have to set up and pay the following on top of your rent:

  • Electricity
  • Water
  • Gas
  • Internet
  • TV License
  • Council tax (even though you shouldn’t have to pay for council tax, you’ll have to register with the council and provide them with the required documents proving that you’re a full-time student)

…to name just a few!

In halls of residence, you don’t need to pay any bills as they’re covered in your rent. When this factor is compared it really highlights how high maintenance it can be to live in a student house. Not to mention that PBSAs are usually well insulated, so there is less need for having the heating on all winter long (thus being better for the environment!).


Safety is of course always an important factor. Whether you’re moving within the United Kingdom or moving from overseas, you should always be and feel safe! Unfortunately, students often become targets for criminals. So, when you move into a student house, safety can be more of a concern than with a purpose-built student accommodation. PBSAs are kept secure through CCTV and on-site staff, who can ensure that they only people accessing the property are supposed to be there.

At AXO Student Living all guests are asked to sign in before entering the property. Our properties are staffed, with out of hours assistance and are CCTV monitored, which means we’re able to respond to emergencies and keep the building safe at all times.  

Making friends

We’ve all heard the saying “you make lifelong friends with the people you meet at university”. The number of opportunities you’ll have to meet people and form friendships is a lot more abundant in purpose-built student accommodation than in a student house. In a PBSA, you will be in a community of hundreds of like-minded students and those managing the buildings will likely run events throughout the academic year to build the community. However, the chances are the people you share a house with are already your good friends (which is great too), living with them will of course be fun but it may limit your ability to meet new people.

AXO Student Living run AXO Life events, a mixture of both virtual and face to face events encouraging students to meet and engage with one another. As you can imagine, this is a lot easier to do in a world without COVID and once it’s over they’ll be back in full force 😊.


Typically, purpose-built student accommodation is located closer to campus than student houses are. This is because PBSAs are purpose built and as such are specifically placed where they need to be for the convenience of the resident, whereas student houses are usually pre-existing, converted residential homes which are therefore mostly in residential areas, outside of the city. PBSA is specially designed to service students attending university and so they are usually a 10/15 minute walk away from the nearest campus.


Another advantage of living in PBSA is the service provided. By service we mean things such as maintenance, parcels, cleaning and always having someone to talk to.

If you have an issue with your room or bathroom all you need to do is request a maintenance job and it’ll get sorted quickly! When you experience an issue in a student house, you’ll have to contact your landlord who will likely need to source a contractor to carry out the works, which can take a lot more time than having a designated maintenance professional based in the property like with PBSA.

As for those all-important deliveries and parcels, when staying in a PBSA there’s no need to worry about being in and collecting it yourself. Usually, the reception teams will accept and safely store your post and parcels for you. In a student house you’ll have to stay at home or ask one of your friends to answer the door when the delivery arrives (we’ve all experienced the hassle of missing a delivery and having to redeliver it or queue up in those never-ending lines at the post office!).

You’ll potentially have common areas when staying in purpose-built student accommodation which you can study and socialise with other students in. These spaces are for your benefit alone and are a great way to meet your neighbours and get involved in the wider community. They can range from cinema rooms, games rooms or gyms. To make sure that students are making the most of these spaces, PBSA providers will regularly clean and maintain them (especially during recent times when sanitation has been rightfully ramped up). Your communal space in a student house will most likely be limited to your kitchen and living room, it will be you and your flatmates responsibility to keep these areas clean. We recommend creating a cleaning schedule, this will ensure that everyone’s doing their bit and no arguments arise!

What we mean by “having someone to talk to” is having a chat with the staff if you’re feeling lonely, if you need help with something or even if it’s just to let them know how you’re getting on. At PBSAs there’s always someone to speak to and they genuinely love to hear how you’re finding your student experience. However, this is not so much an option in student houses. You have your housemates, of course,  but if your friends aren’t around or you don’t want to discuss a matter with them (it might be them you want to talk about), then there are inevitably less places to go to have a vent.

Hopefully, this blog has shed some light on the key differences between living in purpose-built student accommodation and living in a student house. It’s always good to give yourself a few months to consider your options and make the best decision for yourself. Speak to family or friends that have been to university already if you can, who may have done both in order to get their recommendations. This should help you get a good idea of what life would be like in each and see what feels best for you. Of course, if you need any further help or advice on what student life is like in the areas that AXO Student Living operate, then feel free to get in contact to find out more.