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Student landlords urged to up their game

Given the sharp rise in purpose-built student accommodation in recent years, buy-to-let landlords targeting the student sector are being encouraged to ‘up their game significantly’ in order to appeal to student renters.

Purpose-built student accommodation in the UK was predicted to increase by 17% earlier this year. This means that now, as another academic year starts, many traditional student landlords may feel the impact of this surge of private student accommodation and might be finding it harder to fill their once sought-after properties, especially as domestic student numbers continue to fall.

Consequently, online letting agent Upad.co.uk is advising landlords who are competing with this rising market of purpose-built student accommodation that in order to remain appealing to university renters, they may need to improve the standard of accommodation they offer – or consider pulling out of the market altogether.

James Davis, CEO and founder of Upad.co.uk, said: “In years gone by it might have been easy for landlords to buy an older property, throw in some second-hand beds and desks and bring in a regular rent over the course of the academic year. Now, with an increase in private developers building smart, contemporary and potentially more appealing student accommodation, we are really seeing a shift and many landlords pulling out of the market to appeal more to mainstream renters.

“Given the choice, many sharing students, especially more mature students, prefer to live in a traditional property as opposed to an extension of student halls. Landlords hoping to hold on to this market, therefore, may need to up their game significantly to still be the more appealing choice to student renters. This may involve anything from ensuring the property is painted and thoroughly cleaned throughout to bigger gestures such as the inclusion of utility bills and fast Wi-Fi as part of the package.”

There a range of options which landlords competing for tenants in this sector may wish to consider, according to Upad.

The online agency suggests that these should include bills in the monthly rent (ideally gas, electricity and Wi-Fi), potentially a cleaner, and ensure suitable shared living space is available to tenants.

In the past, landlords may have sacrificed the living room for another bedroom and increase the rental yield. By keeping the living room space as a communal area, however, the property will appeal more to friends looking to share a property and give it more of a homely feel

Davis added: “The alternative is to consider looking to let your student property out to professional couples or the family market. The rental market is particularly buoyant at the moment, especially as it looks like we may hit another period of cooling on the sales front, renting a property, even for a year or two, may prove appealing.

“This will of course involve some changes to the layout and potential furnishing but as purpose-built student accommodation looks set to increase further in 2018, this may well be a change worth making.”

  • Peter Meczes

    I absolutely agree that competition is getting fiercer and students are far more demanding. In our flagship property (8 ensuite + separate annexe) we have provided the no 1 and no 2 (Fast wifi and ensuite rooms) requirements, as well as double beds for several years now to compete with purpose built units. However, the disrespect of our property by students has rapidly worsened and the state of the house is now becoming filthy. The total disregard of any minor job that needs doing, including just putting out the wheelie bins and changing a light bulb, has forced us to reconsider and pull out of this market as soon as possible. When students respect the quality of their accommodation it might once again become an attractive proposition. I'm waiting to see how some of these new developments fare.

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