We’re always getting asked this by prospective student landlords, and whilst some of the answers are pretty obvious, we often see student accommodation that just doesn’t tick the right boxes.
Most students will spend their first year at Uni in a pretty snazzy (but pricey) purpose-built block near to campus. But come their second year, most UK students will want to step out and find a student house of their own with a group of friends. For student landlords, however, this PBSA experience should be your benchmark – your prospective tenants are used to high-end fully serviced accommodation and it’s up to you to keep up with that.
The best way to find out what students want is, not unsurprisingly, to ask them! But it amazes me how many agents and Landlords forget this pretty fundamental step. We run surveys with our tenants twice a year and the following, in order of importance, have been our pretty consistent findings over the last few years;
1) Location: The location of the rental property is normally the most important factor to consider. Students nearly always want to rent properties that are located near their university or college, as well as near amenities such as supermarkets, restaurants, and bars.
It doesn’t mean they won’t look at other areas (and there is a finite amount of accommodation around the Uni campuses that doesn’t match demand) but I’ve never heard a student say “I would love to live further away from campus.”
2) Condition and standard of the property: The condition of the rental property is another important factor to consider. The days of sub-par dingy student housing are long gone (thankfully) and today’s student has high standards (quite rightly). If you give somebody something nice, they will invariably look after it.
While people will always have differing budgets, if it was costing you £30k to go to University anyway, you’d want somewhere pretty nice to call home. Think modern kitchens and living spaces, smart hotel-style bathrooms, thoughtful décor (ABM – Anything But Magnolia) and contemporary furniture. Be a bit creative; students will normally look at a number of properties, and most of them will be of a good standard. So make yours stand out (although please note this does not mean painting your house to look like a pack of Starburst). Artwork, rugs and plants are always nice (and appreciated) touches. Woodchip is up there with Karaoke as one of the worst things ever invented. Get rid of it. Please.
We track Google searches and the most popular search terms with the prefix student accommodation is “luxury” and “bills included.” This leads me nicely to the next point.
3) Internet and utilities: Leeds has been an all-inclusive rental market for a number of years, and the majority of other student cities are exactly the same. It still baffles me that student landlords are offering properties on a rent-only basis. I know the energy market has been difficult (to say the least) but if you’re listening to what your customers want then it’s up to you to solve this problem rather than pass it on to them. Wi-Fi is a biggie; it needs to be fast, available, set up and ready to go. (We once had human rights and the Geneva Convention quoted to us when the internet dropped for a few hours in one of our properties, and whilst this is possibly a bit drastic I’m sure you get a general idea).
4) Size and layout: The size and layout of the rental property are also important considerations. Are you designing your property for yourself or your student tenants? If it’s the former, then by all means chop up bedrooms and rip out lounge space. But it might only be you that’ll end up living there.
Large bedrooms and double beds (3/4 at a push) should be standard – if the room is only big enough for a single bed, then it’s not a bedroom. Students work from home more now than ever before so make sure they’ve got a decent desk and that the allowance for workspace is generous. The lounge space should be big and bright with modern (and comfy!) seating. Just because your Auntie has had her sofa replaced doesn’t mean that her old one should end up in your student’s house.
Design your property layout for well-being and communal living and socialising. Surveys of students constantly re-enforce that their well-being is hugely influenced by the standard of their accommodation; in a recent student accommodation survey by Knight Frank, 82% of students surveyed described this as being “important” or “very important” to their well-being. Be aware of this.
5) Price: It would be inaccurate to say that cost isn’t a factor and students come from all different backgrounds with all sorts of budgets. However, this is generally seen as less important than the other points above. Students want nice, they don’t necessarily want cheap. As already mentioned, older, cheaper student accommodation is a thing of the past. That said, there’s always a price point and you should never overshoot it. The standard of your property should always offer value for your prospective tenants. Value is still hugely important, but the value is linked more to quality than cost.
6) Safety and security: Safety and security are also important considerations for students when selecting a rental property that often gets overlooked. Secure locks, burglar alarms and safe neighbourhoods are important considerations. We encourage landlords to add extra external lights (on sensors), peepholes in the front door and safety and security advice to their tenants. A burglar alarm is only used if you know how to use it. Do your tenants have peace of mind that they have genuine 24-hour support should something happen? Because they should do.
The most important thing is to always keep the end user in mind. We’ve been creating and managing student accommodation for a number of years and if you’re a landlord starting out in the student market, then we’re always here for a chat and a coffee and some free advice.
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