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The student shift that didn't matter...
Posted by Ed on 14 March 2018
The city centre has always been a popular option but it had priced itself out of most student budgets and landlords wanted full year incomes with no void/limited void periods, especially due to high council tax banding too. A typical student tenancy does offer half rent periods and there can be some months where there are no income for some. Out of town location Wavertree then became a desirable place to live with many students migrating there, with a busy high street and good bus links to the city it was a reasonable choice. Later also came the rise of another suburb a little closer to the city centre, Kensington. Most property in these suburbs are 2 and 3 bedroom houses that have been converted into 4, 5 and 6 room house shares. The quality of these houses was always average and even as recently as 8 years ago was that poor students were paying £65-£75 per person per week for a damp house that had magnolia walls, partial double glazing and stained carpets.

A few years ago lots of suburban student landlords worried that their property portfolio would become worthless as it became common knowledge that planning consent for over 3500 rooms was on the cards for the city centre in the form of purpose built student accommodation with the offer of free wifi, free contents insurance, bike storage, 24/7 concierge services and of course the central city location meaning reduced travelling costs for students. They worried because not only did it mean that the students would have a more convenient and more modern offering but also that their property values were being based on the income they generated from a student tenancy or HMO in many cases which is significantly more than the average residential family in the area would ever pay. So not only might they have an empty property - or a property generating significantly less income - but also a property which they bought at a higher than market value rate now worth less than what they purchased it for. Lots of landlords now wanted to sell.

Years on…the situation is that yes, the purpose built student accommodation in the city has been a success and it has impacted the student market significantly but the suburban landlords haven’t had to worry as much as they thought but only because they did what all good businesses do to survive…adapt!

Changes have been made to out of town student houses such as; including some of the features that the purpose built properties where offering like free superfast wifi and sky tv, flat screen TV’s in rooms and big improvements have been made to the quality of the living areas such as full kitchen and bathroom refurbishments so they look modern and sleek and clean and colour changes from the landlord favourites of magnolia walls and dark brown carpets to now white matt finish walls and grey carpeting. The changes were made in time that many students stayed and the reputation for the out of town areas hadn’t faltered that much to become a no-go area.

While there are still student properties being built and converted, looking at developments in the pipeline its clear to see that there are a lot more private residential than student residential developments to come over the next 2 years and with the number of students in the city not rising significantly over the past two years (although previously experiencing a big growth over the past decade as a whole) I think it has reached its peak. Many student blocks aren’t achieving 100% capacity as they based their model on higher rent incomes that just aren’t sustainable and attracting only select international students as domestic student still remain price conscious and I have come to the conclusion from my time working in lettings that for students although having a nice place to live is important, having a student community and the social aspect of being a student is just as important too so I have no doubt that the suburban areas of the city can still maintain great success in the student market as long as they are willing to continue improving and adapting to the demand.
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