When it comes to student accommodation, UK landlords need to raise their game
Ben Hall – managing director of Loft Interiors and www.Student-furniture.co.uk – discusses the shift in attitudes towards student accommodation and urges landlords to respond to the trend for staying in halls of residence throughout a student’s university life.
With tuition fees nudging £9,000 a year and universities being forced to cut their intake to all but the highest performing AAB students, everything points to the fact that those who are still making it to university are doing so with serious financial support behind them.
This shift in profile towards a typically more affluent – and therefore demanding – student means that landlords servicing this lucrative market simply must raise the bar when it comes to providing accommodation that meets expectations.
‘’Student accommodation is notoriously now reaching ‘’hospitality class assets’’ and it is an accepted fact that sagging beds and stained carpets are no longer an option: it’s more plasma screen TVs, broadband connection and on-site gyms.
‘’Universities are spending millions on new buildings in the fight to attract students – including campus hotels, better bedrooms and even an overseas student village planned by one university, a 2012 survey by building firm, Wates, indicated. The survey highlighted that 79% of universities have 2013 construction plans to improve the student living experience costing more than £5m apiece.
‘’With this surge of investment by universities into experiential Halls of Residence, it comes as no surprise that more and more students are opting to see out their full university career in Halls rather than making the traditional move to a shared house.
‘’Naturally, this is a concern for private landlords, who are now competing with a new breed of ‘Super Halls’. All is not lost though, as the move to a shared house still holds many advantages over Halls living. Shared houses represent a true move to adulthood, total independence and a chance to live with a close group of friends, rather than the more anonymous accommodation provided by Halls of Residence.
‘’However, students aren’t prepared to sacrifice 5 star accommodation simply to live with their friends. So the question is, what should landlords of private student accommodation be doing to give their rentals a fighting chance in such a competitive market?
‘’It’s simple. Make your student properties fit for the young professional market – which is the minimum standard of accommodation students are now willing to consider.
‘’Start by offering your students more from their private space. Consider fitted furniture, which not only stands the test of time and the rigours of student living, but maximises space and creates a hotel style look. This doesn’t have to be cost prohibitive: Loft Interiors’ specialist student furnishings division, www.student-furniture.co.uk, offers bespoke fitted furniture solutions, with almost limitless finishes, but with a firm eye on costs, so when considering the full property refresh life-cycle, it saves money and protects yield in the longer term.
‘’Fitted furniture also allows for the ‘zoning’ of student bedrooms, giving space for rest and relaxation, as well as study. Fitted desk areas can even be sectioned off behind closed doors in a specialist unit for when it’s time to switch off for the day.
‘’En suite bathrooms are now practically a given in Halls of Residence, so it would be worth considering including en suites wherever possible, even at the expense of an bedroom if this means the difference between void periods and attracting a good calibre of student tenant.
‘’Living spaces must be immaculate, with kitchens that wouldn’t look out of place in a glossy interiors magazine. As kitchen fit outs are an occasional investment, it’s worth balancing quality with cost.
‘’This shift towards remaining in Halls of Residence is a new trend but one that’s rapidly taking hold. In 2010 40% of students lived in private shared accommodation with 27% living in Halls of Residence and the remainder of students remaining in the family home. In 2012 the balance shifted dramatically with market feedback suggesting this figure is closer to turning on its head.
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