EXPERT VIEW: Has Covid changed the student lets market?

It has been a difficult year for many students, with limited contact hours on campus from the outset, followed by the strict January lock down, which will keep many away from in-person lectures until September.

While some students are disappointed and are turning their attention to securing tuition fee refunds, the student housing market remains robust, particularly for landlords and agents specialising in shared student housing.

They’re back!

Students can return to campus from the 17th of May, however, the majority of students anticipate being back on campus this September, with our recent research revealing that almost 90% are of this view.  

Furthermore, there is confidence that the strong vaccine programme and well organised Universities will mean students can enjoy a relatively normal academic year from this autumn.

As a result, accommodationforstudents.com has experienced a 37% increase in website visitors and a 59% increase in page views in the first four months of 2021.

This positive trend is supported by a 15% increase in enquiries through the site, as confident student populations seek to secure their accommodation for next academic year.

Students willing to commit  

One of the main features of 2021 has been a growth in interest in HMOs and shared housing. In the first four months of the year our landlord properties had received over 1 million views and benefited from a 39% increase in enquiries.

Whilst our latest research revealed that 20% of students had delayed making accommodation choices for 2021 because of Covid 19, this delay primarily seems to have affected the PBSA sector where a sharp growth in bookings in anticipated in the later summer months.

Students were willing to commit to a shared housing from the outset and this is positive news for those landlords and agents.

Growing student numbers

The outlook remains positive, with 616,360 applications for a University an 8% increase and the most ever received. Within this there is a strong domestic cohort of 306,200 18 year olds. This is  over 40% of the UK’s population of 18 year olds and is a result of the continued appeal of UK Universities as well as an established trend towards further study at times of economic uncertainty.

While this is good news, it is particularly positive for landlords, as it likely to increase the market for shared housing. Our research shows that most students view living in shared housing as a key part of the University experience and that the majority (64%) thought that it was the best type of accommodation to live in.

Price, location and bills

So while the overall picture is positive, with a healthy audience and appetite for student accommodation, it is still competitive. Our recent research reveals the key factors in the students’ decision making are price and location (either in relation to the University or amenities).

The availability of bills inclusive rents is also important to many students and something that has become increasingly easy to offer. With these key elements in place and a strong online profile, there is a sustainable and growing market available to target.     

Simon Thompson is CEO of AccommodationForStudents.com.

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