Student accommodation seekers create viewings record

Steve Lumley·14 September 2020·4 min read
Student accommodation seekers create viewings record

A late surge from students wanting accommodation in London and the Home Counties led to the number of viewing figures reaching a 10-year high, figures reveal.

The research from Knight Frank, the real estate firm, found the viewing figures for the lettings market come after July's numbers for new prospective tenants fell by 26% compared with last year.

However, the arrival of exam results for students in the UK and overseas led to a mini-surge late in August from those students who were holding out to see what their grades were before searching for student property in the capital.

The firm's head of residential, Tom Bill, said: "Some students were holding out until late August before deciding what to do, with universities providing online learning options until Christmas.

‘July was quieter than normal’

"Students account for nearly 25% of the market, and July was quieter than normal with uncertainty over when the new academic year would start."

He pointed out that many students have been working for several years with the ambition to earn a place at a London university.

In addition, flight schedules are now returning to normality which will help support demand from students wanting accommodation in the final quarter of 2020.

The report highlights that there is little evidence that the mini-surge was down to corporate activity with relocation packages not currently being a priority for many employers.

Mr Bill added: "London will for overseas students, remain an attractive destination irrespective how long it takes for universities to return to normal.

"The demand is strong due to cultural and academic reasons and there could be a few more seasonal records yet to be broken."

Opportunity for student sector growth

Meanwhile, one real estate investment expert says that the exam U-turn in August has delivered an excellent opportunity for student sector growth in the UK.

James Duncan of Winckworth Sherwood has written in one investment magazine that the student accommodation sector looked to be badly shaken by the Covid-19 pandemic.

But now, just a few months later, student landlords ‘have reasons to be cheerful’.

In addition to the exam grades being reviewed, the cap on student numbers has been lifted which means universities are striving to deliver opportunities for students.

He also highlights restrictions on socialising and extra-curricular activities and online learning may yet have an impact.

Student landlords who can offer flexible living space

However, Mr Duncan highlights that those student landlords who can offer flexible living space that is targeted at the post-lockdown landscape, will be able to differentiate their offering from other private landlords.

One issue he highlights is that private student landlords should also consider offering Coronavirus break clauses in their contracts.