The student lettings market is typically considered the more predictable and stable sector of the lettings industry due to its consistent and high annual demand. The past year, however, has upset the usual stability enjoyed by student housing managers.
The outbreak of COVID-19 last year and the government’s subsequent restrictions meant that the majority of universities moved their lectures and classes online. This meant that students no longer had to live in the same place as their university.
Consequently, many students remained home as they didn’t want to pay for accommodation when they couldn’t get the full university experience, causing the usually stable demand for student housing to drop.
It has been an undeniably difficult year for both students and student housing providers with many student properties remaining empty.
As restrictions ease and students and universities prepare to go back to class-based lectures, however, the demand for student accommodation is on the rise once more with a record 516,650 students being accepted at UK universities this year.
We take a look at what has changed in the student lettings market and how you can prepare for the upcoming academic year to ensure success.
Make the most of the houses being empty
While no one wanted their properties to be empty this past year, it did present a unique opportunity not usually available to student letting managers.
Taking pictures and conducting physical viewings of your properties can be difficult when they are occupied by four or more students for the majority of the year.
To ensure they are doing everything they can to fill their properties for the upcoming academic year, a lot of providers have taken advantage of their unoccupied properties to take high-quality pictures and videos in order to provide accurate virtual tours to prospective students who were unable to physically view the house.
Additionally, as the lockdown restrictions ease, physical viewings are now easier to schedule as there are less student tenants to work around.
Communication is key
Not all students decided to stay at home during the academic year, with some opting to stay in student accommodation despite not needing to physically attend university.
The pandemic brought student wellbeing to the forefront of the way businesses interacted with students while they were isolated from their family and friends.
Many student lettings managers recognised the importance of checking up on tenants and communicating with them throughout the tenancy during the pandemic, which paid off.
Those students who expressed high satisfaction with their accommodation stated that it was largely due to effective communication between property managers and tenants throughout the pandemic.
High student satisfaction is very important in helping providers secure next year’s tenants. A survey conducted by Knight Frank reported that some 93% of students who indicated that their accommodation provider had responded well to COVID-19 in a positive way would recommend their accommodation to other students.
Be prepared for higher demand
Ahead of the current academic year, a record 40.5% of all 18-year-olds in the UK applied to go to university, demonstrating the clear demand there will be for student accommodation. The uncertainty of the previous academic year also means that students will likely be looking for accommodation later in the year than usual.
It is essential that your business is prepared for a much higher demand as it presents the opportunity to complete more deals and increase revenue which will, in turn, help your business recover from the effects of the pandemic.
However, this could prove difficult for a number of businesses when taking into consideration the issues faced by student housing providers over the last year such as furloughing staff.
Many student lettings providers have turned to digital solutions to help them prepare. Property management software can help you save valuable time and money by replacing inefficient and disjointed systems and spreadsheets. This saved time and money can be used to ensure you complete as many deals as possible.