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What 2021 could hold for the student lettings market

Industry Insight, Student Housing November 25th, 2020
What 2021 could hold for the student lettings market

2020 has been a challenging year for everyone, particularly for students, higher education institutions and property managers. The nature of teaching has shifted, with classes being done virtually as cases rise across the country. An associated impact from this has been on the student lettings market. With many students either confined to university accommodation or studying from home, the demand for student housing has dipped.

With 2021 around the corner, property managers are starting to prepare for further changes that could arise.

The market

When September came around and universities were beginning their academic years, it became clear that this year would be unique. The pandemic forced students to re-consider the status quo. Deciding whether it could be worth deferring till a later date when the climate has settled had become a growing thought.

Additionally, those that decided to pursue their studies from September faced a programme that would be done virtually. This led to some students continuing their degrees from home, without the cost of renting near their universities.

The associated effect of this however is reduced demand in student rental properties and an increased number of vacant beds. One of Britain’s largest student accommodation providers, Unite Students, has recorded a 10% decrease in the number of beds rented. This trend has been visible in the private rental sector for student lettings as well. Letting agencies are reporting longer void periods and lower demand.

An interesting element to this is that the UK has witnessed record university applications. According to UCAS, as of 30 June, the UK saw 514,000 applications for undergraduate courses. This is a 1.6% rise on the figures at the same point in 2019. However, there is a clear disconnect between university admissions and the student lettings market.

What could 2021 hold for the sector?

Recent breakthroughs in vaccines will come as welcome news to anyone in the sector. Across the nation, industries are adopting a more optimistic outlook, though cautiously, with renewed confidence starting to build its foundations. Those that decided to study from home could see an increased urge to return to their student towns.

While studies will most likely remain significantly online, the prospect of returning to in-person teaching is growing. Students have noted that virtual learning doesn’t quite match in-person teaching. This mindset could propel more and more students to return to their student towns, thus requiring somewhere to live.

While January could see increases in demand for student rental properties, September 2021 could see the sharpest increase when compared to previous years.

How property managers can prepare and adapt

While a vaccine seems nearby and confidence could build, property managers shouldn’t base their business plan on this. There is still quite some time until a potential vaccine could be available en-masse to the population. Additionally, with cases continuing to rise as we edge closer to Christmas, how much further the spread will increase by is unpredictable.

Therefore, planning for multiple scenarios is a necessity. With short-, medium- and long-term scenarios accounted for, property managers can adapt quickly to critical changes in this uncertain climate. By replacing uncertainty with preparedness, your business will be able to identify and thrive in areas where you can excel.

Tech solutions have grown not just with regards to teaching, but in the letting sector as well. In order to navigate the new normal, property managers have been forced to manage student tenancy journeys remotely through technology. While the student lettings market has slowed down, now is the perfect time to ensure that all your processes are as streamlined as possible to set your business up for success when the market gains momentum again.

Property managers can digitise their services in order to push their business to thrive in the new normal’s contact-free climate.

With bespoke apps for every stakeholder and streamlined operating processes, more and more property managers are turning to property management software to grow their business in these difficult times.

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