Investors Should Leverage On High Demand for Student Property

VITA Student, a student accommodation brand in the UK.
VITA Student, a student accommodation brand in the UK.

The UK has long settled comfortably on the top spot of global education. This has been reflected by growing demand for Purpose-built Student Accommodation (PBSA) or UK Commercial Student Property as students from all over the world flood into the UK in seek of highly revered credentials. Across the UK as a whole, full-time student numbers continue to outweigh current PBSA bed spaces by 3:1, despite the pipeline of student accommodation either planned or underway.

Unlike residential property, this sector is seen to be a concrete investment even in the face of global and domestic challenges. Recent data reveals the popularity of PBSA among investors following the undersupply.

Savills reported a 17%  increase in student accommodation investment in the UK this year, and expects investments in the sector  to reach £5.3bn by the end of 2017, surpassing the £4.5bn spent in 2016. Meanwhile, Knight Frank’s UK Student Housing Rental Update reports that headline rental growth for the sector increased by 2.55% for the 2017/18 academic year.  Becoming a private investor in student property is currently trending in the UK, with reports revealing lucrative returns from the PBSA sector for individual investors.

While some of the younger UK population prefer to seek apprenticeships instead of applying for university, the latest analysis by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) shows that demand for higher education among 18-year-olds remain strong, increasing by 0.4% in 2017 from the previous year. Additionally, the number of applicants from the EU increased by 3.4% to 43,510, a 3% rise from the same point in 2017 and the second highest number recorded. The number of international applicants increased to its highest ever number, by 11 per cent to 58,450.

The act of supplying student accommodation that is both sufficient in number and quality was once under the responsibility of educational institutions themselves, but in recent years, have mostly been provided by private investors and developers. What has been particularly demanded from students are superior quality accommodation which they are prepared to pay higher rents for. This makes the sector very profitable for landlords and letting agents.

David Feeney, Head of Student Analytics at Cushman & Wakefield said: “More students than ever are demanding a bed in purpose-built accommodation. This, coupled with pressure on local housing markets, means that demand for purpose-built accommodation should remain strong. However, micro-market knowledge is essential to investment success.”

Mike Mitchell, Partner in Cushman & Wakefield’s Student and Residential Investment team, commented: “Across the UK, the PBSA market continues to be one of the most attractive asset classes in real estate for investors. Despite applications to Universities falling by 3.7%, the sector has witnessed year-on-year rental growth. Due to the value of foreign currencies against the Pound, there has been an influx of capital from overseas buyers in 2017 who are now competing with UK purchasers.”

What can be taken away, at the end of the day, is that PBSA in the UK is big business. One fact reinforces this already proven notion, and that is the fact that the UK overtook the US as the largest student property market for the first time in 2015 after reaching a record £6.56bn in investment volumes. — to invest in PBSA in the UK seems to be a pretty solid plan!

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