Second guessing and staying up to date with what students want from their student property in Sheffield is a never-ending task for student landlords in Sheffield. Fortunately, there are a flurry of surveys and reports published yearly that give us some statistical insight into student habit and what they expect from their home. We’ve combined that with 10 years of local market knowledge to give you our five tips on how to stay ahead in the Sheffield student property market in 2018.
1. TIME TO GO DIGITAL
The technology and bright ideas are already out there, so why not use them to make your life as a landlord in Sheffield easier? The current student population is the first generation to grow up with a fully functioning internet. They are used to solving problems with handy apps and furthering their own knowledge and studies through electronic resources, so why not digitise their property experience?
Many industries are struggling to make the leap from the offline world to the online. Banking for one is making a painful and laborious step in a totally online experience. Property, and more specifically landlords, can do the same. Major changes will come with time as new tech companies set up offering bespoke tools, but for now it means that landlords can begin asking students for e-documents in place of their physical counterparts, and that’s just one example of going digital. How often have you had to chase students for documents or signatures? Wouldn’t it be great if it was all done automatically for you and nothing needed printing and tenants could do it all from their phone, instantly?
Have you thought about the migration away from the formality of email to WhatsApp or another group chat? This can make for a far more convenient relationship and save everybody a lot of time. Need to make sure you have all tenants’ permission before visiting? Send a quick message and get a thumbs up emoticon back from your tenants to say, ‘no problem’!
You could even go full hog and buy into the Internet of Things. A Smart TV, connected to the internet that’s able to stream Netflix, Amazon Prime, iPlayer or Spotify, is a great deal sweetener, and in our opinion, almost becoming a necessity for the better rents.
Tired of chasing bills, calling utility companies and descending into your dark, damp cellar (quintessential of student property in Sheffield) to get an accurate meter reading? How about upgrading to a Smart Meter? Both you and the tenants can access a real-time display of gas and electricity consumption from your phone; it’s a great way of gauging and justifying how much you charge students for their utilities, or just keeping an eye on consumption. Just imagine never having to brave those stairs and cobwebs below the ground again! And imagine, never, ever, havign to call the utility company again!
Any ‘competitive’ student property in Sheffield should offer great internet capabilities now and the reliance of students on the internet should not be understated! Good, fast and stable broadband is as important a consideration as size of rooms was 5 years ago. If you’re offering an all-inclusive package, don’t make the mistake of going for a cheap package with limited bandwidth. You could even go one step further and pay to be wired directly into the fibre optic grid for quicker and more reliable internet. A download speed of av. 30 mbps (usually advertised as up to 50mbps) will suffice a student household of five or six. On the whole, internet subscription is becoming cheaper and, when included with rent, is a massive incentive.
2. LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
First time renters of student property in Sheffield (houses) tend to be second year undergraduates, who know the city centre fairly well and already know that the likes of Crookesmoor, Broomhill, Ecclesall Road and Bramhall lane are some of the more popular student neighbourhoods. The reason being, they are within ‘walking distance’ of the associated campus’s’ and they know their friends will only be a stone’s throw away. For the majority, these locations will continue to be a preference, but consider you’ll be contending with the plush, purpose built student accommodation more than ever in 2018.
In any case, students tend not to be skipping to and fro between university and their homes during the day anymore, as courses become ever demanding and on campus facilities become increasingly diverse. They tend to treat university as a working day – one journey in the morning, and another in the evening. This has important consequences for how students view their student home. Increasingly, the student house has become a place of ‘relaxation’ whilst the University and much improved study facilities are a place of ‘work’.
The ideal location for a student home should continue to tick off the student essentials. Cheap pub, chippy, small supermarket, walking distance to shops and a lively neighbourhood. The point here is that encouragement from big developers of students moving into the city centre in the form purpose built accommodation has never been more obvious. Private landlords should remember that their location is key and to protect their investments long term, they should continue to support and contribute to the local communities in a positive way.
3. CODENSATION AND DAMP
47% of students complained of ‘damp’ problems in the National Student Accommodation Survey. As landlords, you and I know they are usually referring to condensation and subsequent mould formation. Naturally, a proportion of student property in Sheffield is of an older construction method lacking cavity and loft insulation, but let’s also not discount student habit like hanging clothes out to dry in their rooms, turning fan isolator switches off and having long showers! Despite the stereotypes though, the majority of students tend to have the good intentions to keep their property clean, and with a bit of guidance and some assistance from landlords, this can be evaded in most properties.
From a landlords’ perspective, it might be looking to see if you can incporporate a utility (or drying room) into your property, or at least including a tumble drying facility in the kitchen, ideally with a big load capacity. Of course, ensuring your bathroom extractors operate on a timer or humidity sensor can help, and for some properties where this just isn’t enough, a positive or negative air flow system like the Nuaire unit can make the problem disappear altogether.
>> FREE DOWNLOAD <<
4. UNDERSTANDING THE STUDENT BUDGET
Why do greasy spoon cafes continue to survive the avocado brunch onslaught? It’s simple really and you can apply the same to your student property (no, really!). The cafes understand the sort of people who come to them and they cater exclusively for the preferences and budgets. Dave, who was in the Pamona celebrating Man U’s victory the night before, wants a no nonsense hangover cure for a reasonable price. He’s quite happy to pay £4.99 for average meat and bulk cooked eggs served as quickly as possible with minimal fuss. No mimosas here.
So too can understanding the student budget greatly help the student landlord in Sheffield. With the tuition fee hikes of recent years, the student income is becoming squeezed. A whopping 77% of students rely on a student loan now, 7% up on last year. But why should the student financial decision-making worry landlords, can’t they just get part time jobs? Indeed, 69% do work part time jobs in between terms, whilst a substantial and growing 40% work 6-10 hours on minimum wage a week during term time and 59% believe it negatively impacts their studies.
That would explain why 73% of students told the Lifestyle Survey that they worry about their finances. A worried market means the provider must listen up, allay those fears and cater better services. An average maintenance loan (calculated here) would leave the student with £4,193 for the year or £465 for the 9 months of term. With an average student room going for £320 pcm in Crookesmoor, that leaves £145 to pay bills, the food shopping and socialising. Indeed, students budget on average £10-£20 a week on social activities. It means value for money has never been more important to students, and student landlords should not forget this.
5. SOCIABLE LIVING
It’s a common error to assume that the tuition fee hikes and the rise in popularity of PBSA have whittled down those applying to university as the better off type of student. Students remain a poor bunch, caught in the squeeze of rising rental prices, higher fees and fewer grants. Whilst many are given a cushioning loan from the ‘Bank of Mum and Dad’ which, incidentally, is the 9th biggest lender to Millennials, the fact remains that the average student is poorer than they were five years ago. This means students still spend a lot time at home with their friends, so ensuring your kitchen/dining areas are ‘communal’, meaning there’s with plenty of sofas, space, seating and perching areas (like breakfast bars with stools), will help keep your property a top choice for years to come.
Smart Property is a student property management company in Sheffield. Click HERE to find out more about our management and investment services.