For the student market nowadays, if the bedrooms are not of roughly equal sizes then the owner has three options – sell, build an extension, or reduce the number of tenants. The time when small bedrooms could be sold off at a discount has unfortunately passed with the arrival of Pinterest and Instagram. Nobody wants to show the world that they are in a small bedroom, possibly smaller than the bedroom they had at home as a teenager.
For the last few years with increasing problems letting properties with small bedrooms, owners are turning the small bedrooms into a second bathroom or using the small bedroom as a catalyst to change the whole house into all en-suite bedrooms or a combination of en-suites and a bedroom with its own bathroom.
In the old days, almost any old room in any old property in any old street and it would be let. That is no longer the situation. You have to be in the right place (near to the campus, although with online studying this is no longer such a dominating factor) with equal-sized rooms or thereabouts, each preferably with its own shower/en-suite. This means that a house with three bedrooms is not automatically a house able to accommodate three students.
Apart from room size and location, there are other items to take into consideration, such as:
1. Kitchens are key to letting any house especially an HMO and so:
a. So Is there enough space in the kitchen for all the tenants, or at least most of them to have space to cook at the same time? – i.e. how many people can the kitchen hold?
b. Storage is crucial for their own food like cereals, tins of food, coffee/tea and so is there at least 2.5 cupboards for food storage per person?
c. Most food now is based on chilled and frozen food as not much is cooked from basics and therefore is there at least one freezer drawer per tenant?
2. Decoration wise, how do the décor and furnishings look:
a. Modern or is the house suffering from being ‘Magnoliarised’?
b. From another perspective, has the house been upgraded with some feature walls, with maybe light pastel greys?
c. Preferable all of the walls are smooth plaster and there are no walls covered with either old woodchip or anaglypta wallpaper?
3. The internet is a crucial aspect of studying and working from home and so will the internet hub handle at least 5 to 6 devices per tenant and maybe even up to 8 each?
4. Nowadays all modern accommodation has matching furniture and so it is very important that there is a theme to the furniture, which matches in with the décor.
The challenge is that institutional investors like Unite PLC are providing most of the above in large halls of residence for the first years. This is turn shows students what is available and so private landlords are copying them by providing similar furnishings and features for the 2nd and 3rd years but in smaller units.
Like every market, the Student Accommodation market is changing year on year and Covid is going to force even more changes on private landlords.
We realise that all of this is rather a bitter pill for landlords to swallow but all of us have to realise that the past is the past and the present is different and the future will be even more different.
Properties, where every bedroom has en-suites, are a must-have for the present and future, with a shared bathroom only for couples and families.
Location, Location, Location is no longer so important with more people working from home, with everyone connected by the Internet. People are logging in from the beach, woods, or mountains depending on what takes your fancy. With energy-conscious homes and an EPC of at least C or B being required for Net Zero demands of 2035 are a must as Generation Z and Millenials realise that they are the ones who will have to make the difficult decisions to stop runaway climate change.
Landlords must get on board with the new reality, which can be really scary, but then life for our forebears has always been scary. Only recently has it been more comfortable with central heating and all mod cons. It is time for us all to get used to the new normality.