Wednesday, August 24, 2005

It's getting tougher for student landlords

The housing market in Nottingham is changing as students choose swish new apartments over traditional homes.:

DAVID BYERS reports:

"Everyone knows, or thinks they know, what student homes are like. The traditional stereotype of a student house or flat has it at best cheap and cheerful, at worst damp and depressing.

But the students did not seem to mind. They had chosen their digs, after all, and when things got tough they could always run back to their parents in the suburbs for comfort. Yet now students seem to have had enough of living like students - and landlords are counting the cost.

A flurry of smart purpose-built accommodation complexes, such as Raleigh Park and St Peter's Court, are luring thousands of students with cut-price rent deals with broadband and bills included.

This is one of the reasons being given for a significant increase in the number of empty homes in Nottingham."

It also means times are tough for Angela Barbaro, owner of Notts-based AB Property Management, who has worked in the student and professional housing business for 19 years. The agency has 14 properties for students in its portfolio - yet ten of these, in Lenton, Forest Fields and Clifton, are sitting empty, and have done for months.

"Up until last year it was hard, but this year it has been unbelievably difficult," she said. "Huge buildings are being put up which have a big knock-on effect for landlords, who simply can't compete. At St Peter's Court, 700 students have moved in there, by the business school. Raleigh Park is another big development, with several hundred places. And a new building in Gregory Boulevard takes 400 students.

"All of this purpose-built accommodation has broadband and bills all inclusive for about £70 a week. A private landlord will charge £65 without bills. It really isn't viable to charge anything less.

"I don't like renting for students because the market's stagnant - I don't take any more student properties."

So should landlords be selling up or lowering their rents to attract students? Neither, according to Ms Barbaro.

"Working with landlords is quite difficult because they never want to put their hand in their pockets," she said. "But the key to landlords renting their properties is to do them up to look smart and add additional facilities: decent showers, bathrooms, broadband internet - to offer students a decent deal. Some landlords do and some don't. And the ones that don't are the ones whose properties are being left empty. I'd say 40% of landlords I know have done up their properties, gutted them, put in broadband and created a nice house. But 60% have not."

It's tough, and it costs money, but as a landlord you just have to keep an eye on the marketplace and do what it takes to stay competitive.




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