A glimpse into the London student accommodation market

Feb 2018News

University students embark upon the same purchase journey for student accommodation rental every year of their university career. Our market insight as a student property giant has allowed us to map the student Route to Rental, and distil it into 3 distinct phases.

  1. The passive phase (students are not actively thinking about house hunting)
  2. The trigger phase (event that acts as a trigger for students to begin house hunting, e.g. UCAS)
  3. The active phase (students actively search for their property).

The majority of the UK’s student population follow the same dates for this Route to Rental, with only slight variations city to city. UCAS results act as a trigger for freshers students to secure accommodation for their first year, initiating a short active period which runs mid-June to mid-August. A larger active period encompassing the majority of the UK student population runs from mid-September to March, in which freshers and 2nd year and above students secure their student houses for the following academic year.

One exception to this timeline is the London student market, for whom the timeline is shifted with the active period beginning mid-March, and running through to October. With this in mind, University Cribs are gearing up for the London active period and thought we’d share some of our insights into this exciting market.

The student market in London

London represents a sizeable growth market. Young people from London are more likely than anywhere else in the UK to enter higher education (HE) and a large amount of these choose to remain in London as students. 41.8% of 18-year-olds in London entered HE in 2017/18, a significant increase on the 33.3% average across England. Moreover, London also saw the greatest increase in entry rates from 2016 to 2017 (1.8%), making this an attractive area for student accommodation growth.

Indeed, University Cribs receives significant traffic from this location of high opportunity. More students from London engage with the University Cribs site and social platforms than any other UK university city, consistent with the demand for student accommodation.

Over saturation of the property market means that students are competing for the same houses of multiple occupancy (HMO) that young professionals are trying to secure. As a result, London ranks by far the most expensive place to live as a student, with average rent costing £182/week, compared to the UK average of £125/week.

Undoubtedly, there is significant variation within London itself and some regions present an attractive compromise for student renters. When combining scores for: rent levels; journey time to central London; local amenities and local crime levels, Woolwich, Deptford, Leytonstone, Stratford and Streatham rank as top places for students to live in London. Indeed, the average rent for a room in Woolwich is 27% below the London average and the area ranks within the top 25 areas for student pubs and bars. Letting agents marketing properties within these, or similar areas, ought to put emphasis on facts such as these within their advert copy to increase the attractiveness to students. Such comparisons are particularly useful for non-local students attending HE in London, for whom the London accommodation market will be a novelty.

As demand for student accommodation rises, HMO prices will continue to rocket. With a limit to the number of HMO available, London represents an ideal region for affordable PBSA developments, which could feed the demand for student accommodation from both domestic and international students.

The international market in London

London boasts a large proportion of international students, comprising 17% of the total student population. Indeed, five of London’s universities were reported in the top 10 universities for the highest percentage of international students, worldwide, and London School of Economics and Political Science ranked 3rd with international students making up 70% of their student population.

Moreover, growth in the number of students worldwide who study overseas means international student numbers in the UK are predicted to rise by 6% over the next 3 years. This positions London as an even more attractive prospect for PBSA development, owing to the money that international students bring into the market. Whilst they make up 17% of the student population, they contribute 26% of all student fees paid in London and international students throughout the UK contribute £25bn to the UK economy each year through university fees, and other spending such as accommodation. Furthermore, where domestic students cite price and affordability as a paramount consideration in their student house hunt, international students favour accommodation based on location and quality – making them an ideal target market for high-end PBSA developments.

In order to effectively target this international market, PBSA providers ought to consider tailoring their marketing. Due to logistics, international students often have to book accommodation without physically viewing the property first. However, CribsVR can give a head start to both PBSA and HMO student accommodation targeting international students. Through high-quality virtual reality tours provided by CribsVR students can view properties in high quality 360° anytime, anywhere – significantly increasing the chances of bookings from international students. Read more about CribsVR services here.

Additionally, through our own research into the international student accommodation market, we know what content and which channels international students value. Through this, University Cribs can ensure that your properties attain significant reach and engagement with international students. For example, Whatsapp messenger is significantly favoured by international students, and yet it is currently hugely underutilised as a marketing tool. We are changing this, and adopting a Whatsapp marketing strategy as a means of driving high quality engaged traffic to listed properties.

Despite most letting agents focusing their student property marketing within a period of a few months, agents and PBSA providers ought to align their marketing with the entire 12 month Route to Rental, in order to maximise efficiency. University Cribs are experts at doing so and efforts to engage students throughout their entire rental journey ensure that they turn to University Cribs to find their next student home.

For example: driving students to register for city-specific housing lists in September, positions University Cribs as a trigger for students to begin their house hunt. Facebook data remarketing during the active period enables us to re-market the most relevant properties across student’s social channels, increasing reach and engagement of your property listings. Finally, year-round on ground marketing campaigns, such as our upcoming Puppy Petting Days, build a favourable brand bias which positions University Cribs as the student search engine of choice. Read more about how we align out marketing with the behaviour of students here.

We know student marketing, and we know student accommodation. Let us complement the marketing of your student properties. Click here to learn more, or to request a brochure.