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Interested in becoming a landlord of student lets in Uxbridge?

Belvoir Lettings Uxbridge are one of only four letting agents recommended by ARC, the advice and reconciliation centre at Brunel student union. ARC looked at various criteria such as our Client Money Protection and having a number of contacts....

Before we start the article properly I just want to mention Belvoir Lettings Uxbridge are one of only four letting agents recommended by ARC, the advice and reconciliation centre at Brunel student union.  ARC looked at various criteria such as Client Money Protection and having had a number of contacts over the last year or so and discussing our procedures, approach and ethos haved added Belvoir Lettings Uxbridge to their exclusive list.  If I was Liza Tarbuck I would say I was 'chuffed'.

If you are thinking about becoming a student landlord what should you consider?  What does the market want? 

What matters most to students?

The student market is specialised and needs careful research before entering.  If buying a property in the Uxbridge area as suitable accommodation the first consideration is distance from Brunel.

Forgive my generalisation, but despite being young and fit our student population dislike walking and distance more than any other groups of tenants I know.  Whenever you speak to students their first criteria is distance from the University.  Such conversations normally run along the lines of:

"What sort of property are you looking for?"

"One that's close to the University."

So your choice of property needs to reflect this.   

The Article 4 Direction

 However you can't just buy a property in the area and consider yourself to be in the market.  The council don't want the area around Brunel to be given over purely to students.  They want to keep the mix between permanent residents, families and long term occupiers with the students who live around Brunel.  This caused them to set up an Article 4 Direction in the wards around Brunel and South Bucks University which has a nursing campus in Uxbridge.  

The Article 4 direction means that new HMO's need planning permission from the council before being set up.  HMO's are only three sharers so the threshold is low.  It's easy to create an HMO by accident.  For example two ladies who are friends sharing a flat, one had a baby and now you have an HMO.      

 However there are locations which are just outside Brunel and Uxbridge South wards which are still 'student close' to Brunel.  Well worth getting a map out and looking at some of the locations.  If you are interested in discussing this further let me.  

Buying an HMO

Student Property New Peachey Lane

The other alternative is to purchase an HMO on the market in Hillingdon.  What's available? For example there is a four/five bedroom on New Peachey Lane.  This one in particular is on the market at £345,000.  Four or five bedrooms means three bedrooms upstairs and using both reception rooms downstairs as bedrooms.  The licence for 6 people would generate income of circa £2,200pcm.  But no lounge or communal space aside the kitchen doesn't make for ideal quarters for students.

I make the estimate of £2,200 based on £450pcm for 4 rooms and £400pcm for the final small room.  Based on the finish quality of the rooms subject to improvement more may be achievable.  The yield here would be 7.6% but with my figures for room rents would need the landlord to settle utility bills and council tax (should non students occupy).

Cowley High Road BedroomCowley High Road - BedroomOffering perhaps another option is this bungalow on Cowley High Road (the road that runs from Uxbridge to West Drayton).  A little further from Brunel but not too far.  A nice looking Bungalow on the market at £350,000 with a stated income of £19,200pa, that's £1,600pcm.  This makes for a yield of 5.4%.  Low for a HMO but good for a four bedroom property.   Nice looking rooms too! 

The choice can sometimes be between letting a whole house where students pay the bills or paying utilities bills yourself or via an agent and letting on a room by room basis.  Room lets are more profitable by the tenants are more transitory and can sometimes not get along causing more management issues.  

Cowley High Road - KitchenCowley High Road - Kitchen

The Condition of Student Property

Whilst student property need not be in fantastic new build condition the better property will let quicker and generally incur fewer maintenance issues in tenancy.

Students tend to want larger amounts of cupboard and fridge/freezer space so that they can all store their food individually.  

I would also reduce the risk of condensation if this has been an issue with measures such as installing a tumble dryer and extraction systems with sensors linked to humidity levels can tackle the issue.  

Much of getting an HMO license for student property is aimed at fire prevention.  I would never lose sight of the risk of fire.  Test those smoke alarms every time you visit the property.

But even when you do your maintenance you can still expect the odd adventure - such as finding yourself in the student's property helping a tenant out of the bathroom after the door lock breaks and they get locked in!  Where else would you rather be early on a Saturday evening!

Are Students Reliable?

Many potential landlords are put off the idea of students by a 'Young Ones' induced fear of poor treatment of property and lack of money to pay rent.

Students, as much as any tenants or any people are reliable.  We take references and guarantors and find that, in general, tenants pay on time!   Regular visits and property checks should manage tenant treatment of the property.  Taking a reasonable deposit also helps in this respect.

The market for student accommodation remains strong in Uxbridge, long may it continue.  

What are the threats to the market?

Most of the possible threats to the market come from Brunel itself. Potentially the University could build more accommodation removing thousands from the private rental market or numbers of students change due to government policy or a fall in popularity of Brunel numbers will decline.

This what happened recently according to Brunel....

Overall student numbers for 2012/13 decreased by 1,056 from 2011/12, a reduction of 7.1%. The largest
reduction was in undergraduate numbers which decreased by 6.2%. The factors behind the reduction arose
from the transition to the tuition fee regime...

Some risk is mitigated by demand for property in the area due to the health of the local employment market and other seats of learning such as the Nursing Campus for South Bucks University located in Uxbridge.

However threats to University's are slow to manifest and at over 50 years old Brunel is still young, dynamic and thriving!

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