It’s a 5* hotel – surely? No? Luxury Student Accommodation?

By Bea Patel, TLE Property Editor and Director of Shop for an Agent, the estate agent comparison site

Single beds, cramped rooms, shared kitchen and bathrooms, mould and leaks are the stereotypical student pads of old. It was, as they say, the ‘norm’.

But has this all changed?

Over the years, a growing demand for luxury student accommodation has emerged. Demands of modern urban life have become unavoidable. Smart phones flashing continuously. Social media and WhatsApp notifications demanding our attention. Time is increasingly precious, especially for students.

Modern students’ property needs have changed. More students are going to university with higher expectations. They’re career-driven and focused with ambitions. They expect this to reflect their university lifestyle and accommodation, particularly for overseas students who look for a ‘homely lifestyle’ from their student accommodation.

Collegiate AC - Halsmere London Common Room

Collegiate AC Halsmere, London Common Room

Heriberto Cuanalo, ceo of Collegiate AC, leading provider of student accommodation says: “Student life can be stressful, pressured and busy. Adjusting to a life away from the family home, which for many is also a move overseas, is often not an easy transition. In answer to this, a student property should not only provide a comfortable and safe living environment, today, it can also provide a home with a sense of community that is unique and luxurious, with a focus on lifestyle, making student living fun, exciting and a reflection of ambitions.”

However, it’s not only about luxury accommodation. A survey conducted by Glide Utilities revealed students’ top priorities for their accommodation this year:

  • 83 per cent said that fast internet was the most important aspect.
  • 74 per cent said inclusive bills are something they specifically look for when choosing their accommodation.
  • 61 per cent need a double bed in their room.
  • 59 per cent need their property to offer big, functional communal rooms.
  • 55 per cent are looking for a property in a top location.
  • 31 per cent want good transportation links.
Collegiate AC - Double Bed

Collegiate AC Double Bed

Cuanalo adds: “The demands of today’s student is very different even to, say, a student of five years ago, and keeping abreast of these evolving demands is key to providing the very best student accommodation. At Collegiate AC, we provide all of the aspects highlighted in the [survey].”

James Villarreal, ceo at Glide Utilities explains that the results of the survey provide an insight into the wider context of evolving student demands. He says: “The secret to gaining student appeal in 2015 is definitely ‘more is more’. While the majority of students are satisfied with their accommodation, we can’t ignore the fact that this figure is gradually falling. This isn’t because conditions are slipping, necessarily, but that student expectations are rising.”

Majestic Court studio apartment

Majestic Court studio apartment

Jonathan Cornes Associates (JCA), a firm of chartered building surveyors are working with property investment company St David Group on building Majestic Court. By converting two stories of an old, disused office building into 28 self-contained high-end studio apartments in Stoke-on-Trent, it will meet the rising demand for luxury student accommodation.

Tony Davies, managing director of St David Group explains why they’re investing in luxury student accommodation: “The size and specification of accommodation demanded by students has been rising steadily, and many now see a tiny room in a cluster flat as inadequate. There is a strong demand, particularly from overseas, mature and post-graduate students for self-contained studio apartments. The private sector is increasingly looking to supply this end of the market.”

Majestic Court bathroom

Majestic Court bathroom

The rise in demand for luxury student accommodation is clear. Jonathan Adams, director of estate agency Napier Watt says: “Enquiries from overseas students keen to rent an apartment for the new academic year are starting to come in, kicking off what is set to be a busy summer season. As the current wave of students come to the end of their tenancies, those who have rented before know it makes sense to take over a tenancy during the summer. If they wait until late August/early September they’ll struggle to find somewhere, as the market gets insanely busy. These students are prepared to pay £6,000 to £8,000 per month for a nice two-bed flat in Mayfair, Marylebone or Belgravia, rising to £12,000 per month in Knightsbridge.”

Collegiate AC - Water Lane, Bristol, Studio

Collegiate AC Water Lane, Bristol, Studio

Michael Bruce, ceo of online estate agency says: “Tailor-made student accommodation is pretty big news for the more affluent students, and has become big news for investors. This is not the type of accommodation that we’ve been used to. These developments tend to be populated by overseas students who want something almost hotel-like. With student fees now requiring many domestic students to be weighed down with debt for the early years of their working life, the cost of accommodation is less important as a proportion of total student outgoings.

“Many of the latest developments offer investments a pretty rock-solid six per cent yield, which developers are now able to guarantee for the initial period. So this type of development is here to stay and we’ll see lots more of them, offering peace of mind for parents of students, a pleasant (even if rather soulless) accommodation for students who want to work hard, and a very decent return for investors.”

Collegiate AC Bedroom

Collegiate AC Bedroom

What we once thought of as ‘the norm’ of student pads, a place simply to sleep has evolved into much more. And while some think that luxury accommodation with all its additional perks is financially irresponsible and allows young people to get into debt early on, others see the opportunity and demand in this market.

Highlighted in Savills report on ‘UK Student Housing’ 2015, it confirms, “the introduction of higher fees appear to have continued to drive a flight to quality… The attractiveness of universities in terms of the quality of the education they provide, their value for money, employment prospects, and even the student lifestyle offered by the town or city will continue to play an important role in where prospective students choose to go…. We expect the ‘flight to quality’ to continue.”

Majestic Court - study area

Majestic Court study area

With luxury student accommodation mirroring a 5 star hotel with on-site gyms, private cinemas, study spaces, luxury lounges, concierge services, 24-hour security and even airport transfers, Savills report shows how important these features are in enhancing the study success and lifestyle experience for university students. These features are highly desirable.

Eve Cullen-Cornes, design director at JCA concludes: “Parents want them to have the best. They’ve invested in their education and want to provide them with the opportunity to enjoy their university years, living in an environment that’s safe, clean and ultimately feels like a home.”

Image credit: Collegiate AC and St David Group

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