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Having always been a safe and secure asset class with timeless demand, UK student accommodation has thrived over the last two years, rapidly outpacing the UK’s conventional property market. Its fast growth and investment strength has been so prolific that in January 2012, The Times ranked student accommodation as the top asset class in the UK’s property market. Knight Frank’s 2012 student property report also stated, ‘it has outperformed every other commercial property class and delivered consistent returns throughout the economic downturn’. Compared to other property investments, student property stands out consistently offering higher returns.
The popularity of student accommodation amongst investors is ultimately driven by consistent occupancy rates of 99% or higher and a structural undersupply. The strongest performance in student accommodation so far has been centred around Russell Group university towns and cities where the UK’s top universities not only attract students from the UK but also from abroad. Investors are capitalising on this to generate particularly high returns, not found anywhere else in the UK’s property market.
A significant increase in overseas students has been one of the main contributors to the student property boom. The UK is one of the world’s largest host countries to foreign students, 2nd only to the USA. International students are attracted to the UK because of the quality of education which ranks amongst the best in the world, and the UK’s relatively inexpensive tuition fees. Equivalent courses in Australia and the USA can be double or even triple the price of education in the UK. There are now close to half a million international students studying in the UK every year.
This has put considerable strain on the already undersupplied student property market, especially in the Russell Group University towns and cities where students from abroad go to study.
International students have also altered demand for student property investment by only opting for very high quality, fully managed halls. While historic demand had been for very basic, shared student rooms, today’s demand is for fully managed, self-contained apartments more in line with high profile hotel rooms.