Student lettings, but not as you know it. Video is vital.

Student lettings, but not as you know it. Video is vital.

Rhys Owen, CPS Homes Property Advisor

The Headlines

  • Landlords, expect change for the 2021/2022 academic year. Students won't be letting properties in the same ways they've always done… and probably not at the same times either.
  • Restrictions mean agents can't invite viewers into the office, nor can they take them out in cars.
  • Currently, 85%+ of lets are being done by a mix of videos, photos and floorplans. In-person viewings are allowed, but there's a reluctance from viewers and, especially, tenants.
  • The bigger the house, the more resistance is likely. It only takes 1 out of 5 tenants to feel unwell for entry to be denied. We've already experienced it for inspections.
  • Video is now hugely significant, so we've been busy building up our library. It's imperative your property views well on a video because we're not going to be by the viewers' sides to do the selling, e.g. advising on all the lovely things the landlord is planning to do in the summer. We don't think many descriptions get read now; even less when there's a video available.
  • Times are uncertain, but we'll be advising our clients on how to get the best out of their investment in line with market trends. By following our guidance, we will see your investment through this.
  • We’ll be doing more online marketing than ever before and we'll continue to produce our Student Homes magazine, which will go out to halls of residence via the student clubs we sponsor and our own promo team.

In the absence of physical viewings, properties need to stand out in videos.

We recently explained what 'the new normal' will look like at Cardiff's universities for the 2020/2021 academic year. 

Now we know how uni life is affected, what will the virus mean for the student lettings market?

In what is an increasingly competitive market, we've long been urging our clients to stay ahead of the game. Coronavirus just changed the game, but how you play it remains the same; keep on top of maintenance, be receptive to improvements and, now, ensure your property looks in tip-top condition for video viewings.

Selling the dream is more difficult

We’ve been so successful over the years because we've been able to build relationships with the students who book viewings with us. Our Property Advisors sit down with the group and listen to their requirements, then make it their mission to find them a property that suits, even if it means two or three rounds of viewings. All this builds trust, which makes it easier to convince a group that a property is right for them.

Fast-forward to this year and the vast majority of that relationship building opportunity goes out of the window.

Strict Welsh Government guidance means we can't have 70 students in the office each hour and take them out in cars to view 5-6 occupied houses. It would be the perfect breeding ground for coronavirus, so we're having to adapt our ways, but whatever we settle on, it'll be no replacement for the personal service.

So what's our point? Well, forging a relationship and trust with a group will be a lot harder without being done in person.

Landlords now need their property to do a lot of the talking for us...

Properties need to look spectacular in photos and video

In an ordinary world, the average student physically goes and views 10-15 houses before deciding where to live next year, but with all the red tape that’s in place right now, we predict groups may now view 25-30 videos, then physically go and see just a couple of them before making a decision.

This puts huge emphasis on photos and videos.

To be blunt, properties that are visually striking (for the right reasons!) will rent easier than those that aren't. Landlords need their house to 'pop' on the page in front of students' eyes or it's going sit on the shelf a while longer.

Your average-looking house that has always rented because of its proximity to the uni or its big rooms becomes a harder sell because those selling points don't really get portrayed in photos or videos. 

Of course, it's our job to produce the best quality marketing material, but with the best will in the world, we can only work with what's in front of us.

House-hunting to start later?

The "student lettings season" is usually in full flow by mid-November and, the Christmas break aside, continues full steam ahead until late January or early February.

This year, there a lot of factors that may see the season start later.

Most students had already secured this year's accommodation before coronavirus struck the UK in March, so had no choice but to pay the rent, but they may wait and see how things are panning out before committing to a house for 2021/2022. Much like they did for this coming year, we suspect universities will leave it until very close to the start of the 2021/2022 term before releasing details.

We’ve heard some courses have just an hour's face-to-face contact time per week, so if universities continue with their emphasis on online learning, will students really want to shell out £325+ per month on a house close to a uni they only fleetingly frequent?

Additionally, most first-year students arrive in Cardiff without knowing anyone, so make friends in halls of residence or on their course. With halls flats having to social distance from each other and courses predominantly online, there's going to be limited opportunity to make friends and therefore housing groups. Without the groups, houses won't let.

Finally, you can view all the property videos in the world, but it's no replacement for going to view the place in person. It wouldn't surprise us if some students hold out for relaxed restrictions around viewings, whenever that may be. That's a risky strategy because it could be months before things change and there will be groups who take the 'best' houses from just the photos and a video.

Taking everything into our account, it wouldn't surprise us if the season doesn't get into full flow until February or March.

Together, we will see your investment through this

Times are hard, but thankfully the lettings market is incredibly resilient and capable of resisting a recession as long as all concerned are willing to adapt.

We want our clients to know that although times may be uncertain, we'll be acting as advisors to ensure you're getting the best out of your investment in line with market trends.

By following our guidance, we will see your investment through this.

18 September 2020

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