Universities reach out to rental guarantor services as in-person learning resumes

Universities reach out to rental guarantor services as in-person learning resumes

United Kingdom
  • Housing Hand sees increase in universities exploring commercial arrangements
  • Universities being asked to do more with less, creating financial pressure points
  • Imbalance between returning students booking accommodation and first-years hesitating

UK rental guarantor service Housing Hand has reported an increase in the number of universities enquiring about commercial arrangements, as Covid-related pressures continue to impact the UK’s higher education sector. The increase speaks to the difficulties that universities are facing as they seek to do more with less, welcoming all students back to in-person learning from 17 May.

Universities have spent the last year in crisis mode. They have had to deal with multiple lockdowns, set up widescale home/virtual learning and manage the impact of students who have tested positive for Covid. All while dealing with the economic fallout of a lower intake of students for the 2021/22 academic year as Covid fears persist (mainly fewer EU and other international students, but also those from the UK).

Universities being overworked and under-resourced is nothing new. Budget cuts were already biting, even before the pandemic. However, Covid has exacerbated the financial difficulties that universities and their students face. Increasing rent relief bills are taking their toll and many universities are now seeking alternative ways to support their students to remain in their accommodation should they experience financial hardship.”

Jeremy Robinson, Group Managing Director, Housing Hand

 
Many students struggle to provide a qualifying UK rent guarantor when renting in the private sector. Housing Hand partners with universities in order to help alleviate this issue for their students. The award-winning company acts as a rental guarantor service for students from the UK and overseas, covering rent, damages and dilapidations.

The university model enables higher education institutions to partner with Housing Hand as a white label service. The university promotes the service to its students, while Housing Hand provides integration, co-branded application pages with an affiliate link and marketing materials. Students pay a reduced fee for the Housing Hand service, while the university doesn’t need to worry about the admin side of the process.

“The way we work with universities provides a win-win. Students can access the rental guarantor service they need at a lower cost, while the university takes on no financial risk. The risk sits with Housing Hand, and is backed by quality and financially rated insurance products. With some unusual fluctuations in the usual student rental patterns due to Covid, this no-risk approach is inspiring increasing numbers of universities to investigate the role of rental guarantor services.”

Terry Mason, Group Operations Director, Housing Hand

Although UK universities expect to re-open for in-house lessons this month, many students are hesitant to enrol for the 2021/22 academic year while Covid remains a threat. This is compounded for European students by Brexit for all international students by the current difficulties in moving between countries.

We can see this playing out across houses in multiple occupation (HMOs), where returning students have provided a steady stream of bookings. However, the purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) sector has been a very low uptake of rooms by its traditional cohort of first years.

“As the UK’s vaccination programme progresses and confidence improves, it’s likely that there will be a last-minute dash for places. This will create a flurry of activity in the accommodation sector, as students rush to secure rooms with far less planning than would usually occur. With costs spiralling and high levels of debt, UK universities are already under significant pressure. They need to do all they can to accommodate a rush of last-minute enrolments, including helping students to find the accommodation they need.”

Terry Mason, Group Operations Director, Housing Hand

For more information please contact Housing Hand today on +44 (0) 207 205 2625 or visit https://www.housinghand.co.uk/

75% of property investors are focusing on lower value properties

75% of property investors are focusing on lower value properties

United Kingdom
  • Fabrik Invest finds 3 in 4 buyers are seeking properties below £160k
  • Suburbs and tertiary cities are the big winners
  • Investors also looking for lower deposits

The property investment specialists at Fabrik Invest have highlighted another pandemic-driven change to the UK property market. Conscious of the wider economic backdrop, property investors are increasingly seeking out properties that offer both lower entry points and lower deposits.

“We’re seeing a growing trend towards properties priced between £80,000 and £160,000, with 75% of our investors now seeking out these homes. This is driving a shift in the locations being sought, with tertiary cities and suburbs of larger cities attracting particular interest.”

Dale Anderson, Managing Director, Fabrik Invest

Fabrik Invest’s Dale Anderson cites Preston in Lancashire as a case in point. Apartments there at Bishopgate Gardens, priced from £120,000, have seen strong, sustained demand from both UK investors and those from overseas. Dudley in the West Midlands is another example, with investors being drawn away from higher priced Birmingham city centre properties in favour of commutable homes in Dudley, some 17km away.

Nor is it just property prices that investors are scrutinising so carefully. Many are also being drawn towards investment properties with lower deposits. While a 25% deposit is fairly standard across the buy-to-let property market, investors are increasingly searching for properties with deposits as low as 10%.

“The buy-to-let market is still very busy, but we’re definitely seeing signs of the longer-term influence of the pandemic on investor behaviour now. Lower value homes with lower deposits and those nearing completion are selling very well.”

Dale Anderson, Managing Director, Fabrik Invest

Bishopgate Gardens completes later this year, in September. The site is currently a hive of activity, with kitchens going in and plasterers and plumbers hard at work. The finished apartments will be complemented by shared social spaces and retail units on the ground floor, all designed to offer an exceptional living experience. The 24/7 concierge will deliver drinks to residents enjoying the roof gardens on the eighth and eleventh floors, while a stylish lounge area, coffee pod café and shared working space cater to residents’ various needs.

Fabrik Invest is working closely with clients to provide opportunities such as this, with the right entry point to suit buyers’ changing requirements. The company is also running a monthly educational webinar, looking at market trends, specific locations and property investment more broadly.

For more information, please contact Fabrik Invest on 020 8175 9891 or enquiries@fabrikinvest.com, or visit www.fabrikinvest.com

Covid crisis highlights value of rental guarantor services

Covid crisis highlights value of rental guarantor services

United Kingdom
  • Rental guarantor services address key concerns for tenants, landlords and letting agents
  • Eviction ban end to result in further pain for landlords and tenants alike
  • Using personal guarantors now seen as even riskier than previously

The pandemic has seen tenants, landlords and letting agents all suffer in different ways as a result of Covid’s economic fallout. When the eviction ban ends on 31 May, that situation is likely to get worse – and not just for those tenants who have been unable to pay their rent. Jeremy Robinson, Group Managing Director of UK rental guarantor service Housing Hand, explains:

The delays in the courts for landlords looking to evict non-paying tenants are likely to be unprecedented, with the backlog of evictions having built up since the government first put the ban in place. This piles even more stress onto landlords who are already having to cover mortgages on properties that aren’t providing any income. It also means letting agents going without their cut of the rent for many more months while courts process the backlog. And for tenants, there’s the additional stress of falling even further behind with their rent while waiting to be taken to court. Everybody loses.”

Jeremy Robinson, Group Managing Director, Housing Hand

While nobody saw the pandemic coming, there are plenty of lessons to be learned about risk avoidance for future major crises. One is the value of rental guarantor services. These are services that the tenant pays for to ensure that, should they become unable to pay their rent, it will still be paid: the guarantor company steps in and pays 100% of it for them. The tenant gets to keep their home, the landlord continues to receive an income and the lettings agency continues to receive its share.

The pandemic has also highlighted the value of rental guarantor services when compared with personal guarantors. Personal guarantors who were in a position to act as such at the outset of the pandemic may now be in very different financial situations. Relying on a personal guarantor for rent payments now carries much the same risk as relying on the tenant.

There are two other options available to landlords looking to ensure that non-payment of rent doesn’t lead to non-payment of their mortgage. One is rental insurance, where the landlord simply buys a policy, then makes a claim in the event of rent not being paid. The other is a company guarantor, which is where a company agrees to act as a guarantor for one of its employees. However, both of these models are flawed, according to Housing Hand’s Group Operations Director, Terry Mason:

“Insurance companies are known for not paying out on every claim. This has the potential to leave landlords unexpectedly out of pocket. Company guarantors, meanwhile, may be in very different financial positions than they were at the start of the pandemic, so carry risks of their own.”

Terry Mason, Group Operations Director, Housing Hand

For tenants and landlords looking for maximum protection, rental guarantor services that are underwritten by an insurer offer the greatest peace of mind. Housing Hand, for example, is backed by Lloyds syndicate insurance. It delivers 100% pay-out and continues until the end of the tenancy.

While many landlords – and their letting agents and tenants – have missed out on the benefits of rental guarantor services during the pandemic, those looking for a reliable safety net in future have everything to gain.

For more information, please contact Housing Hand today on +44 (0) 207 205 2625 or visit https://www.housinghand.co.uk/

Housing Hand highlights financial plight of international students, in face of 17% rent rise

Housing Hand highlights financial plight of international students, in face of 17% rent rise

United Kingdom
  • Brexit has quadrupled some course costs
  • Rents projected to rise by 17% over next 5 years
  • Students from EU/EEA and Switzerland can no longer apply for student loans

UK rental guarantor service Housing Hand has spoken out about the financial plight that international students are facing in the UK.  

Students coming to the UK from overseas are facing the perfect storm. Brexit has increased course costs hugely for those coming from the EU/EEA and Switzerland, at the same time as rents are projected to rise steeply. We’ve also got Erasmus funding ceasing, in addition to the withdrawal of student loan facilities. This is going to place a huge additional financial burden on many young people over the next few years.”

Jeremy Robinson, Group Managing Director, Housing Hand

UCAS’ end of cycle analysis 2020 shows an increase of 1.7% in student numbers from the EU (excluding the UK) being accepted onto UK higher education courses between 2019 and 2020. Non-EU acceptance numbers rose by 16.9% over the same period.

Course costs for these international students are significantly higher than for UK-based students, whose fees are capped at £9,250 per academic year. Those coming to study here from overseas are often charged three to four times this amount, with costs varying based on the degree course and the university. Students from the EU/EEA and Switzerland had their fees capped in the same way, but from August 2021, that cap will no longer apply.

The UK’s withdrawal from the Erasmus funding programme after the end of the academic year in 2021 will add to the pain, as will the fact that students coming from the EU/EEA and Switzerland can no longer apply for student loans.

“It is the rising cost of renting accommodation in the UK that is really adding to students’ plight. While we’ve seen landlords offering lower rents over the past year, as a result of the pandemic, projections show that rents are set to increase significantly between now and 2025.”

Terry Mason, Group Operations Director, Housing Hand

It is Savills’ data that has flagged up the likelihood of rising rents. The company projects that rents across the UK will rise by 0.8% in 2021, then accelerate the pace at which they are increasing, with total growth of 17% by 2025. For students on limited budgets – those from the UK as well as from overseas – that means having to find even more cash to pay their way through university.

“The spiralling costs of higher education in the UK – including students’ accommodation – increasingly mean that only those from higher income families are likely to have the option to attend. This is particularly the case for international students, given the impact of Brexit on the cost of studying in the UK.”

Terry Mason, Group Operations Director, Housing Hand

For more information, please contact Housing Hand today on +44 (0) 207 205 2625 or visit https://www.housinghand.co.uk/

Pandemic drives rise in commercial to residential conversions, presenting new opportunities for investors

Pandemic drives rise in commercial to residential conversions, presenting new opportunities for investors

United Kingdom
  • Fabrik Invest highlights significant shift from new builds to conversions
  • Lower prices, higher yields and faster income all driving the change
  • Location winning out over facilities in terms of investor priorities

Property investment firm Fabrik Invest has reported a shift in developers’ and property investors’ priorities, driven directly by the pandemic. Managing Director Dale Anderson comments:

“We’re seeing much more emphasis – from both the developers and the investors that we work with, and particularly over the past six months – on commercial to residential conversions. This is marking a significant and sustained swing away from new builds, as lower risk, more economical projects appeal more in the pandemic era.”

Dale Anderson, Managing Director, Fabrik Invest

It’s cheaper to convert an existing building than to build one from scratch. This means that savings can be passed on to the investor, resulting in a better purchase price per square foot than new build homes. They can also be passed on to the tenant, with lower rents meaning the building is faster to fill.

Given Covid’s impact on the economy, lower rents are certainly appealing to many tenants right now. Rent arrears protection service Only My Share reported last month that it had seen a 300% rise in claims during the pandemic, as tenants struggle financially. From a development perspective, this emphasises the need to focus on lowering costs where possible.

The other major factor behind the rise in commercial to residential conversions, according to Fabrik Invest, is the speed at which the work can take place.

“New builds can take two to three years to complete, whereas a conversion can be finished in just three to six months. That’s a huge difference for developers in terms of risk, as well as cost. It’s also extremely appealing for investors looking to receive income as quickly as possible.”

Dale Anderson, Managing Director, Fabrik Invest

Off-market apartments at Albion Place, in Manchester city centre, is one such example. Newly launched to the market this month, the first phase of homes are due to complete before the end of the year, providing investors with much faster returns than a new build ever could. Available from £140,000, the one- and two-bedroom apartments are also competitively priced – again, due to being a conversion, rather than a new build.

Commercial conversions also tend to deliver maximum benefit in terms of location. Albion Place, for example, sits in an enviable position between Spinningfields and MediaCityUK, just 850m from Salford Crescent station. According to Fabrik Invest, this is another plus point for investors.

“The pandemic has led investors to focus on location over and above amenities. This comes back to price, again. Cinemas, pools and gyms are all very nice, but they also eat into yields significantly by driving up service charges. In a price-conscious era, the right location – with a price-tag that can attract tenants fast – is proving far more appealing than on-site facilities and services.”

Dale Anderson, Managing Director, Fabrik Invest

Over 60,000 homes have been created using permitted development rights over the past four years, according to Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick. With demand increasingly favouring commercial to residential conversions as a result of the pandemic, it will be interesting to see how many more are created over the next four years.

For more information, please contact Fabrik Invest on 020 8175 9891 or enquiries@fabrikinvest.com, or visit www.fabrikinvest.com

Is buy-to-let under threat in 2021?

Is buy-to-let under threat in 2021?

United Kingdom
  • “Taxes pose the greatest threat to buy-to-let investment” (Fabrik Invest)
  • Record 228,743 buy-to-let companies up and running
  • Around 2,000 buy-to-let mortgage products now available

The UK housing market has, thus far, weathered the COVID storm remarkably well. The Stamp Duty holiday led to an unexpectedly busy 2020, with provisional data from HMRC showing that 121,640 sales went through in January. That’s an increase of 24% year-on-year.

Plenty of families used the holiday to upgrade their home, with space becoming a highly prized commodity as a result of the pandemic. But what about landlords? An increasingly punitive approach to taxation over the past few years has seen the addition of a 3% Stamp Duty surcharge for those buying a second (or subsequent) home, along with a significant reduction in the amount of mortgage interest that landlords can offset against their profits.

Will the impact of this spell danger for the buy-to-let market in 2021? Far from it, according to Dale Anderson, Managing Director of Fabrik Invest.

“Taxes certainly pose the greatest threat to buy-to-let investment in 2021, particularly as government debt has spiralled due to Covid. The Chancellor will be looking at all angles when it comes to rebalancing the books. However, interest in buy-to-let properties in the UK continues to be strong. We still have a major shortage of housing in many areas of the country, along with a growing gap between salaries and property prices. All of this continues to create plenty of demand for rental properties.”

Dale Anderson, Managing Director, Fabrik Invest

The increasingly availability of mortgage products certainly seems to back up the case for interest remaining strong. There are now approximately 2,000 buy-to-let mortgage products available, based on figures from Moneyfacts. That’s a rise of over 500 products since May 2020. Not only that, but lenders are increasingly dropping their requirements when it comes to deposit size. Back in May just 19 buy-to-let mortgages were available to investors with a 20% deposit. That number now stands at 100.

When it comes to taxes, buy-to-let investors are increasingly turning to holding companies in order to make a saving. Investing through limited company is, in many cases, significantly more tax efficient than buying property as an individual. As a result, a record 228,743 buy-to-let companies are now up and running, following a record number being formed in 2020.

“Investors are increasingly using companies to hold their properties, as the savings can run into the thousands for each home that they own. We saw a record number of buy-to-let holding companies formed as a result of this in 2020 and there’s every reason to believe that the same will occur in 2021, as more and more investors seek the most tax efficient setup possible.”

Dale Anderson, Managing Director, Fabrik Invest

Taxation aside, there is one further threat that Fabrik Invest has identified for 2021: the oversupply of rental properties in certain cities, or in particular areas of certain cities.

“Investors really need to do their homework and perhaps focus more heavily on tertiary cities this year. We expect to see smaller cities such as Preston out-performing some of the bigger hitters in 2021, in terms of both capital growth and yields.”

Dale Anderson, Managing Director, Fabrik Invest

This is why Fabrik Invest is focusing on developments such as Bishopgate Gardens right now. Centred around an impressive plaza, the 130 homes and seven retail units are raising the bar for Preston’s rental market. Two show-stopping rooftop gardens, a coffee pod café, an extensive lounge area and a stylish work-from-home space will set new standards for the city’s renters. As a result, investors have been flocking to the scheme, which now has just 14 homes left for sale.

For more information, please contact Fabrik Invest on 020 8175 9891 or enquiries@fabrikinvest.com, or visit www.fabrikinvest.com

How far will landlords and letting agents go to attract renters?

How far will landlords and letting agents go to attract renters?

United Kingdom
  • Housing Hand data reveals 22% reduction in rents in the past year
  • Landlords and letting agents slash rents in many areas to entice tenants to move in
  • February marks 9th consecutive month of price falls

Newly released data from UK rental guarantor service Housing Hand has revealed a sharp drop in rents as the pandemic continues to put pressure on the housing sector.

The largest rental guarantor service in the UK, Housing Hand is uniquely positioned to monitor market activity from the perspective of tenants, landlords and letting agents all at once. The company has saw average rental values (compared to a year earlier) begin to decline in June 2020, when rents dropped to 11% below their June 2019 level.

Rents have continued to fall in many areas ever since, with the data for February 2021 showing that rents are now 22% below the level they were at in February 2020.

We’ve seen average rents fall steadily for the past nine months. In big cities like London, where tenants have moved outward either because of fears over the pandemic or due to the fact that they no longer need to be near the office to work, this fall is even more pronounced.”

Jeremy Robinson, Group Managing Director, Housing Hand

The last two months of the year are usually the low season for landlords and letting agents. By October 2020, rental values were 14% below their level a year earlier. As such, many slashed rents even further in order to try and entice tenants to move in.

“As the pandemic continues to push people from city centres to their outskirts, rents in central areas are likely to drop even further. Not only are landlords and letting agents slashing prices in many areas, we’re seeing an increasing number of rental schemes offering one or even two months’ free rent in order to encourage tenants to sign on the dotted line. Again, this is particularly prevalent in city centres. It begs the question: how far will landlords and letting agents go to attract new tenants?”

Terry Mason, Group Operations Director, Housing Hand

The Covid-19 pandemic has certainly done much to turn the housing sector on its head, with government racing to introduce new initiatives to keep the market ticking over despite the painful economic backdrop. The eviction ban, in particular, has done much to protect tenants who can’t pay their rent. Unfortunately, it has also left many landlords unable to pay their mortgages. With rents now steadily declining in many areas, according to Housing Hand’s figures, it seems that the misery is far from over for both landlords and letting agents as 2021 unfolds.

For more information, please contact Housing Hand today on +44 (0) 207 205 2625 or visit https://www.housinghand.co.uk/

Fabrik Invest reveals property investors’ top concerns as they navigate Covid and Brexit

Fabrik Invest reveals property investors’ top concerns as they navigate Covid and Brexit

United Kingdom
  • Post-pandemic market projections occupying investors’ minds
  • Big wins for tertiary cities already beginning to play out
  • Local migration patterns and employment fluctuations being carefully monitored

Property investment agency Fabrik Invest has shared insights into the top concerns that property investors are expressing as they navigate the dual complexities of the pandemic and Brexit. The company works with investors from more than 20 countries and has been monitoring their top property-related concerns for the past year.

“The impact of the pandemic on the UK property market is, naturally, top of investors’ minds right now. They are even more keen than usual to see the latest data on price movements both nationally and locally. There’s also a lot of interest in what’s next for the market – what’s the landscape going to look like in the future, post-Brexit and post-Covid?”

Dale Anderson, Managing Director, Fabrik Invest

The stamp duty holiday – now extended to the end of June – has done much to not just keep the property market moving over the past year but to accelerate transactions significantly. Prices have risen as a result, with Nationwide’s February house price index showing annual growth of 6.9%.

Of course, the question on property investors’ minds is whether or not a crash is on the cards. Yet key industry analysts think not. Savills is projecting 4% growth in prices in 2021, followed by 5% in 2022. In fact, in the five years to 2025, the firm is anticipating price growth to total 21.1% across the UK, led by growth of 28.8% in the North West. The figures reflect the measures in the spring Budget, including the introduction of a government guarantee on 95% loan-to-value mortgages. The scheme is set to provide further stimulus for the housing market.

The fact that the Office for Budgetary Responsibility now expects, “a return to pre-Covid levels by the middle of next year, six months earlier than first thought,” according to Chancellor Rishi Sunak, is further good news for investors’ looking at the UK property market’s potential for growing their capital.

Quantitative easing and the recently announced Corporation Tax hikes will also play into the UK’s overall economic picture over the coming months and years, as will migration patterns driven by the pandemic and by local fluctuations in employment levels.

“I expect a short-term dip in prices in certain parts of the country – specifically the prime London and Manchester city centre markets. We’re likely to see homeowners and investors looking for better value outside of these areas instead. Third tier cities should make for the most attractive prospects.”

Dale Anderson, Managing Director, Fabrik Invest

Preston, in Lancashire, is one such example. With a rapidly growing population and £434 million worth of investment schemes underway, plus a further £19.9 million from the Towns Fund announced in the spring Budget, the city has plenty going for it.

The fact that Bishopgate Gardens, a 130-home residential scheme in Preston, is seeing a surge in interest right now speaks to the appeal of tertiary cities in property investors’ eyes. With shared social spaces including a stylish lounge area, a coffee pod café, show-stopping rooftop gardens and a shared working space, plus seven ground-floor retail units, the development offers a lifestyle experience designed to level up choices for Preston’s renters – and for its investors.

“What we’ve also heard over the past year is investors’ need for significant reassurance over the online nature of their transactions. This has been a direct result of the pandemic. Investors want to know how they can be sure they’re making the right decisions when everything is done virtually.”

Dale Anderson, Managing Director, Fabrik Invest

Fabrik Invest has fared well in this respect. The firm’s knowledge-based approach has seen it partner with leading financial and mortgage advisors as it works to provide investors with an honest approach to their investment options. That means not only providing deeply researched information on each investment location, but also being upfront about the risks associated with off-plan investment. The company’s consultants, all of whom have a minimum of a decade’s experience in the sector, host personal strategy meetings online, working to understand each investor’s goals at an individual level. 

It’s an approach that clients have found reassuring in the face of the adversity created by the pandemic – and by Brexit too. It means that, while the market is changing in terms of localised demand, property investors are still keen to be a part of the UK’s economic future. They’re just keen to know which cities will provide the best returns and the best potential for capital growth – so while the questions at the top of their minds have changed, their fundamental needs remain the same.

For more information, please contact Fabrik Invest on 020 8175 9891 or enquiries@fabrikinvest.com, or visit www.fabrikinvest.com

Only My Share raises concerns over students struggling with rent, as claims rise 300%

Only My Share raises concerns over students struggling with rent, as claims rise 300%

United Kingdom
  • 50% of students struggle with their rent and 47% borrow to pay it (Save the Student)
  • Alarming number of renters unaware of their liability for their housemates’ rent
  • Only My Share sees 300% increase in number of claims during pandemic

Has there ever been a more complex and convoluted time for student renters than the past year? The latest Save the Student survey has revealed some interesting insights into the relationship between students and their accommodation, a year into the pandemic.

One of the most worrying statistics is that 50% of students report struggling with their rent. The financial burden that young people take on for their accommodation while at university has seen 60% report a resulting negative impact on their health in the past year. 45%, meanwhile, say that their studying has been negatively impacted by issues around paying rent.

Young people come under enormous financial pressure when it comes to affording higher education in the UK. For many, the affordability of their accommodation is a near-constant worry. Parents and guardians also come under pressure to provide financial support, from acting as guarantors to helping out with rent payments.”

Jeremy Robinson, Group Managing Director, Only My Share

Save the Student reports that 47% of students borrow money to pay their rent, most notably from parents (27%) and banks (22%). On average, parents contribute £2,288 per year towards student rent.

Rent arrears protection service Only My Share points out that this is a major source of stress for furloughed parents and those who’ve lost their jobs or are facing financial insecurity as a result of the pandemic. The situation is exacerbated by tenancies that include joint and several clauses, under which students are responsible for their housemates’ share of the rent, as well as their own.

“Many student renters – and their guarantors – are unaware that they are liable for the rent of housemates who fail to pay under joint and several clauses. Consider that one in three students don’t even read their rental contract before signing it and the scale of the problem quickly becomes apparent.”

Terry Mason, Group Operations Director, Only My Share

Covid-19 has made the situation more complicated, with lockdowns and online learning raising question marks over students paying for accommodation that they aren’t using. Yet despite the pandemic, Save the Student reports that 28% of students have already signed a contract for their accommodation for the 2021/22 academic year. 

Only My Share, which is part of the Housing Handfamily, saw sales numbers for its joint and several liability cover rise by 82% between March and September 2020, compared to the same period a year before. It was also seen claims rocket, with an increase of 300% as a result of the pandemic. Group Operations Director Terry Mason observes:

“As the uncertainties stemming from the pandemic continue, it is encouraging that an increasing number of families are realising that they can take steps to mitigate their risk in terms of rental liabilities.”

The company’s advice to any students currently considering their rental options for 2021/22 is to first and foremost read the contract in detail. Secondly, Only My Share suggests asking for a break clause in the contract, if one isn’t already included. Naturally, the company also recommends that students take out rent arrears protection, to limit their liability to only their own share of the rent. By doing so, students are as protected as they can be in the face of continuing uncertainty ahead.

For more information, please contact Only My Share today on +44 (0) 203 887 2961 or visit https://onlymyshare.com/

Balancing commercial and residential developments is key to keeping town centres alive post-pandemic

Balancing commercial and residential developments is key to keeping town centres alive post-pandemic

United Kingdom
  • Just 29% of high street addresses are retailers (Office for National Statistics)
  • 1 in 12 shops closed in 5 years to 2018 (Ordnance Survey)
  • Blending retail units with new homes is key to city centre survival (Fabrik Invest)

Property investment specialists Fabrik Invest have spoken out about the importance of balancing residential development in city centres with commercial premises in the post-pandemic world. City centres have been hit incredibly hard not only by successive lockdowns but also by the reduced footfall resulting from a far higher incidence of home working throughout the pandemic. According to Fabrik Invest, this puts an onus on developers and investors to take an active role in keeping urban centres alive.

“Our town and city centres were already struggling when the pandemic struck, with one in 12 shops closing in the five years to 2018. Yet town centres do so much to help communities connect. That’s something that has become infinitely more valuable as a result of the prolonged isolation of the pandemic. Developers have plenty of scope to help nurture our towns’ and cities’ growth and this needs to be a key focus moving forward.”

Steve Jacob, CEO, Fabrik Invest

By March 2020, just 29% of high street addresses were retailers. Squeezed salaries and the shift to online shopping have been two of the key reasons behind this, both of which have been significantly exacerbated by the pandemic. The closure of offices and the shift to students studying online has intensified the problem, due to the huge drop in the number of those passing through town and city centres. For retail units, footfall is everything

People’s changing preferences have also had an impact on town centres in recent years. While the pandemic has served to push people towards country living, that followed a boom in demand for city centre homes, which is likely to pick up once more as the vaccine roll-out continues and we look forward to a post-pandemic return to relatively normal life.

“People increasingly want everything on their doorsteps – to live within walking distance of excellent restaurants, a selection of shops and the best leisure facilities available. The relaxation of planning laws meant that many old office spaces could be converted into residential buildings, but we need to balance that with keeping commercial premises in urban centres too, as those are a key part of the reason that people want to live centrally.”

Steve Jacob, CEO, Fabrik Invest

The planning law relaxation allowed people with B1 office space to convert it into residential accommodation without the need for a full planning application, provided they stuck to national framework guidelines. The move led to a lot of unused office space being turned into homes and continues to do so to this day. Fabrik Invest regularly offers such developments for investment.

Bishopgate Gardens in Preston is a prime example of this. The office block, which had stood vacant since early 2019, is being converted into 130 one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, with shared social spaces including a stylish lounge area, coffee pod café, shared working space, reception area with 24/7 concierge and show-stopping rooftop gardens on the eighth and eleventh floors.

Bishopgate Gardens will also be home to seven retail units on the ground floor, including a deli, barbers, beauticians and florist. Budding entrepreneurs to take over the high-spec shops, which face onto the development’s impressive plaza, are currently being sought.

“With commercial to residential conversions, there’s often plenty of scope for developers to provide retail space on the ground floor. This will be key to the long-term survival of our town and city centres as places where individuals can connect with local businesses and with the wider community. In the post-pandemic era, this will be more important than ever in keeping the commercial heart of our cities alive.”

Steve Jacob, CEO, Fabrik Invest

For more information, please contact Fabrik Invest on 020 8175 9891 or enquiries@fabrikinvest.com, or visit www.fabrikinvest.com