It’s that time of year, when Business Link Magazine invites the region’s business leaders to offer up their predictions for the year ahead.
It has become something of a tradition, given that we’ve been doing this now for over 30 years.
Here we speak to Neil Dawkin, who heads up the student division at Leeds estate agent HOP.
2021 could be a bumper year for towns and cities with large student populations.
HOP manages a substantial portfolio of high-quality student properties in Leeds and enjoyed a record November, agreeing more student lets than ever before in the penultimate month of the year. High numbers of students in Leeds have already reserved homes to move into next summer and in a surprising trend, many are getting in early to reserve the biggest properties, so they can continue living with all the people they shared halls with during lockdown.
This trend has been further compounded by the pandemic. Many students went home earlier than usual for the Christmas break and were keen to firm up their 2021 plans first, due to uncertainty around when they might return to Leeds. Plus, with the current lockdown restrictions, we’re expecting March onwards to be very busy.
We’re anticipating increased numbers of people starting university this year because of Covid. Not only did it force lots of UK and overseas students to defer for a year, but also students are looking to prepare themselves academically for the weakened job market. Data from Unipol also shows that 2021 will see the first increase in both 18 year olds and English students since 2015. This is all generating a spike in demand for accommodation.
The majority of our student portfolio is shared houses, with some of the larger properties having up to 10 bedrooms. Following the disruption that Covid-19 lockdowns have caused, we expected smaller properties to be in highest demand, where people can have their own space or perhaps live with just one or two other people.
However, presently we’re seeing the opposite! There is significant demand for homes with five or more bedrooms, particularly from students moving out of halls where they have been used to living in large groups in cluster apartments. It appears that lockdown has strengthened the friendships and bonds that many students have made in their first year and they want to continue to live with lots of people.