Renovating for Student Accommodation

Renovating property to suit students specifically is a task that if done expertly, will reap an investor real long term rewards. Different to renovating a property for sale, or even a property to rent to a ‘standard’ tenant or family, student accommodation design must be, more than anything – practical. Practicality does not have to be boring or plain however, and designed well, a student house or flat will reward you with a higher (and consistent) rental income.

Think about renting each room out individually rather than as a whole house. You can often get an additional 10-20% income from doing it this way. However, there is a down-side – managing the individual students and ensuring each persons rent is paid on time every week.

The ultimate goal is to provide your tenants with a good’ ‘living experience’ so that they stay (and pay) long term – and this can be achieved by following some simple guidelines. It may sound an easy thing to do once you’ve read the following pointers, but every property is different, so take guidance from fellow investors and professional renovators (such as Hotspace Consultants) to give you expert, independent advice that will, in the end, make you more money from your property.

Exterior:

  • Create a completely hassle free, low maintenance garden and include the maintenance of it in the rent. Avoid feature gardens, bark and flowers if possible and remove any existing plants that cause excessive untidiness as they lose their leaves.
  • If possible, provide several spaces for bicycles to be locked up – under cover is preferable – and somewhere easy enough to carry to. Providing such spaces will help avoid bikes being stored in hallways and balcony areas which can prove unsightly and detract from the appearance of the property.
  • Extra off-street parking is a bonus but can be expensive. Consider this as important as long as it fits within your budget.
  • Provide an under cover smoking area where possible to discourage tenants from smoking inside the house. This should ideally be at the back of the property where the sight and smell of these activities does not impact on the aesthetic quality of the property. Providing large ‘butt bins’ will help eliminate the lawn becoming littered.
  • A suitable washing line in direct sunlight will help avoid tenants drying their clothes over balcony handrails and out windows – relocate the existing if necessary or provide new to avoid this potential negative visual impact on the property.
  • Provide good quality entry mats to save the flooring from inconsiderate wearers of dirty footwear.

Bedrooms

  • Ensure each student has a private personal space – not only to sleep but also to study
  • Bedrooms that are large enough to fit a bed (double preferably), desk, chair, bookcase, wardrobe space and a pin-board are ideal.
  • Fitting insulation within the wall cavities will reduce the sound transfer from one bedroom to the next, so consider this a priority.
  • Think about fitting locks to each of the bedroom doors too, as this is a very inexpensive ‘bonus’ – especially for female students.
  • Paint walls a neutral colour to create a blank canvas for your tenants to add their own personality.
  • Carpet should be hard wearing and reasonably dark in colour. Consider an inexpensive commercial grade carpet especially if your accommodation houses three people or more.

Bathrooms:

  • Hard wearing, practical bathroom fixtures and fittings will ensure a space that will last for a longer period.
  • Create a fresh look by cleaning or replacing dirty grout around existing tiles and clear coat to prevent further penetration of mould.
  • Shower door glass can be clear coated to make it easier to clean and prevent unsightly discolouration.
  • Joinery should have robust fixtures and hinges to further increase life-span of the property
  • Replace shower or bath curtains in between tenants and remove any window coverings in the bathroom areas.
  • If necessary, fit textured glass or frosted film to the inside of exterior clear glass windows.
  • Always install extractor fans to eliminate dampness and eventual deterioration of the interior finishes.

Kitchen:

  • Cabinetry made of a low pressure laminate (Laminex etc) is an ideal finish for high wear kitchens. Steer away from 2-pac/lacquered style kitchens which can damage more easily and are expensive to repair.
  • Be sure to install good quality hinges and handles.
  • Bench tops in a high pressure laminate (such as Formica) are as good as any – and reasonably inexpensive.
  • Remove the waste disposal unit if there is one as these cause more maintenance issues than they’re worth.
  • A dishwasher is a bonus – and again buy the best one you can afford (with a good warranty) if there is space.
  • Avoid tiled flooring if possible and instead install timber/vinyl/linoleum instead. Tiles when damaged, are expensive to repair and often impossible to match. Vinyl and timber are warmer under foot and vinyl in particular is inexpensive and quick to install. Cove it up the cabinetry kick strip to allow more effective cleaning of the floor.

General:

  • Provide adequate power-points and data outlets to all areas to avoid and ‘over-load’ situation – and arrange a broadband internet connection in all cases.
  • Ensure lighting is adequate in all areas – particularly study spaces. Sufficient light levels can be achieved using energy efficient fluorescent light bulbs and have the bonus effect of being cost effective for the tenants long term. These however can be harsh and bright, so consider a softer lighting option in communal living areas. ‘Bug rings’ (for suitable fittings) are an additional cost but worth the extra expensive to help maintain a fresh, bright emittance of light.
  • Fitting door stops to all doors will help with eliminating damage to walls caused by knobs and levers from careless closing and opening.
  • Install good quality curtains (ready made selections are ideal) rather than budget versions which are cheap to buy but difficult and usually expensive to have commercially cleaned.
  • Consider supplying a good sized fridge, a large washing machine and a clothes dryer. These are items students are less likely to own and will increase the demand and rental income on your property. Ensure they are serviced regularly. Tip: laminate a small note on the dryer to remind the tenant to clear the filter after each use.
  • Repair and paint any holes in walls caused by picture hooks and insist (and include in the contract) that any artwork etc.. be hung using removable adhesive hooks.

What’s important is that you don’t let the ‘practicality’ aspect of your renovation to over-shadow your opportunity to create a property with a more modern edge – with a distinct advantage over other rentals in the area.

You can easily combine the two (modern looks and practicality) to create a fantastic property that will help you harvest some great gains. For minimal cost you can create a ‘custom’ designed dwelling that suits students to a tee and adds a valuable piece of real estate to your portfolio. Create one that your student tenants will respect and stay in long term – even over holiday breaks!

To discuss getting the best return from your property renovation – no matter who your tenants or target market are, please send a ‘Preliminary Enquiry’ via the Hotspace website – www.hotspaceconsultants.com

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