High numbers of students in Leeds have already reserved homes to move into for this 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.

As a result, 2021 could be a bumper year for student landlords in Leeds, as well as many other towns and cities with large student populations, according to Leeds estate agent, HOP.

The company 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.

Neil Dawkin, general manager at HOP, who heads up the company’s student division, said: “Traditionally January and February are the busiest months, as an influx of students reserve homes for the next academic year. In more recent years, November has become a key month for the student market too.

“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.

“Another factor is that, since the first lockdown, we've introduced virtual tours across all our properties. A staggering 85% of the lets we’ve agreed so far have solely relied on online viewings, something that would have been unheard of before 2020.

“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.

“At HOP, we manage all types of student accommodation from traditional flats and HMO's to purpose built schemes like Union Student Living on Burley Street. This brand new seven storey student development has 87 luxury studio apartments, each with their own high spec kitchen and bathroom.

“Despite the delayed completion due to Covid-19, as well as the global pandemic, nervousness of international students and delays to university courses commencing, HOP has already secured 60% of the available apartments. These have been reserved by students from across the globe, including China and Indonesia, as well as the UK, and we're seeing further demand for the remaining units.

“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.”

Neil added: “Despite the high demand that we’re seeing, student landlords can’t rest on their laurels. Student halls have improved significantly in recent years and tenants expect the same standards when they move into privately rented accommodation, after their first year.

“Landlords must provide good quality, well specified accommodation that is competitively priced, especially because the market could become more price sensitive if there are fewer job opportunities for students needing income to cover accommodation costs.

“Homes must offer quality furniture and be decorated to a high standard. En-suite bathrooms also feature on a lot of wish lists. Our all-inclusive properties are very popular because they take the hassle out of renting and give both students and their parents peace of mind that costs are fixed. These include electricity, gas, water, TV licence, broadband and contents insurance, all in one monthly rental payment, as well as optional extras such as TV packages.”

Neil concluded: “Homes within walking distance of the city’s universities, in the likes of Hyde Park, the city centre, Burley and Woodhouse, are highly sought-after. Whereas the traditional student heartland of Headingley remains a popular location for third year students as they focus on their final year, with a good selection of bars, restaurants and shops on their doorstep.”