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Scottish student housing transactions topped £100m in 2017

Activity of transactions in Scotland’s Purpose-Built Student Accommodation (PBSA) exceeded £100 million in 2017, according to recent figures for GVA’s Student Housing Review show.

Scotland also saw an increase in applicant numbers for PBSA during 2017 for the fifth year running. The 2% year-on-year increase included 4% growth in non-EU applicants, now totalling 36,850 – the highest number recorded for this group.

Glasgow recorded the second biggest increase in purpose-built beds in the UK last year, with a 16% rise and £10.75 million transacted. Average rents in the city were £146 per week, down 2.9% on the previous year.

Across the Central Belt, rents in Edinburgh were down 1.3% on the previous year at £147 per week. Some £40 million was transacted in the capital with 506 new beds currently under construction.

Meanwhile, average rents in Aberdeen were unchanged year-on-year at £141 per week, with 618 beds under construction. The city had the highest value of transactions of any Scottish city last year, with a total of £51 million. Activity in Stirling accounted for £2 million, with the total value of transactions across the UK equalling £4 billion.

Currently, university-owned accommodation is the most prevalent across the UK, accounting for 51.6% of the total. This is down on last year’s proportion, suggesting that the private sector added more beds over the course of the year.

In terms of new developments, en-suites and studios are the most prevalent, with the private sector delivering a disproportionately high number of studios. The number of private purpose-built beds (219,000) represent a 9.2% increase on last year, compared to 1.7% for university owned stock.

Keith Aitken, regional senior director for GVA in Scotland said: “The weakness of sterling and the enduring reputation of our higher education institutions continues to make studying in Scotland attractive to overseas students.”

“The value provided by the current exchange rate also means the student housing market appeals to investors at home and abroad.”

Surveys suggest that applicants are focused on student experience and accommodation quality when choosing a university and it is now a consideration in some university league tables.

The report also highlighted a number of existing stock in need of regeneration and noted that partnerships can help deliver excellent results for both parties to address development challenges.

Aitken added: “Optimism is still high. There is still a structural undersupply in PBSA at a national level and given the level of investor appetite for the sector, we expect strong development activity to continue for the foreseeable future.”

“There are also considerable opportunities for investors to work with universities to improve or rebuild their existing accommodation,” he said. “However, there may be an over-supply risk on studio apartments in some areas and this is something that needs to be closely monitored when assessing locations.”

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