A small family-run company is attempting to raise the bar of student housing in Swansea with swish refurbished homes rather than the tired, shabby ones typically associated with student lets.
Husband and wife team, Alex and Becky Allen, run a student lets business in Swansea known as Alex Allen Properties, alongside bringing up two children under the age of four.
Since establishing the business back in 2017, they have witnessed rapid growth and are set to complete on their sixth student property in the coming weeks.
Working in student property is a passion for the couple, having had negative experiences during their own university years, in which they noticed sub-standard student houses and absent landlords were commonplace. From there grew the desire to provide better-quality options for students.
Pic: Before and after
Alex took time out after university to train as an electrician, build his skillset and research the property market and requirements for student HMO properties – which can be quite complex, with a host of regulations to adhere to.
“We are anything but the stereotype of the non-responsive, uncaring landlord renting out damp and dated properties,” Alex said. “Our priorities are providing top-quality student houses, in perfect locations, along with great customer service. All our properties undergo extensive refurbs, so students don't have to worry about ongoing maintenance issues.”
Alex takes on the majority of the property refurbishments himself, alongside a trusted team of specialist tradespeople. Additionally, the couple self-manage all of their properties and say their dedicated hands-on approach means that any issues are dealt with swiftly and effectively.
Pic: Before and after of Westbury's kitchen
Like many companies, Covid-19 brought its own significant challenges to their small business, with delays to their latest refurb project (‘WESTBURY’) and difficulties securing materials leaving Alex to work 12 hour days, seven days a week in July and August to get the house ready for tenants moving in in September.
Becky, co-owner of Alex Allen Properties, was meanwhile at home with their children Jacob (3) and Imogen (1), using her maternity leave to develop the company’s branding, build their website and social media presence, and plan and source the interiors for ‘WESTBURY’.
“It has been a difficult few months, but we couldn’t be happier with the finished results in ‘WESTBURY’. The property is nearly unrecognisable compared to when we first bought it. We're also very lucky that despite the current Covid-19 pandemic all of our properties are fully tenanted,” Becky commented.
One of the main focuses for the couple is always the social areas in their properties. “We want our students to be able to relax and spend time together and above all enjoy their university experience. This is emphasised even more so with the current Covid-19 situation and local lockdown in Swansea; students are spending so much more time in their houses,” Alex said.
‘WESTBURY’ is described as a shining example of a great social area, with the high-spec industrial lounge, kitchen and diner very generous for a five-bed student house. Alex and Becky say they have gone above and beyond compared to many other student properties on the market.
“Students deserve a high-quality place to call home just as much as any other type of tenant. We want to raise the bar on student accommodation and help phase out the sub-standard offerings that are still commonplace.”
Better managed properties have a benefit not just for students and their wellbeing, Alex adds, but also for the local area.
Another major priority for the pair is shopping locally. To ensure this is the case, they use small local companies for their bespoke wall murals and their handmade desks and tables, while they also work with a current Swansea University student who has a start-up business creating virtual tours of rental properties.
“Supporting other small businesses in the community is important to us, now more than ever we need each other to survive,” Becky concluded.