The House Hunting Letting Cycle

Why have a start date?

For over a decade, Unipol and the institutions in Leeds have set a start date for the house hunting season for the following year. The reasons for this are to:

  • stop confusion between students wanting to rent properties now and for next year
  • give all owners (both large and small) an equal starting date for marketing their properties
  • allow advice and information delivery to be given to all students at all institutions
  • ensure that there is a decent amount of comparable property for student to choose between
  • increase choice and transparency in the letting market
  • enable all Unipol Code owners to join for the following year
  • have a start date for registration fees for Unipol

Having a start date depresses early marketing of properties in November and December and stimulates the market for the start of the house hunting season. For smaller owners it also provides a focus when they can be available for discussions and viewing.

Early marketing of properties, in November and December can cause significant problems for students and more surprisingly for landlords too. A considerable number of first year students take their most important examinations of the year in early January and the failure rate from them is significant. Early lettings are often accompanied by the joint tenant group falling apart, with considerable contractual difficulties. It is therefore essential, that students wait until after their inter-semester examination results (particularly in the case of first year students) before they sign up to a legal liability stretching forward for the next academic year.

In addition there is considerable evidence of some owners and particularly agents "trying to let ahead of the market". This can imply that there is some kind of accommodation shortage (there is currently a surplus of accommodation in Leeds) and panic students into renting at a much higher than market rent for the house. Because students cannot compare rents with other houses early in the year, some very unwise decisions are made by a few young people who are entering the property market (normally from University provided accommodation) for the first time.

Early lets, undertaken at the wrong time of year, often entered into because of pressuring sales techniques, often result in a dissatisfied and non functioning tenant group. Many experienced owners have learnt that the best student tenants are those that think through their renting carefully and follow the advice given by the Students' Union, the institutions and Unipol itself.

For the 2014-2015 letting year (students studying in the 2013-2014 academic year looking for housing for the following year) the start date and time for the house hunting season has been set as 9am on Friday 24th January 2014.

The universities, students' unions and Unipol will all be advising students not to rent before this date.

When is the right time to advertise?

Unipol and the academic institutions of Leeds are committed to encouraging all students not to look for their subsequent year’s accommodation before January 2014. This does not mean that Unipol are not marketing your property before this time. Most students will have already received targeted information leading up to January.

Retaining current tenants

If you are satisfied with your current tenants, it makes sense to give them first option on staying in the property. You should see, or write to, your existing tenants before they go home for the winter break giving them the details of next year's let (rent levels and any other changes in the tenancy) and ask them to let you know whether they wish to remain as soon as possible. Those students that want to stay should be signed up so that you do not need to market that property at all.

When students say they do not wish to stay on (normally because they are leaving Leeds or the tenant group is changing) then this is a good time to write to them to ask for their permission for viewings to take place.

Sometimes students will not know or will ask for more time to decide whether they wish to remain in the property. This is obviously a judgement call for you; however giving tenants an extra couple of weeks to decide, in most cases, will not have an adverse effect on the letting of a property.

Offering students a move within your portfolio

If you have a number of properties, then you can give your existing tenants several choices:

  • do they wish to remain in their property as the group is currently constituted?
  • do some students wish to remain with the existing tenants finding other friends to join them? If so you should aim to sign up the partially new group as soon as possible
  • are they interested in remaining with you but in another house?

Advertising properties to let

If the above forms of internal marketing result in the house remaining un-let you will then need to fully market the property. It is very important to have your properties displayed on the website as early as possible in the house hunting season as letting activity is often high. It is also important that you are available to be contacted by prospective tenants.

Inform tenants about viewings

It is important to tell your current tenants about how viewings will work; it is in their interest to be helpful as this is likely to lead to a quicker let. Try to be understanding that your tenants may have examinations in early January. It is certainly worth asking your tenants to keep the house as tidy as possible and maybe you could offer an incentive to students for doing this.

Unipol statistics on letting

Last year 92% of properties displayed between January and the 1st November were let. A lot of that activity was at the beginning of the season and before students went home in June, however an increasing number of students are waiting and house hunting when they get back to Leeds in late August and early September.

September 2013 was much busier than 2012 due to all three universities having a buoyant recruitment drive following A level results in August.  Students continued to secure accommodation in significant numbers until the end of October 2013.

Letting is busy from January to June with returning students looking to move into the private rented sector from 1st July. New to Leeds first year students (including Leeds Beckett, Leeds Arts University, Leeds Trinity and Leeds College of Music) start looking for housing from July. Postgraduate and international students from all three universities are looking from late August. Lettings are still steady until late October.