HEADINGLEY is experiencing a chronic shortage of rental property as the area continues to transform itself from a student enclave into one of the UK’s best performing areas for property investors.
Our rental portfolio is currently 99% occupied and there is a major shortage of properties available for rent at the moment and there are no signs of that changing anytime soon. We manage one of the largest portfolios of property rented to professionals in North Leeds and have the highest ever occupancy rate, since setting up in Headingley 18 years ago.
As well as record occupancy levels, we have seen a big increase in the amount of time tenants are staying at the same property. Typically, the majority of tenants would look at what the market has to offer after between 8 and 12 months, and many would choose to move. As supply has shrunk however, there are far less options available, and 25% more tenants chose to stay put this year than did during 2015.
I believe that the issue of undersupply could be partially addressed through the conversion of former student properties and HMO’s into properties suitable for letting to the professional market.
It’s only 20 years since the student tidal wave surged beyond its traditional boundaries, into Becketts Park, through Far Headingley and even into West Park. However, an explosion in the delivery of high quality purpose built student accommodation blocks in the city centre, along with ongoing investment in teaching and recreational facilities has had the effect of almost entirely reversing the trend.
Once again, Far Headingley and West Park are almost entirely student-free and Becketts Park is fast returning to owner-occupation, which it was originally designed for and inevitably better suited to.
We have always dealt solely with professional lets, and are the only agency in Headingley that focuses entirely on this sector, so we have a real understanding of what the professional market is looking for.
Over the last year in particular, we have seen a significant increase in the number of vacant student properties, due to some landlords being reticent to invest in developing them for the professional market, with some even leaving them empty in the hope that students will return. Figures from Unipol suggest that there were literally hundreds of empty properties across the area which had formerly been rented to students.
This is a very risky strategy and especially in light of the fact that some sensible investment now will almost certainly secure a professional tenant and a great return. This is reinforced by the fact that Headingley has just been named as the UK’s top rental hotspot in terms of yields by comparison site TotallyMoney, which revealed that investors buying property in the LS6 postcode, can achieve rental yields of up to 10.79%, which compares to the national average of 3.3%.
As a result, we are encouraging property investors who own student accommodation or those wanting to expand their buy to let portfolios to buy in Headingley and provide more homes for rent – as the demand is certainly there.
It’s clear that the whole fabric of Headingley is also adapting to reflect these changes. Symbolic of Headingley’s identity crisis is the fact that it took around 10 years for both Pizza Express and Nandos to find a footing, due mainly to local opposition. It is to Headingley’s detriment that it shunned these archetypally family brands for so long.
At long last, it appears that the continued, and apparently permanent, migration of a large proportion of the student population southwards is spawning a whole new generation of bars and restaurants such as White’s Deli, The Cat’s Pyjamas, Red’s True BBQ, Sebby’s Deli and Head of Steam, who join an array of local stalwarts.
As a result, Headingley, which has often been second-choice for many young professionals behind Chapel Allerton, is fast re-emerging as a popular place for first time renters who want a slightly quieter life than the city centre can offer, or for those looking for a slightly greener and calmer place in which to make home. We believe that this trend will continue and that Headingley will once again become the place to be in North Leeds.