Student property – where are the cheapest & most expensive rents?

1 Oct

It’s that time of year when students need somewhere to live, says Cheryl Markosky

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Average weekly student rents are remaining stable, says a new study.

Student rents are down only slightly by 37p from 2013 (£79.64 to £79.27), according to research from

The least expensive place for a student let’s in Stockton, while London’s the priciest spot.

Newcastle’s seen the highest rent increases, and Luton and Bournemouth the greatest falls.

Data from Hamptons International shows that a student property in Aberdeen costing £293,000 rents on average at £1,420 a month, compared to a £105,000 Newcastle property letting at £540.

Johnny Morris, head of research at Hamptons International, says: “With record numbers of students starting university this year, there’s more pressure on limited numbers of university housing, leading to more demand in the private rentals sector.”

He suggests that student housing has long been a lucrative investment for the canny landlord, evidenced most recently by a boom in interest by institutional investors.

“A student let can mean a higher yield for buy-to-let landlords, rather than renting to professionals or a family. By letting out individual rooms landlords can maximise their income,” Morris argues.

However, there is a sting in the tail.

“Student properties tend to be more difficult, and at times expensive, to manage, due to multiple tenants and a higher turnover than other sectors. So, potential investors should give careful thought as to whether they have the time, resources and expertise to manage a student let,” adds Morris.

Bristol’s a good spot to consider when investing in student homes, with two universities: redbrick Bristol University in Clifton and Bristol UWE in Frenchay.

“Most students want to live in Clifton or Redland at the heart of the action,” explains Adam Lock of Hamptons International in Bristol. “Gloucester Road’s also a well-liked location, appealing to UWE students who can catch a direct bus to the university located only three to four miles up the road.”

Gloucester Road and Redland present better value for money than Clifton, but due to popularity there aren’t many bargains to be had.

Most properties sell in Clifton for about 4 per cent to 4.5 per cent gross return, and you can expect to achieve around 6 per cent or more on Gloucester Road or in Redland.

“For those looking to buy an investment property, it’s always best to choose a property with three or more bedrooms,” adds Lock. “This guarantees long-term let opportunities when children leave university, as these areas are popular with families too.”

It’s also important to buy property within walking distance of amenities, as they are high up on students’ wish lists.

“Lastly, ensure that each bedroom is large enough to include a bed, wardrobe and a desk,” Lock sums up.

Simon SewellSimon Sewell, lettings manager at Lighthouse Property Services tips Lincoln as the next student hotspot.

“In Lincoln, the university’s expecting a further 2,000 attendees over the next three years,” he observes.

On average, Lincoln landlords are achieving a gross return of 12 per cent on their property investments.

“Students are looking for a high standard of accommodation with quality furnishings and fittings, double bedrooms and an accreditation scheme in place,” says Sewell.

Julia Garber sandfords MaryleboneJulia Garber, lettings director at the Marylebone office at Sandfords, believes landlords need to be emotionally and practically equipped to take on student lets.

“By that I mean they have to provide the type of property students need, furnished simply with wardrobes and desks.”

Garber also suggests that London student homes have to be fairly modern.  “Today, students aren’t interested in rundown, dated properties. Keep in mind that international students coming to central London are funded by wealthy families willing to pay above market rent to have their child in quality places”.

Be clear on what you will do, adds Garber. For example, you will not change a light bulb, but you will sort a broken washing machine. “And ensure students are aware of what’s acceptable, in particular with regards to smoking or noise after a certain time.”

In the popular area of Crookes that’s close to the University of Sheffield, there’s the ideal landlord property for sale through Blundells Lettings.

“The five bedroom end-of-terrace in Clementson Road already has an HMO licence,” explains William Thompson from Blundells Lettings.

“This permit is not transferrable by sale, so you would need to re-apply.” But you have the reassurance that there shouldn’t be a problem, as a precedent has been set for lettings already.


An audience with James Light of estate agents Sandfords

30 Sep


A mooch around Selfridges, chicken schnitzel and not wearing a suit constitutes the perfect day for James Light of estate agents Sandfords in London’s Regent’s Park, writes Cheryl Markosky.

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Name: James Light

Company name: Sandfords

Twitter handle: @sandfordslondon

Which area do you cover? Regent’s Park and Marylebone

How did you start out as an estate agent? I first worked for commercial agency, Edwin Hill & Partners, for five years before joining Sandfords in 1991. Someone thought I had flair and I wanted to run my own business.

What would you do if you weren’t an estate agent? I would be a football agent.

What was the first property you sold in your area, when did you sell it and for how much? What’s it worth now? I sold a two bedroom flat on Cumberland Terrace for £250,000 in 1991. Now it would be worth £2.5m.

If money was no object, which house or street would you most like to live in on your patch? A five storey, John Nash house on the Crown Estate’s Chester Terrace, facing Regent’s Park. A house there costs about £8m to 12m. If I was a football agent I bet I could afford one of these nineteenth century treasures, but with my estate agent salary I’m far off being an owner.

Any streets or zones on your patch that are particularly hot at the moment? Any hidden gems? The ‘on the park’ market is very, very hot. There’s a lot of interest right now, with values up 20 per cent in the last 18 months. And there are undiscovered homes that have been in the same ownership forever and a day that come up for sale. I’ve just valued a place on Park Square Mews, a quiet street at the back of the park, which will sell for circa £1.5m to £1.75m.

What are your top tips for buying, selling or letting property in the area?

Buying: Have faith in your agent and make sure you research the area before you jump into anything.

Selling: Get your home looking as good as possible and don’t overprice. It’s a cardinal sin in this market.

Letting:  Small is beautiful. It’s better to buy a small flat. It’s less hassle and you’llprobably be dealing with only one tenant, which isn’t as demanding.

How would you spend the perfect day off in your area? I’d kick off with coffee at The Hub café in Regent’s Park Inner Circle – it has a really relaxed atmosphere. Then I’d walk into the West End and have a nose around Selfridges, followed by salmon, chicken schnitzel and cranberry juice for lunch at Fischer’s Viennese restaurant on Marylebone High Street. I’d then go for a stroll through Marylebone Village and meet my wife for a drink at Home House club on Portman Square. Supper would be dim sum at Phoenix Palace on Glentworth Street.

30.09.14 James 2What’s your favourite place for dinner in your area? Sushi restaurant, Haru, on Melcombe Street. I don’t drink during the week, but if it’s the weekend I’d have some wine.

If you could change one thing to make your working life better what would it be? Not having to wear a suit.

What will dominate the news in your market in 2014? Whether overseas buyers will still be part of the London property market and the upcoming General Election in 2015. Elections always bring uncertainty.

What’s your motto for being a successful agent? Have good people around you.

Actors Billie Piper & Laurence Fox put Sussex cottage on the market

29 Sep

Actors Billie Piper and her husband Laurence Fox have put their West Sussex cottage up for sale.

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The showbiz couple are reportedly moving back to central London, after spending several years at the semi-detached property in Midhurst.

Billie, who played the companion in Doctor Who and a prostitute in the TV drama Secret Diary of a Call Girl, is currently appearing in the stage farce Great Britain at London’s National Theatre. She recently played a poor Irish immigrant in Sky Atlantic drama Penny Dreadful.

Laurence has made his own West End appearance in Strangers on a Train at the Gielgud theatre, but he is best know for his role as ITV detective Lewis.

The couple married in 2007 and settled down in the oak-timbered property named Chestnut Cottage.

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Estate agents Gascoigne-Pees, which is handling the sale, described the four bedroom property as “an attractive and appealing attached property”.

It explained: “The property has been sympathetically restored in recent years, and now is presented to a high specification throughout, with many character features including fireplaces, exposed beams and small paned windows.”

Other features include countryside views from many of the rooms and a large secluded garden.

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A London flat with a giraffe in the living room

26 Sep

A giraffe in the living room, multi-coloured staircase and neon Union Jack in the loo. Gurmit Campbell’s London flat is not for the fainthearted, writes Cheryl Markosky.

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Name: Gurmit Campbell

Occupation: Gurmit, 49, was born in Singapore and is the seventh of nine children. A former model, she now works as an artist, jeweller and designer.

Property description: A luxe four bedroom apartment arranged over the raised ground, first and second floors of a late Victorian white stucco building in Bayswater. Treasures abound throughout with everything from the fibreglass giraffe called Matilda perched in the corner and a dazzling white Boffi kitchen, to an Andy Warhol Moonwalk print and oversized antique mirrors.

Asking price: £12,500,000

Thinking of selling your home?

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Estate agent: Ben Podesta, Domus Nova, 17 Kensington Park Road, London W11, 020 7727 1717

Area statistics: The average price on Hyde Park Gardens is £2,707,806 (up £297,554 or 12.35 per cent) compared to £1,149,977 in W2. There are 978 properties for sale on Hyde Park Gardens, while rental homes top 2,117. W2 fun facts: Highest value streets are Park Place Villas (£9,204,860), Orme Square (£8,762,277) and Pembridge Place (£5,627,303).Highest turnover streets include Cleveland Terrace (40.9 per cent), Porchester Terrace North (38.1 per cent) and Stanhope Terrace (34 per cent).

Why are you moving? I like to do up a property and then move on to the next one. I’m hungry for a new project so it’s time to go.

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Have you found somewhere to move to? Not yet. I’m always looking for raw spaces at good addresses that I can totally gut and renovate. I love having a canvas that will allow me the liberty to do something different.

What do you like most about the property? I like my closet where I sit and meditate, and my office, a quiet space that gets northern light.

What’s your happiest memory of the property and when did it happen? I adore cooking, so I remember all the times when friends came over and we celebrated together. The kitchen and dining room’s really important and one of my favourite places to spend time. I knocked two big rooms into one even bigger room with high ceilings and plenty of light.

When did you buy the property and how much was it worth? About three years ago, I bought the house with my husband Robert, who’s the founder of a new Saga-esque website, High50, for over-fifties, and our two boys, now aged 8 and 9. Then it was worth £7m.

Do you know your neighbours? One of my neighbours is the founder of the live debate forum, Intelligence Squared, and another is Elizabeth Wigodier, wife of entrepreneur Charles. Harry Handelsman, founder and chief executive of the Manhattan Loft Corporation, lives upstairs with his wife Elizabeth. Everyone helps everyone else out and the neighbourhood has a very village-y feel.

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What do you like about the local schools? There are a number of local state schools in W2, such as Edward Wilson, Hallfield, Our Lady of Dolours RC and Paddington Green Primaries. My boys went to The Fox Primary in Notting Hill and now they’re going to private Westminster Under School.

What is traffic and transport like? Hyde Park Gardens is a quiet street, as most drivers use Bayswater Road. There’s both paid and residents’ parking here and you’re only a five minute walk to Lancaster Gate Tube and 10 minutes to Marble Arch Tube. I drive my sons to school in Vincent Square, which only takes 15 minutes.

What’s your favourite place for dinner in the area? A modern Japanese restaurant called Kurobuta on Kendal Street in Connaught Village has recently opened. I love the crispy crab and fried tofu.

How would you spend the perfect day off in your area? I’d go for a morning run in Hyde Park and then enjoy a mocha coffee and pastry at Cocomaya on Connaught Street. I’d probably spend some time doing sketches for my next jewellery collection, although a manicure, pedicure and haircut at Hair & Beauty at 17, also on Connaught Street, could be tempting. Lunch would be fish and chips at The Victoria pub on Strathearn Place or at Argentinian restaurant, Casa Malevo, where I’d hang out all afternoon with friends.

What local secret do you know that would take a new resident a while to discover? There are two small boutiques on Connaught Street that are worth exploring. The first is Horiyoshi Worldwide, which sells clothing and accessories based on the art of Japanese designer Horiyoshi’sirezumi tattoos. I really like the incredible skull objects there. And the second local secret is RitvaWestenius, a designer bridal shop with the most beautiful dresses.

If you could change one thing about the house what would it be? I’d retile the terrace, install a different audio system and change the fireplace.

What items are included in the sale? All the basics. And if anyone wants to buy any of the furniture I’d be happy to negotiate with them.

Who would be your ideal buyer? Someone creative who will change the apartment around in his or her own way and surprise me. It would be lovely to have a family here, as it’s a family home.

What do you most fear about the selling process? Selling a house should be quite straightforward, but that isn’t always the case. It’s not always a smooth ride, which can cause anxiety.

Agent’s advice:

Ben Podesta of Domus Nova says: “Several factors can make sellers feel anxious, such as wanting to know why potential buyers don’t like their property and different expectations of value – the buyer, seller and agent might all feel differently about a property’s worth. I think it’s important to engage the services of a good solicitor, so do listen to your agent who can recommend someone right for you and your circumstances. An old fuddy-duddy county solicitor who’s always handled your family’s affairs might not be the right person to help tie up a deal quickly, for instance. It’s easy to find someone to buy a home compared with getting it over the mountain – all the legal checks and balances, etc. That’s when a good agent communicating with a solicitor he respects can move the process along.”

If you are selling your home and would like to be featured in this column, please email Zoopla content editor Myra Butterworth at

Buying in Portugal at the exclusive Quinta do Lago

24 Sep

Is this the last chance to buy a smart new house at chic Quinta do Lago, asks Cheryl Markosky.

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The British love all things Portuguese. Think ‘the special one’ ex-Chelsea manager José Mourinho, blue and white tiles, port, clams, white-washed villages, secret coves and golden beaches.

One more Portuguese must-have could well be a home at San Lorenzo North at Quinta do Lago in the Algarve’s Golden Triangle.

In a prized, coastal location and next to the Algarve’s Ria Formosa Nature Reserve, San Lorenzo North is the newest addition to Quinta do Lago’s select range of property.

Teresa Barros Quinta do LagoOne of the big pluses is the flexibility for purchasers, points out Quinta do Lago marketing director Teresa Barros.

“You can use your own architect or one of ours to build your villa from scratch,” she explains. “And if you can’t wait for a house to be erected, you can buy a turnkey property that’s already in place – all you need do is walk in with your suitcase.”

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Rather than being put off by planners not keen on contemporary styles, Quinta do Lago actively encourages modern architecture here.

Plot sizes are generous too. “Buyers can build up to 25 per cent of the land. Other sites nearby only allow you to build on 20 per cent of the site,” Barros says.

Equally, this is the last remaining sector at Quinta do Lago earmarked for separate villas, which adds to the desirability of your villa when it comes time to sell.

Three homes have already sold, with a focus on active and younger families. “The demographic’s for buyers aged about 45 to 55, lower than purchasers in their sixties five years ago,” adds Barros.

For those worried about being trapped in a one-nationality ghetto, purchasers are coming from all corners, including England, Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium, South Africa, Brazil and France.

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It’s easy to get to Quinta do Lago – only a 15-minute drive from Faro Airport – but it’s quiet despite the proximity to the air terminal.

It’s not all about lying on the beach either, according to Barros. “There are great local vineyards, walking trails in the Rio Formosa, excellent golf courses – including the San Lorenzo course which the properties overlook – and eight restaurants on-site.”

A new tapas bar, The Shack, has just opened on the lake, with oyster shots and buckets of shrimp for those wanting a chilled and relaxed vibe.

And forget blue flag beaches. Barros is proud to note that Quinta do Lago’s beach has gone one further with a golden flag. “It is awarded to beaches that have had blue flag status for 25 years consecutively.”

Prices for turnkey villas start at £4,632,000, while bespoke villas built to order depend on a buyer’s design and requirements.

Thatched cottages are the quintessential English country cottage

23 Sep

Like cream teas and summer fetes, thatched cottages are packed with British charm, believes Cheryl Markosky.

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The jury’s out on thatched cottages. Do you buy one, because it’s unbelievably charming? Or, do you avoid it like ebola, as the thatch could possibly go up in flames, along with the cottage, at any second?

Hugh Ball savills farnham (1)Thatched cottages make up about 60,000 of properties in Britain and epitomise the traditional, chocolate-box English home, points out Hugh Ball of Savills in Farnham, Surrey.

“Yet for many, the idea of owning a thatched property can be a daunting one – sometimes unnecessarily so,” he says.

The quintessential, English country look of a thatched cottage is undeniable, but there are considerations of which thatch novices need to be aware.

“First, seek out an insurer with experience of homes with thatched roofs,” Ball advises. “He’ll be able to advise on the right level of cover, helping you avoid unnecessary premiums.”

Also, take advice from a thatching expert “on everything from the material used to determine the durability of a roof, to fire retardant applications and netting to deter nesting birds”, adds Ball.

You should also ensure chimneys, especially those linked to open fireplaces, are regularly swept and maintained to reduce fire risk.

Robyn Bates at the Taunton office of estate agents Smiths Gore observes that thatched properties sell very quickly in the South West – “so, purchasers obviously have no issues with them.”

He suggests that despite thatch appearing a bit expensive, it’s also enduring. Certain reeds can last as long as 30 years.

“Equally, you don’t run the risk of slipped tiles,” Bates argues.


For sale:

1. This Grade II listed, thatched cottage in Hampshire sold to London weekenders last year. They love the area so much they’re moving up to a larger, fulltime house round the corner, which means a new buyer gets to enjoy four bedrooms, an outdoor pool, open farmland views – and of course, the thatched roof.

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2. A well-priced two bedroom thatched terrace cottage in the pleasing, Dorset village of Donhead St Mary, just outside Shaftesbury. Along with the shaggy, Boris Johnson-style hair on top of the building, period goodies include exposed beams and an Inglenook fireplace.

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3. Good things come in small thatched packages, with an edge-of-village thatched cottage near Minehead with leaded light windows, bread oven and woodburner. And you’re only a mile from the coast.

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4. Surf dudes and dudettes, need look no further than this four bedroom cottage in Nethercott, Devon. Two sandy, surf-friendly beaches – Croyde and Putsborough – are only a few miles away.

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5. One for history buffs, Church Cottage’s roof dates back to medieval times, although you’ll be reassured to learn that the thatch is of a more recent vintage. Perfectly positioned below the church and on Devon’s Buckland moor, the cottage has four bedrooms and a family bathroom.

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6. Who says you have to live in the country if you want a thatched cottage? There’s a monochrome mock Tudor thatched home in north west London that even comes with a blue plaque. It’s dedicated to architect George Ernest Trobridge who designed, built and lived in the thatched property. And don’t worry about repairs – the 1926 building’s been refurbished to a high standard by the current owners.

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Vendor spotlight: Cornish estate comes complete with indoor pool & walled gardens

19 Sep

Would a six-acre estate in idyllic Cornish countrywide complete with four dwellings, an indoor pool, walled gardens and much more suit you? Hosting family parties, reunions and weddings are among the best memories of life here for David and Sarah Short, writes Harriet Meyer.

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Name: David and Sarah Short

Occupations: Now retired, David previously worked in oil.

Property description: A six-acre estate set in idyllic rural surroundings with fantastic views of Dartmoor across the Tamar Valley, 11 bedrooms and seven reception rooms. It includes the main house, grooms’ house, carriage house and separate studio, with a working water wheel alongside the terrace, walled gardens, and an indoor swimming pool in the ancient orchard.

Among its many attractions is an amphitheatre on the ruins of the old mansion where the owners have hosted music festivals to raise funds for local charities. There is also a tree house complex and zip wire in the woods – and much more…

Asking price:  £1,300,000

Thinking of selling your home?

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Estate Agent handling the sale: Duncan Ley, of Humberts, Truro.

Why are you moving? We are downsizing as our children and grandchildren have moved away and so the house is no longer the multi-generational haven we’ve enjoyed for the past 15 years.

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Have you found somewhere to move to? No, but we shall be moving nearer to our daughter and family who live in Tavistock.

What do you like most about the property? Its history, individuality and tranquility – the only sound we hear is birdsong. We enjoy sipping a glass of something chilled on a balmy evening while gazing at the view, smelling the roses as we stroll around the garden or watching our dogs fail to spot the rabbits in the woodland.

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What is your happiest memory in the property and when did it happen? We have had many, many family reunions, parties, christenings, engagement parties and weddings. In particular, our daughter’s wedding reception held in the garden in July 2010 – we were able to put up most of our extended family on site.

When did you buy the property and how much was it worth? It was bought in September 1999 for £660,000 when it was minus the swimming pool and other major improvements – such as an extension on the grooms’ house.

Do you know your neighbours? Most of our neighbours have four legs and a tail. The Duchy College of the Countryside lease the fields from the Duchy of Cornwall. Our other nearest neighbours are approximately a mile away across four fields.

What do you like about local schools? They have served our grandchildren well, being relatively small with very good reputations. The nearest state schools are Stoke Climsland Community Primary School and Callington Community College – now an Academy. There are two grammar schools in Plymouth. Nearby independent schools include Launceston, St Joseph’s School, Mount Kelly College in Tavistock, and Plymouth College.

What is the traffic and transport like in the area? A car is a necessity, but there is a bus link from the village a mile away.There is easy access to the main road between Plymouth and Launceston and we’re only one hour from Exeter.

What’s your favourite place for dinner in your area? The Royal Inn at Horsebridge. It’s actually in Devon, but only three miles away across the Tamar.

How would you spend the perfect day in your area? Whiteford is situated in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, so there’s lots to do. But we love just sitting in the garden watching the swallow ballet or the skies over Dartmoor.

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What local secret is there in the area what would take a new resident a while to discover? Our local village, Stoke Climsland, has a thriving community centre with many activities. It’s a mixture of working farms, young families who send children to local schools and the expected sprinkling of retired folk.

If you would change one thing about the house, what would it be? We would enclose part of the courtyard outside the kitchen to make it squarer.

What items are included in the sale of the property (eg white goods in the kitchen)? None at the moment, but this is subject to negotiation.

Who would your ideal buyer? Someone who can see its potential. There is space for a tennis court, a paddock for horses or maybe even a vineyard. It could easily be transformed into a commercial venture or it would suit someone with an extended family who needs separate residences.

What do you fear most? Downsizing! With four dwellings to de-clutter and dispose of excess furniture we have our work cut out.

Agent’s advice on tackling these fears? Duncan Ley, director of Humberts in Truro, says: “As our clients have lived in their property for some 15 years and it comprises of 8,500 square feet it’s not surprising that the thought of downsizing is intimidating.

“Many of the items will do well at auction, much can be dispersed to family members, while some can be donated to charity. Some buyers may also be interested in retaining some of the furnishings.”

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