finance

Students can enjoy luxury lifestyles before they move back home


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Would you pay £725 per week for a student room?

What if I told you the block had its own rooftop bar and karaoke room? Does that swing it? No, thought not. If you’re heading off to university in the next few weeks — or know somebody who is — keep reading.

For now, a study from Aviva this week had me wondering on the kind of life today’s students would be graduating into. Their forecasting suggests that a million more 21-34 year olds will find themselves living with their parents over the next decade, with housing affordability being the main reason.

I’m not sure who this is a more terrifying prospect for, the kids or their parents.

Some other housing data I saw this week was slightly more optimistic — London’s property market is stagnating. Optimistic, I hear you ask? Certainly. London’s estate agents might be on the breadline, but the drop-off in landlord investors and slowly declining prices seem to be benefiting first-time buyers. In the second quarter of this year, the number of first-timers buying in London was up 1.2 per cent on last year’s figures, according to new data from UK Finance, a trade body which represents 250 financial companies.

In fact, providing that wages are rising — and they are, in June, wage growth in the UK hit an 11-year high — a stagnating housing market is great news . . . for anyone who didn’t pay over the odds for a two-bedroom flat in north London last year *looks around sheepishly*. A drop in real prices (but only a modest slide in nominal prices) will make homes feel more affordable, without spooking banks into tightening lending criteria.

It’s baby steps, of course. House prices in London are still absurd. Data from Zoopla released today show that prices in London are 13.1 times average earnings. But that’s down from 14.1 times earnings in 2017.

“Housing affordability is slowly starting to improve in London as earnings growth outstrips house price inflation,” Richard Donnell, research and insight director at Zoopla, said in a statement. “There has been a clear downward trend in the ratio of house prices to average earnings over the past two years.”

It’s a good job there is not a massive economic and political cataclysm looming just over the horizon.

Deluxe digs

About three weeks into my first term at university, I remember walking into the kitchen of my student halls to find one of my new flatmates eating custard out of a measuring jug. He’d run out of money, he told me, and this was his dinner. “There’s something else,” he said, holding up the jug and the spatula he was using as a spoon, “we’ve run out of washing-up liquid.”

It is unlikely that such a scene will be repeated at the student accommodation blocks that George Hammond writes about in our cover story this week.

The Neighbourhood, Exeter, £190-£270 per week © Peter Stephens Photography

Aimed primarily at overseas students, plush, privately-owned student accommodation is on the rise in UK university towns, and these properties are unrecognisable from the scruffy digs that generations of undergraduates have had to endure up to now — at least the prices are. Among the most expensive rooms we found were in Chapter Spitalfields, a student accommodation block in east London: they rent for £725 per week. AND THEY ARE SOLD OUT.

Well, if you’re paying £30,000 in fees to go to university in this country (and that’s if you’re British), why not shell out an extra £113,100 to do it in style?

(In fact, check out the reader comments under the article: there’s already a nice line developing in ‘It-wasn’t-like-this-in-my-day-ery”.)

The purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) sector has been growing rapidly, George writes, fuelled by an influx of wealthy overseas students, and interest from institutional investors. From practically nothing 25 years ago, today the sector accounts for more than 600,000 beds, enough to house about a quarter of all students in the UK.

Some investors have got their fingers burnt, however. Tom Hale’s excellent story for FT Alphaville last month unearthed a student accommodation scheme in the UK that promised investors 8-12 per cent annual returns, but ended up giving them nothing at all as, alas, the homes have no students living in them.

Sticking with students

If you’re not moving into a super-luxury student pad, Luke Edward Hall has written his column on how to brighten up university halls. There are some really cool suggestions. Though I don’t think I would have shelled out £120 for a table lamp — my trick was to leave open, highbrow books strewn artfully around the place to make me appear intellectual. It totally worked.

FT Weekend Festival — September 7

Put it in your diaries. The House and Home tent at this year’s FT Weekend Festival will feature talks by H&H favourites Luke Edward HallRobin Lane Fox and Helen Barrett.

Also, I will be there, discussing the future of the housing market and the end of the property ladder with independent buying agent Henry Pryor, residential analyst Neal Hudson, and economist Grace Blakeley.

It’s at Kenwood House in London. Buy tickets here.

Fit for a (Saudi) prince

There have been some big sales around Regent’s Park this summer. A home in one of the cream-coloured terraces that line the park went for £15.5m in June — but even at £3,500 per square foot, this pales into insignificance compared with the trophy homes overlooking Hyde Park. On average, homes near Regent’s Park sell for about £1,130 per square foot, just over half what you would pay in Mayfair, on the eastern edge of Hyde Park — and this despite the fact that Regent’s Park is objectively a nicer park than Hyde Park.

Regent’s Park was built for the Prince Regent back in the 1810s, and some of the villas inside are still owned by Royalty — The Holme, on Regent’s Park’s Inner Circle, is owned by the Saudi royal family.

A bigger splash

If you’re looking to cool off this bank holiday weekend, check out Roddy Clarke’s round-up of the most stylish bathroom fittings and accessories.

You could splash out on a polished brass soap dish that costs £810. Or my favourite is this toilet roll holder. There’s something of the Cookie Monster about it.

Time for the chop

This weekend is the perfect time to deadhead your plants, writes Robin Lane Fox. “Gardeners in most of Britain now get an extra four weeks of flower. They should not be left to compete with the messy debris of summer. Deadhead it, clear it out and open the stage to late flowerers and a second showing,” he says.

About us

Nathan Brooker is deputy editor of FT House & Home. Follow him on Twitter at @ncbrooker and the House & Home team at @ftproperty



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