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 99 per cent occupied and there is a major shortage of homes available for rent with no signs of that changing anytime soon. As well as record occupancy levels, we have seen a big increase in the time tenants are staying put at the same property. Typically, the majority of tenants look to move after between 8 and 12 months. As supply has shrunk, 25 per cent more tenants chose to stay put this year compared to 2015.
I believe the issue of undersupply could be partially addressed through the conversion of former student properties and HMOs 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 in the city centre has almost entirely reversed 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. 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 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 hundreds of empty properties across the area, which had formerly been rented to students.
This is a very risky strategy, especially as 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 by comparison site TotallyMoney, which revealed that investors buying property in the LS6 postcode, can achieve rental yields of up to 10.79 per cent.
We are encouraging 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 the area is 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. Now, Headingley, which has often been second-choice behind Chapel Allerton for many young professionals is re-emerging as a popular place for first-time renters who want a slightly quieter life than the city centre can offer, We believe that this trend will continue and that Headingley will once again become the place to be in North Leeds.”