How could new student visa rules affect the rental housing market?

A new two-year post study work visa will allow scores more graduates to remain in the UK for longer, and it’s expected to create a boom in the rental market.

The new Graduate Route announced by the government earlier this month will mean international students can stay on for up to two years after completing their university courses, allowing significantly more time than the current limit which gives most overseas students only four months to find long-term work.

Taking effect from the student intake for 2020/2021, the new route is expected to encourage more international students into the UK – a huge boost for higher education institutions as well as employers.

High quality rental options

With graduates making up a significant proportion of the UK’s ‘Generation Rent’, the move is also expected to bring an additional boost to the private rented sector (PRS), as well as the purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) sector as the move is expected to see student numbers increase, with more opting for higher quality accommodation during their university years.

While London is the dominant city attracting the highest numbers of overseas higher education students, it is closely followed by Manchester which saw 13,750 international students in the academic year 2017/2018, according to UKCISA figures. Other major university cities in the top 20 list for international student numbers include Edinburgh, Coventry, Sheffield, Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool and Cardiff.

Target tenants

According to Knight Frank’s head of lettings Gary Hall, both sales and lettings are expected to be bolstered, particularly in London and other leading university areas.

“International students are already a significant part of the London lettings market and make such an important contribution to the wider economy,” said Gary Hall. “This change will only help to strengthen that trend further.”

Buy-to-let landlords in these high concentration areas could expect to see an increase in demand for rental property from graduates once the changes come in. For those whose target tenants are young professional city dwellers, which tends to encompass new graduates, offering appropriate accommodation including one and two bedroom properties, as well as HMOs in prime locations, could prove successful in the coming years.

Attracting new talent from abroad

Extending the amount of time overseas students will have to look for work is expected to be a boost to the country’s economy, with employers benefiting from a wider talent pool.

Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, said: “The important contribution international students make to our country and universities is both cultural and economic. Their presence benefits Britain, which is why we’ve increased the period of time these students can remain in the UK after their studies.

“Our universities thrive on being open global institutions. Introducing the graduate route ensures our prestigious higher education sector will continue to attract the best talent from around the world to global Britain.”

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