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Hi, I'm Emily - Manchester Student Lets & London Crossrail

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Hi everyone,


I'm Emily, I started in property investment when I was an undergraduate student in Manchester a few years ago. After seeing my friends and I get ripped off by landlords that charge huge rents and provide terrible service in return, I knew I could do a better job; providing a friendly and well-maintained student let for young people and a profitable business. Luckily, I was able to approach my parents, who are also property investors, with a business proposition. After months of careful research, I managed to persuade them to invest with me running the show, including an extensive redevelopment, and managing the property until the ownership can be transferred officially (I couldn't get a mortgage a the time as I was a student still). Since redevelopment, the let has been delivering a healthy profit which is slowly paying off my parents initial investment and they will hopefully be cash neutral very soon!


My current excitement is that I'm hoping to buy my first owner-occupy property in London, probably Woolwich, that I can live in and commute to work in South London. This will also, hopefully, help down the line in getting a buy-to-let mortgage to take on the Manchester student let. I'm looking for a 2-bed minimum, as I'm planning on renting out the 2nd bedroom to cover the mortgage costs, and have around £150,000 - a tight budget in London!


The reason I joined the Hub is that I know there is so much to learn and wonderful experts here to learn from, so any advice on buying in London, especially Woolwich or other Crossrail stations, would be greatly appreciated. Also, I'm very happy to give help or advice on student lets, particularly in Manchester, as this is a market I know well and have learnt a lot along the way (and still am)!


Many thanks,



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Hi Emily,


Welcome to The Property Hub!


Congrats on starting your portfolio so young, if you keep going you're going to be in a great position in the not too distant future.


Although Rob and I are generally nervous about the current London property market, Woolwich is one of the few areas I would still consider investing. It has all the fundamentals, but with plenty regeneration still to happen.


Always good to have more people in here offering advice on student lets, it's an area that I know a bit about. However having never done it personally myself people like you and others in the Hub are far more qualified :).



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Thanks so much for your reply Rob, it's good to hear that Woolwich has potential!


My plan is to live there until at least 2018, when the Crossrail is scheduled to open, but will be buying a property with healthy yield irrespective of capital growth.





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Hi Emily, 


My parents are considering a student buy to let in Manchester, but don't know the area (they live in Surrey). Would you be able to give some advice? I can't see a way to PM you. My email is livingston.charlie@ymail.com - it would be great to hear from you! 

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Hi Charlie,


Thank you so much for getting in contact!


I'm so sorry it's taken so long for me to reply, I've been completely rushed off my feet this week.


Manchester is a great city and all the students I've met are considerate, lovely people, so a great area to invest in a student buy-to-let (but I would say that)!


The headlines to think about when choosing a property:


  • The areas to look in are Fallowfield and Withington. Fallowfield is more popular (both for students & investors) as it is where the majority of the 1st year student accommodation is (such as Owen's Park), so students look close by for their 2nd year in a private rental property. On the other hand, many students (usually 3rd, 4th year or post-grads) look in the next area along, Withington, as it has a much less studenty feel but still has great access to the universities and a popular location for students looking for cafes rather than take-aways. Also, you may find a better deal in Withington, as it is less likely to be on a student property investor's radar. There is potential in areas nearer the universities such as  Rushholme and Victoria Park (either side of the 'curry mile'), where low prices can be tempting. However, these areas tend to be much less popular, with lower rents, as they have a poor reputation among students (or did have last time I checked). In this way, popular student areas in Manchester can be counterintuitive, as Fallowfield and Withington are much further from the universities, but hold a premium with students.

  • Oxford Road turning into Wilmslow Road is the artery of students lives. It runs from the centre of town (Piccadilly Gardens), past both main universities (Manchester Metropolitan & University of Manchester) then along the curry-mile and onto Fallowfield and Withington. The majority of students buy passes for the buses that run along this road (no. 42/43/142/143) and they run incredibly frequently, so students rarely stray far from it. With this in mind, ideally, any property should be less than a 5-10 min walk from the nearest bus stop on these routes (a very good 'fundamental' to look out for in potential student properties).

  • Manchester Council are not very keen on new student HMO properties, so have used the Article 4 Direction to insist that landlords must apply for planning permission when changing the use of a property from a family house (C3) to a small HMO (C4) house between three and six unrelated sharers (i.e. a student house). This means that any property you wish to use as a student buy-to-let must have been an HMO since, at least, October 2010, as it will be unlikely for the Council to grant permission for a change of use or adding additional bedrooms (but not completely impossible).

  • When redecorating, refurbishing & furnishing (pretty much all student-lets are fully furnished), I would highly recommend investing in a high quality look. This doesn't mean buying expensive kitchens and bathrooms (white, modern and simple is fine), but when thinking about decor, be a bit fun and flashy! A massive flat-screen TV attached to the wall and a fun coloured feature wall are great ways to make a student house have a bit more life, and set it apart from the rest. I think a big part of being successful in student-lets is really making an effort to get in the minds of students and create a house that they will desire, not just put up with. Your money invested will be more than returned by attracting students quickly in a busy market and could make a big difference to the rent you can achieve. On this, creating an open-plan kitchen/dining/living-room is another great way to set your property apart and they love it. The bottom/middle of the market is very crowded, so a good top property will be in high demand year on year.

  • A major turn off is one bedroom being significantly smaller than the rest, ideally all need to be doubles and one much larger is less of an issue.

  • Finally, just to give you an idea of numbers as a starting point, students will pay between £65-85 per person/per week for 48 weeks of the year (many landlords offer half rent for July & August). Furthermore, it is extremely common for a 2nd reception room to be used as a bedroom, so a 3-bedroom house would usually be a 4-bedroom student-let.

I hope this gives your parents a good starter for 10, but do let me know if you have any specific questions and I'll try my best to answer.


Obviously, everything I've said is only my opinion!


All the best,



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  • 4 weeks later...

Hi Emily, 


Really interesting to hear more about what you do and your experience. 


We are doing our initial due diligence into cities further up the country (as I am based in Brighton) wherein HMO conversions work particularly well. The type of property mentioned, 3/4 bedroom terraced/semi-detahced properties for conversion into 5/6 bedroom HMO's (which from the areas I have so far appraise, mitigates the need for planning/change of use) - I was wondering if you yourself, or anyone you know if sourcing opportunities in Manchester or surrounding locations? 


I am so far identified some opportunities in Salford, however I have been lead to believe that there is some drastic over-supply particularly of student accommodation, due to the new purpose build student blocks which are popping up. 


It would be great to discuss further and to share ideas/leads. 


Best wishes, 


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Hi Harley,


I'd love to help in anyway I can! 

I don't do sourcing myself and I'm not sure of anyone that does, but if you have any specific questions, I'd be happy to answer them as best I can. 


What sort of opportunities are you looking for? Is it particularly student HMOs or young professional HMOs or something else? Salford isn't an area I know well but if you're targeting students it's not a popular area.


I believe that some northern city councils do not have the Article 4 Direction in place (at least last time I checked), however if they do (like Manchester), converting 3/4 bedroom properties into 5/6 bedroom HMOs will not be allowed unless the properties were HMOs beforehand (and in that case converting a reception room into a bedroom doesn't matter). I'd be very interested to hear any suggestions of how you mitigate this requirement!?


As far as the oversupply of student accommodation, I think this is a fair concern. However, I believe that by offering high quality homes it will be unlikely to become an issue. There is a huge amount of poor to mediocre level student housing and many of these properties are left empty, but when you offer a home that students would love to live in (which has all the student 'fundamentals' i.e. great transport links etc.), the property is likely to be snapped up after the first viewing! Additionally, the future plans for student blocks are mainly studio rooms (I think) so targeted to the international student crowd, therefore, I don't think it will cause a significant decline in demand for UK students looking for their first 'house' with their friends, but this is all just my opinion!


It would be great to hear what other cities you've seen potential, especially if not restricted by an Article 4 Direction!


All the best,



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  • 1 month later...

Hi Emily,

Thanks so much for coming back to me in some detail on this, apologies for not coming back to you sooner however I've had a busy month or so! You are correct and perhaps I should have phrased my Initial post differently - only in non A4 locations can you bypass the need for planning permission up to 6 bedrooms. I would not have an issue taking on a conversion which requires planning, as long as I can purchase subject to planning!

It's interesting to hear your opinion on oversupply, I agree with you that many students would prefer a high end house share with friends rather that student pods! My model would very much be directed towards professionals or older students who want quality Accomodation. Preferably ensuites, TVs in rooms etc.

I Have looked at opportunities in Mansfield, NG18 and also Stoke-on Trent. Both of these areas can offer excellent returns however I am not 100% convinced about the long term growth and demand prospects, which for me is absolutely key alongside good management.

I think Manchester is one of the better northern cities, with great potential for future growth - however I am somewhat convinced that the only way to secure prime location HMO's in these areas is to buy ready-made HMO's.

How are things going for you in Woolwich?

Kind regards,


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Hi Harley,


It's good to hear from you.


Thanks for clearing up my misunderstanding regarding A4 locations.


I've never been to Mansfield or Stoke-on-Trent, but looking at a map I would be surprised if they offer much demand in the professionals or older students markets, so you're right to be concerned. Is there a particular reason you have chosen these areas or have you just found some individual properties that offer good yields?


From my personal experience of young professionals and older students in Manchester (my partner is a PhD student and many of my friends now live and work in Manchester), the desirable areas are Manchester city centre, Didsbury Village, West Didsbury and Cholrton-cum-Hardy. There is huge demand for these areas and a quality HMO will be easy to fill short- and long-term. The obvious downside is that these areas are pricey and you would have to find an existing HMO on the market, but in my opinion this is far outweighed by excellent transport links (frequent tram, train and bus links from all these areas), buzzing high streets with cafe/bar culture, lots of choice of supermarkets etc. Furthermore, these areas also demand high rents, with multiple people queuing up to rent a room in the area. The website Spareroom (https://www.spareroom.co.uk/) should give you a good idea of how much you can rent out a double en-suit with a TV in these areas - Worth crunching the numbers!


A final point regarding HMOs and A4 is that often HMOs will not be advertised as HMOs in their details. From my experience, some estate agents have not cottoned on to the influence the A4 direction has had, and will not realise that HMOs in desirable areas may well be worth a premium compared to their non-HMO neighbours. This is what I found when buying my HMO in Manchester, where after a huge number of phone calls to estate agents, asking subtle questions about the current occupiers, I found a student HMO being sold BMV in the non-investment market. 


As far as Woolwich, I am hoping to exchange on a property in the next few weeks - I'm very excited :)


All the best,



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