Young, demanding and with money to spend; The Chinese are in town and they need somewhere to live

A quick glance around Waitrose last night and it’s clear Exeter’s leading the way in the quest for the foreign-student dollar – or is it now the Yen?

Gone are the days of 7 students in 3 rooms in ropey old terrace houses down in St Davids. The terraces remain but if landlords think they can still get away with piece of grotty lino and a paper lampshade, they’d better think again. Next door, swanky new-builds are going up, the foreign students are moving in and it’s the Chinese who are leading the charge.

Attracted by combination of a slick University recruitment drive, great results and Exeter’s recent nomination as Sunday Times University of the Year 2013, Exeter is winning the race to pull in these bright young things. Add to this, the insatiable desire of the Chinese for a taste of the historic and there you have it, a 7,500 strong influx of demanding property dwellers and a large opportunity for the canny investor. Appealing to the young, wealthy and happy-to-pay, the Universities can’t build fast enough (or get others to), rushing to keep students in the manner to which they’re plainly accustomed. Smart new buildings and cool, sleek interiors abound, students here have never had it so good.

Go to the promotional pages of the new wave of student property investment companies and you’d be forgiven for thinking they’re talking about an apartment block in Belgravia, not Exeter student digs – “secure, self-contained luxury apartments” and at a “level of quality never seen before” go the slogans.

Times have changed and investors are seeing an opportunity. Rents have been rising steadily against prices so ‘yield’ is finally making a comeback – especially in the student towns of the North of England where property values are lower. Along with the growing private investor sector, companies like ‘Vita’ in Exeter are appealing to less hands-on landlords, offering fully managed apartments and minimum-income guarantees – beats the returns offered by banks like RBS – assuming their systems aren’t down!

With David Cameron in China as I write, enthusiastically promoting all that little ‘ol Britain has to offer, wise investors should perhaps take note. “Wei shuang fang you li” he announced yesterday, to a business community lunch.

“In both sides’ interests” might be all the wise investor needs to hear.
As for me, I’m off to the University to see if they do courses in Mandarin.

May I suggest in the meantime Mr Waitrose, that you start investing a little more in your ‘Chinese’ ranges – or they’ll be off to Aldi for their noodles like the rest of us!

Check out this article on the subject

..and for developments in Exeter: