Home Landlords How to Beat the PBSA Competition

How to Beat the PBSA Competition

by Joe Green

Purpose Built Student Accommodation (PBSA) is housing specifically designed and built for students by private developers. PBSA buildings are generally made up of studio apartments, cluster flats with shared living space or en-suite and non-ensuite rooms with a shared living area or a combination of any of the above. It is not uncommon for PBSA building to cater to the higher end of the market, with numerous onsite facilities such as gyms and cinema rooms. International students are more likely to choose to reside in PBSA.

Savills find that as of 2019, 35% of all students studying in the UK live in PBSA buildings and while their market penetration will unlikely increase, the overall number of students housed in PBSA will increase with the growing student numbers in the UK. when students leave the university accommodation they usually reside in during their first year, it is often a choice between leasing a room within a PBSA building or renting private accommodation provided by landlords or letting agents. 

Therefore to be most competitive, private landlords should be aware of areas where PBSA fall short in their offerings and how best to capitalise on this to increase the likelihood of financial success.


Due to their high specification nature and development costs associated with city centre development rent rates for PBSA can be high, especially in comparison to shared houses and HMOs. There has recently been a shift towards affordability with growing demand for cheap accommodation at the expense of high specification finishes and on site facilities.

The 2019 National Student Accommodation Survey found that the average cost of a room within a PBSA building to be £125 per week. Even this rent average totals close to an annual cost of £6,500. With some PBSA demanding rent of up to £450 per week. 

Students are seeking more affordable accommodation, knowing the market well will lead to knowledge of the rent levels within the city, and those asked by PBSA buildings. Beating this price, whilst still offering good quality accommodation will help attract students to the property. This will be even more appealing if the property is located near a university campus.


Many students, particularly those from overseas, choose to live in PBSA due to the overall convenience. PBSA buildings often have onsite facilities such as gyms and laundry, as well as usually offering all bills included rent. For both international and home students alike, this makes the process of moving much faster and simpler.While the majority of private houses and HMO properties will be unlikely to be able to offer an onsite gym or cinema room there are ways to make students’ lives more convenient and will enable better competition with PBSA.

Bills inclusive rent is an easy way to increase the attractiveness of a student house, having utilities and broadband already set up will make moving in easier. Many landlords still do not offer this option, so it may make a property stand out further. With this arrangement it is also unlikely that a landlord will be left to pay outstanding bills at the end of a tenancy. 

Another simple way to increase competitiveness is to provide as much as possible when it comes to the property. Students may be limited as to what they can bring with them, having a well stocked kitchen for example will benefit students. Small appliances such as kettles and toasters as well as plates, pans and cutlery will certainly be of use.

Alcohol-free, Quiet, and Single-sex Accommodation

The private sector, which includes PBSA and private landlords, is not particularly good at providing accommodation which caters to specific needs. For example there is certainly a market for housing which is alcohol free, quiet accommodation, and buildings which are for same-sex tenants, accoridng to a report by Unipol. This is particularly true for postgraduate and mature students, whose numbers are growing, and those from international destinations. 

University accommodation usually offers these options, however some halls of residence are aging, and cannot provide the quality or diversity of accommodation the private sector are able to. Private landlords are particularly well placed to fill this demand. Properties are usually smaller, and can better lend themselves to same-sex arrangments, and can be located in more residential neighbourhoods as oppose to noisy, city centre locations.

In order to compete with the ever growing number of PBSA buildings it is vital to understand the market that you are operating in, identifying the shortfalls and opportunities which can be filled. If PBSA rents are high, it would make sense to offer a lower price to reduce the strain on a student budget.


Savills. 2019. Accessed 28th November, 2019, from https://www.savills.co.uk/research_articles/229130/283706-0 

Housing Hand. 2019. Accessed 29th November, 2019, from https://www.housinghand.co.uk/news/purpose-built-student-accommodation-market-trends/

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