Is Purpose-Built Student Accommodation a Good Investment? thumbnail picture
By: Admin
  30 Apr 2024

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Is Purpose-Built Student Accommodation a Good Investment?

PBSA Investment Guide

Purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) has emerged as a distinctive and promising asset class in real estate investments. Tailored specifically for student living, PBSA challenges traditional notions of student housing. 

Purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) has emerged as a distinctive and promising asset class in real estate investments. Tailored specifically for student living, PBSA challenges traditional notions of student housing. 

This comprehensive guide explores the various facets of PBSA, showcasing why it stands out as a wise investment choice for savvy investors.

What Is A Purpose-Built Student Accommodation?

A purpose-built student accommodation, or PBSA, represents residential spaces exclusively crafted for student habitation. Traditionally, students opted for university-managed halls or shared accommodations. 

However, private developers have entered this niche market, introducing purpose-built student accommodations designed to cater to today's student populace's evolving needs and preferences.

Exploring Types of Student Properties

  • Student Halls: University-provided accommodations with shared spaces and separate bedrooms close to the campus.
  • Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMOs): Privately owned properties rented to students, offering private bedrooms and shared communal spaces.
  • Purpose-Built Student Accommodation (PBSA): Specially designed and developed to meet the unique requirements of student living, providing individual apartments and communal areas.

Why Invest in Purpose-Built Student Accommodation?

  • Longer-Term Leases and Financial Backing by Parents

Student housing presents a unique advantage, as students commit to 12-month leases or even the entire university course duration, ensuring stability for landlords. What sets it apart further from private housing investment is the financial backing often provided by students’ parents. This support significantly contributes to reduced lease breaks and minimizes late or unpaid rent issues, providing a reliable income stream for investors.

  • Focus on Student Experience

The contemporary emphasis on a high-quality student experience aligns seamlessly with PBSA. These accommodations, designed for students, aid universities in attracting and retaining them. Providing well-equipped, contemporary living spaces enhances the overall university experience, making PBSA a lucrative investment.

  • Strong Retention Rates Due To Communal Living and Proximity to Campus

Communal living preferences among students contribute to a robust retention rate in purpose-built student accommodations. The appeal is not just limited to shared spaces but extends to furnished units that offer hassle-free housing. 

Proximity to campus further enhances the desirability of these accommodations, making them an attractive choice for students.

  • Recession-Proof Investment Due To Education Demand

Student housing proves to be recession-proof, maintaining demand even during economic downturns as people continue to enrol for further education to boost their employability. 

As the resurgence of students pursuing education abroad also gains momentum, there is a considerable shortage of available student accommodation. From 2022 onwards, there has been a revival in the enrollment of international students, countering the overall decrease in attendance at US colleges—an issue with its complexities. International student registration has surged by 80% compared to levels before the pandemic

The appeal of student accommodations drives rental prices up, making it a lucrative investment even in challenging economic climates.

  • Potential for Long-Term Capital Appreciation 

The potential for long-term capital appreciation in student housing is propelled by university expansions. As universities grow, the demand for student accommodation increases, leading to a rise in property values. 

  • Government Support

Supportive government policies and incentives further create an enabling environment for PBSA investors, adding to the overall attractiveness of the investment. For example, California is allocating funds towards the acquisition of neighboring land and the construction of new university housing. Senate Bill 886 proposes an exemption for student housing projects from the California Environmental Quality Act.

  • Professional Management

One of the key advantages of investing in PBSA is the professional management of accommodations. This alleviates investor responsibilities, providing a hassle-free investment experience. Some property managers leverage a cloud-based property management system (PMS), like the one provided by Booking Ninjas, to ensure smooth and efficient operations.

  • Portfolio Stability

Diversifying portfolios with student property enhances stability, acting as a hedge against market volatility. This unique characteristic makes student housing an attractive and stable addition to investment portfolios.

Considerations with Purpose-Built Student Accommodation As An Investment

When considering purpose-built student accommodation, certain factors should be considered:

First of all, PBSA is attractive to students with fixed monthly rates covering bills, offering financial predictability for students and landlords.

PBSA holds a distinct advantage in its appeal to students due to its fixed monthly rates, covering various expenses, including bills. This structure not only offers financial predictability for students but also provides landlords with a stable income stream.

Students, often managing tight budgets, find the predictability of fixed monthly rates advantageous for planning their financial commitments throughout the academic year. From utility bills to internet costs, the inclusive nature of these rates simplifies financial planning, creating a transparent and manageable living expense structure. 

For landlords, this predictability minimizes the risk of rent payment issues, ensuring a consistent and reliable flow of income, contributing to the overall attractiveness of PBSA as an investment.

Additionally, PBSA is considered a long-term investment with the potential for stable returns, although capital growth may be limited compared to other property types.

Unlike short-term investments that may be subject to market volatility, PBSA's appeal lies in its resilience and consistent demand. 

Students typically commit to longer-term leases, providing landlords with a reliable income stream that spans several academic years. While the potential for stable returns is a key advantage, investors must note that capital growth in PBSA may be comparatively limited compared to other property types. 

This characteristic makes PBSA particularly suitable for investors seeking a steady income stream rather than those primarily focused on significant capital appreciation.

Also, purchasing PBSA often requires cash due to the size of properties and planning restrictions, requiring investors to plan their financial strategy accordingly.

Unlike traditional mortgage standards in residential property investments, PBSA developments are typically larger-scale projects that may not align with conventional mortgage structures. 

Investors interested in this asset class must be prepared for a substantial financial commitment. This requirement for cash investments demands careful financial planning and strategy. Thus, it may limit the accessibility of PBSA investments to a particular category of investors with the financial capacity to undertake such transactions. 

How to Invest in PBSA?

  • Stocks and Shares

Investing in companies involved in PBSA through stocks and shares provides an indirect yet accessible way to enter the student housing market. This approach allows investors to benefit from the success and growth of companies engaged in purpose-built student accommodation.

  • Investment Trusts

Consideration of trusts or Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) with PBSA in their portfolio is another avenue for investors. This indirect method allows for diversification and the pooling of resources with other real estate assets, minimizing risk and enhancing stability.

  • Developing a New PBSA Development

Investing in the development of purpose-built student accommodation requires a substantial institutional-grade investment. While this option may not be accessible to small investors, it offers the potential for significant returns for those with the financial capacity.

  • Investing Directly in PBSA Rooms

For a more hands-on approach, some developers offer the opportunity for individual room purchases within new PBSA developments. This can come with guaranteed rental income for a specified period, providing a sense of security for investors.

Finding the Best Opportunities in Student Property

  • Location

Proximity to top universities is crucial in identifying the best opportunities for student property. Understanding the demand dynamics and selecting locations where supply falls short can be a key strategy for successful investments.

  • Property Standards

Offering well-equipped properties with desired amenities enhances the appeal of student accommodations. Understanding the preferences and requirements of students allows investors to tailor their offerings to meet the expectations of the target demographic.

  • City Opportunities

Identifying cities with attractive employment opportunities adds another dimension to student housing investments. Cities with thriving job markets are likely to attract students for education and potential future residences, increasing the overall appeal of student accommodations.


Investing in student housing, particularly purpose-built student accommodation, provides a range of strategic advantages for investors - from stable income streams and long-term capital appreciation potential to resilience during economic downturns 

Understanding the considerations, investment avenues, and identifying the best opportunities are crucial steps for investors looking to unlock the full potential of this dynamic market. The strategic advantages of PBSA make it a compelling option for those seeking a distinctive and promising avenue in the ever-evolving world of real estate investments.

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