New homes in university hotspots

Buy a home for your child at university and wait for the cash to roll in
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Nido, King's Cross
Nido, at King's Cross, is the student-accommodation equivalent of an upmarket concierge scheme, offering 24-hour security, free gym and in-room entertainment. Call 020 7240 2255
Rising tuition fees and a hike in halls-of-residence rents are prompting more parents to consider buying a property for a daughter or son at university.

It can be a smart investment: you pocket a steady income from other students after your own child graduates, then wait for the capital value to grow. The right property could even become a second home or main residence for you later on.

The Blairs have done it - twice - first in Bristol for Euan and then last year in west London when they bought a £975,000 maisonette for 22-year-old Kathryn, studying law at King's College.

While rich parents have always splashed out in star university cities, more middle-income parents are now releasing equity or, more likely, raising buy-to-let mortgages, to purchase property. Rather than merely a "peace-of-mind", short-term solution, it is a long-term investment driven by informed property judgments.

"Whereas in the past, parents would only buy to fulfil the child's basic accommodation needs, over the years they have seen what a profitable return it can bring, so make more rounded decisions," says Andrew Palmer of property consultant DTZ. Often this means buying posh flats in more expensive locations that appeal to wealthier international students. In central London, it is not uncommon for a search to start at £1 million.

Student digs

London students
London has by far the lion's share of full-time students at nearly 300,000 - 10 times more than Oxford
With 40 higher-education institutions, London has the lion's share of full-time students - 291,815 in the 2011 academic year, nearly 10 times more than Oxford - and is the top location for investment, according to estate agent Knight Frank.

London is a special case. Its property market is driven by many factors so homes let to students go up in price for various reasons, whereas in new and old university towns, students are the key influence.

Often the highest "yields", or percentage rental returns, are outside the capital, especially in lower-value areas because rents are a higher proportion of the property price. Owners can expect yields of about six per cent, perhaps twice as much for multiple occupation houses let to students.

Research by Lloyds TSB shows that average property prices in new university towns (those established since 1960) jumped by 70 per cent during the last decade - more than in dearer old university towns (64 per cent) and better than the 62 per cent price rise recorded for the UK as a whole.

In London, only 15.4 per cent of students are housed in university-owned blocks, meaning there is huge demand for private accommodation. Knight Frank estimates that another 100,000 student units in the £150-£200 a week range are required. Certainly student digs are graduating to a new level with the advent of specialist companies and developers, such as Unite, offering purpose-built rentals.

Nido, King's Cross
48-storey Nido, at King's Cross, will be Europe's tallest student block with rents of up to £285 a week. Call EA Shaw (020 7240 2255)
Nido has funky new blocks in King's Cross, Spitalfields and Notting Hill, and charges up to £285 a week. It is the student-accommodation equivalent of an upmarket concierge scheme, offering 24-hour security, free gym and internet connections, in-room entertainment and paid-for extras such as maid service and dry-cleaning drops.

Parents who buy in their own names face capital gains tax when selling the property because it will not be deemed their "principal residence".

Some savvy students are becoming landlords themselves, buying in their own name and taking in tenants in order to pay their way through college.

Jennifer Turnbull got a surprise graduation present earlier this year: the north London flat where she has been living while at university.

"My mum and dad bought the flat just after I took my A-levels. They said it was a pension nest egg for them and that I could live there rent-free while at university. I'm incredibly lucky. It means I can get on with my life without being saddled with debts. I'm going travelling for a year and have found somebody to rent the flat while I'm away. When I get back I hope to start a career in law."

Two-bedroom flats are popular because students can share with a friend, generating extra income for parents. Ideally, buy a property that has wide rental appeal - say, a City-fringe or Canary Wharf apartment that young career professionals would find attractive, too.

London Metropolitan University, based in Holloway, has the highest number of overseas students in the UK, a fact that has not been lost on parents buying at Highbury Gardens, a new scheme that is a short walk away from the college. Apartments start at £375,000. Call Savills on 020 7016 3865.

"Off the peg" student property

Often, parents prefer to buy low-maintenance new properties, especially if their chosen location is many miles from where they live. "Off the peg" student property purely for investment is growing in appeal, too, because of the stark supply-and-demand imbalance.

Barratt's Reflections scheme in Colchester
From £99,995: near the University of Essex, Barratt's Reflections scheme in Colchester offers students a stylish start and parents a long-term investment. Call 01206 861459
Basically you buy into an investment fund, which offers a guaranteed return, or you purchase a property directly at a managed student hall of residence or at a private development.

"It's a low-risk, hands-off investment," says Stuart Law of property intermediary Assetz, which sells high-yielding flats priced from £60,000 in towns and cities across the UK. Call 0845 4009000.

However, the National Union of Students is concerned that new housing being provided by commercial companies is overpriced and over-specified.

Unite, which began seven years ago, now offers about 35,000 studios in accommodation blocks and student villages in most British cities. It has even opened a retail "shop" for apartments in Bloomsbury.

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