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The ‘AirBnBs’ of the student housing sector are shaking things up

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Professionals working in the student accommodation sector agree that the rising popularity of online platforms for booking student accommodation has led to more transparency and better standards across the sector.

Student.com’s vice president of real estate, Nathan Goddard, said at a conference in Austria earlier this month that the student accommodation sector has seen a huge increase in transparency, with students better able to compare and contrast options.

He added that this has led to students being more informed, becoming a catalyst for a rise of standards.

Goddard also said that students wanted seamless end-to-end booking platforms and search facilities, and that there had been major advances in the last two-to-three years to facilitate this, reported StudyTravel Magazine.

Adding on to that, Miguel Santo Amaro, co-founder of Uniplaces, said that students also wanted a standardized leasing contract.

According to Santo Amaro, the site was in the midst of formulating a standard agreement that would suit the needs of students, as well as the landlords and accommodation providers available on its database.

There is a lot more demand than supply in the private accommodation sector, said Santo Amaro, and technology is an enabler, making the process of finding the right accommodation easier for students, as housing costs take up a huge chunk of any student’s budget.

Pushing back on that, Lucia Piseddu, Head of Relations at Housing Anywhere, said that international students still preferred having a human element behind the booking process, as students often find themselves needing to discuss their options, which involves a lot of back-and-forth between them and vendors.

Santo Amaro said this was where online booking platforms were able to shine, as Uniplaces has professional teams able to converse with students in various languages.

He explained that a common obstacle in the past had been the language barrier between students and landlords.

However, there was also a consensus among the professionals present at the conference that the sector needed more data on how to best meet the needs of students, landlords, and higher education institutions.

When asked to predict future trends in the sector, Santo Amaro said that video technology would remove the necessity of viewings; Piseddu forecast that the industry was heading towards more review-based systems and digitalisation; however, Goddard argued that key influencers in the decision-making process would continue using online platforms.

Image via Shutterstock

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