Clever Student Lets plans expansion into Exeter

By Business Editor Gordon Richardson/Express and Echo

Henry Hutchins Clever Student LetsHenry Hutchins, chief executive of Clever Student Lets

A Devon business specialising in letting high-end accommodation to students is planning to expand into Exeter.

Clever Student Lets manages a £140 million portfolio of properties on behalf of developers and private landlords, letting out 1,500 rooms in Plymouth to students from across the globe.

Attracted by the growth of the University of Exeter and rising numbers of international students, chief executive Henry Hutchins aims to start renting out 300 rooms in the city next year. He believes the key to success in the increasingly competitive student accommodation sector is quality properties and a high level of service, such as collecting overseas students from Heathrow Airport and delivering them to their new homes.  “The quality of accommodation in Exeter has vastly improved over the last three years, but most of it is national companies,” said Henry.

“We are very picky. In Plymouth we will turn down 60 per cent of landlords who come to us unless they can provide the type of product the students want.

“If I’m not prepared to let my daughter live in it, I don’t want it. The students are paying £5,000 to £7,500 a year in rent, so they deserve value for money.”

Clever Student Lets recently employed a Chinese business development consultant and aims to increase capacity by another 500 rooms within two years.

“We started five years ago and have been growing at about 40 per cent a year, and most of our students come from China, the Far East, Nigeria and from around the European Union,” said Henry.

“The new semester is about to start with thousands of students getting ready to move into Devon and right now our teams are busy with deep cleans, maintenance and getting apartments and rooms ready for the new student intakes.”

Clever Student Lets is a growing employer, with 17 staff in Plymouth. The company’s expansion into Exeter is expected to create around five new jobs in admin and support roles.

“We work with translators, teachers, the police, support councillors, bankers, cleaners, plumbers, electricians and our services are 24/7, and if any problems occur we work on finding a solution as quickly as possible,” said Henry.

The company charges landlords up to 15 per cent of the rental income to manage their properties.

“We are the most expensive but to provide the service and the marketing we do, you have to do it,” said Henry. “We are very successful at getting the students in and keeping them happy. This year there are probably at least 1,000 empty rooms in Plymouth but we are consistently full.”

He added: “We regard ourselves more like a hotel business. Foreign students bring over £70 million pounds a year into the Devon economy alone, and our international educational providers are one of the region’s fastest invisible growth sectors.

“We treat our international students as adult consumers. We try to make them feel as if they are staying in a hotel, no matter if they are staying for three weeks or a year.”

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