It’s a new era for online student accommodation company, UniHomes, as the Sheffield-based business moves into a brand-new development, New Era Square. unLTD’s Matt Holmes caught up with the business to discuss student homes, their new HQ and, despite expansion, how Sheffield remains home.
The student accommodation market in Sheffield is booming. The combination of the city’s affordability for students, the £2.1 billion regeneration investment and strong returns on buy-to-let properties have seen it explode in recent times.
Over the last 12 months alone, UniHomes has seen a 68 percent increase in students searching for rental accommodation, as well as a huge 234 per cent increase in student rental enquiries.
So, it should come as no surprise that UniHomes is booming as well, positioning themselves as the UK’s leading student accommodation portal with bills included operating in 29 UK cities – with plans for that to be 40 by the end of 2021. That will mean an impressive 23 per cent of the total private student accommodation sector will be using UniHomes, equating to well over a quarter of a million people.
It’s come a long way since the business was founded in 2015 by Phil Greaves, Bradley Cox and Luca Mori. Not only had all three been landlords and property professionals before starting UniHomes, but they had also all been students, ideally placing them to understand both sides of the market.
“Having been students ourselves we understood the stresses of the student housing market,” said Co-Founder Phil Greaves. “It was the experience that helped develop the business as a solution to the issues the market faced.
“We wanted to provide a transparent, easy-to-use portal where students could easily search for their next student house with full visibility of the rental price with bills included, and equally providing a trusted platform for letting agents to advertise their portfolio of properties for free.”
It would appear they have followed through with that goal. On Trustpilot, the UK’s top consumer reviews website, UniHomes has an ‘excellent’ rating of 4.7 out of 5.
Due to outgrowing their previous office in Kelham Island, UniHomes have recently been busy looking for a new home for themselves, setting up shop in the exciting New Era Square development near St. Mary’s Gate and Bramall Lane, and cementing their commitment to keeping their home in South Yorkshire.
Regarding the move, Co-Founder Bradley Cox said: “Sheffield is the birthplace of our business and as we expand into 29 university cities, it was important to us to continue to call Sheffield our home, and provide an engaging and vibrant place to work for our team while also being an attractive business for talent to want to work in the city.”
Sheffield is home to circa 60,000 students, all carrying huge importance to the city. You could argue the city’s economy is reliant on their contribution and that their level of education and skill set means we should have a potential pool of talent on our doorstep.
It’s becoming more important we avoid a ‘brain-drain’ of talent and experience leaving Sheffield, with businesses needing to offer desirable roles in exciting, interesting work environments. This is something UniHomes endeavours to do.
As well as great opportunities for progression in a rapidly expanding company, the business model is focused around students, meaning that it’s well suited for roles to recent graduates.
Their new offices are built to Grade A standard, and interiors are designed to the highest state-of-the-art calibre with ample break-out spaces for the team to socialise (safely distanced right now of course).
“The past five years have been an incredible journey,” says Luca Mori, “from starting our UniHomes venture with the three of us around a dining room table, to welcoming our almost 50 strong workforce into our new state of the art office, we couldn’t be prouder of what our team have helped us to create.”
Brand Manager, Hannah Martin-Singh adds: “Since setting down roots in the business nine months ago, it’s been fantastic to experience the brand’s upward growth and we’re ecstatic about bringing even more letting agents on board. The company’s vibrant energy and attitude towards team members makes this without a doubt one of the best places to work in South Yorkshire”.
Last year UniHomes hit a major milestone when the business acquired shared accommodation utilities company Split The Bills in a strategic move with the two businesses offering a complementary business model.
A trusted name amongst its target market, the company takes the hassle out of paying bills for tenants in shared accommodation (not just students) removing the need for a ‘chief-bill payer’ or figuring out who owes what. All the household bills get bundled into one payment and shared equally between each tenant.
Phil added: “Our acquisition of Split The Bills is helping us expand our network as a business across the student market and become synonymous as the go-to accommodation portal for students.”
The two businesses combined have put UniHomes in an enviable position of dominating the competitive student accommodation market, and their impressive growth doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.