Return of international students welcome news for investors

The impending return of international students will be welcome news to Sydney investors, particularly those with apartments near the city’s universities.

With most Sydney residents now vaccinated against COVID-19, the NSW Government has announced hundreds of international students will be permitted to return from as early as December, with tens of thousands to follow in 2022.

Century 21 Eastern Beaches Maroubra Principal Eleni Roumanous said the return of not only international students, but staff and medical professionals too, would be life changing for local investors.

“In our area, especially near the universities, we had a huge mass exodus when COVID-19 hit,” Ms Rounanous said.

“A lot of people simply got up and left.

“We were left with a lot of apartments that were fully furnished, but without tenants.”

Ms Rounanous said the suburbs of Randwick, Kingsford, Kensington and Maroubra were the most affected areas.

The resulting affordability in the region, prompted additional departures, with many residents able to move closer to the beach, further impacting vacancy rates.

Rental rates had also been affected, Ms Rounanous said.

“An apartment that was renting for $700 per week went down to $450,” she said.

“Even as leases ended, landlords were unable to raise rents for existing tenants either.”

The impact meant many landlords had to sell their apartments, Ms Roumanous lamented.

“It wasn’t just because of the students either,” she said.

“In our area, there’s also the racecourse, the hospital, so a lot of international doctors, and staff also left.

“We also lost a lot of nurses, hairdressers and hospitality staff.

“To see them return would mean everything for us.

“Everybody is just waiting. Everyone is on hold. A lot of owners are having to dip into their savings to subsidise their mortgages. So, there is a lot of pressure on them.

“As soon as those international students come back it’ll make the hugest difference.”

Of course, only time will tell what the real impact will be once international borders open, particularly given the uptake of online learning over the past two years.

“There’s still a whole lot of uncertainty,” Ms Roumanous said.

But it’s not just rising vacancy and investor hardship that resulted from the loss of international students, said Laing+Simmons Kingsford Principal Dean Efrossynis.

“The international student population is part of the identity of suburbs like Kingsford, Kensington and Randwick. It helps makes these great places to live,” Mr Efrossynis said.

“At a broader level, there have been signs that the gap in price growth between houses and apartments is closing.

“The return of students has the potential to tighten rental vacancy and lead to rental growth, which will likely add to the demand for well-located apartments and support prices even as the overall market cools slightly.

“For those markets in and around the major universities, which have traditionally serviced student populations, the uplift triggered by the return of international students has the potential to be significant.”

With the possibility of an influx on the horizon, Ms Rounanous said anyone looking at moving back to Sydney to study, should consider doing so before the end of the year.

“It would be smart for them to sign a lease before the influx, while prices are still low,” Ms Rounanous said.

“But hopefully it won’t be too much longer before everyone comes back.

“Once we know they’re coming back and everything is going as it should, we’ll be able to put this behind us, increase the rent and fill up the properties.”

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Nicole Madigan

Nicole Madigan is a freelance journalist for Elite Agent.