Should You Invest in HMOs or PBSA?

When deciding where and how to invest in the real estate market, there are several avenues a potential investor can take. It helps to know which has the most market value and potential return. There are two significant sectors of multiple housing developments in the housing market which potential investors will need to choose between, HMO and PBSA.

What is an HMO and What is a PBSA?

In order to make the safest or most ideal investment, an investor will need to know the difference between the two. An HMO, or House of Multiple Occupancy – a property that has been rented out to more than three different residents’ who are not part of the same family but do share bathrooms or the kitchen. This is also sometimes called a house share. For this type of property, mandatory licensing has been recently introduced in most parts of the UK, with very strict healthy and safety regulations that need to be adhered to in order to obtain a HMO license. A breach of these regulations, or even letting an unlicensed HMO can result in a potential criminal conviction and severe fines.

A PBSA, or Purpose Built Student Accommodation, is used as a student housing scheme and is often comprised of an entire building which includes multiple flats used to house university students. PBSAs were often owned and invested in by large property developers and financial institutions until buy-to-let managers, property speculators, and private individuals saw the draw of keeping their money safe within a steady investment framework and gaining steady income off their investment. Developers also saw the draw of selling PBSA, which is now the UK’s most popular asset class, to individual buyers – allowing them to retain control of the management of the building. The reason PBSA has grown in popularity is largely due to the constant high demand and ever growing student numbers as traditionally the UK’s universities are seen as some of the top in the world – making PBSA an almost recession proof asset.

HMOs and PBSAs both come with difficulties that transcend investing in individual private property, though they may bring a more steady return and continued profit flow over time. Once an investor has decided to invest in HMO or PBSA, they must choose which is a better scheme in which to invest their capital based on what kind of return they are wanting and how hands-off an investment they are looking for.

Which to Invest in?

Depending on an investor’s style and long-term plan for their investment, they’ll need to analyse the pros and cons of the HMO versus the PBSA in order to plan in the long term. Both are viable options with their own sets of positive and negative aspects.

Pros and Cons to a PBSA

For the most lucrative option, PBSAs are growing ever more popular in the UK market with the possibility of a steady return and a relatively easy form of income. They’ve also become increasingly accessible to private individuals, drawing more diverse groups of investors in.

Most of these investors have either experienced leasing to private individuals previously or have hired a financial advisor to help them navigate the investment and potential return from a PBSA. If an investor who has never dealt with either decides to invest in a PBSA, they’ll have to plan for a significantly more lucrative, but also complex investment. Managing perhaps hundreds of individuals will also take quite a bit of skill, in addition to contract and license management.

PBSA has proven to have more of a monetary payoff than that of an HMO based on quantity, the return, and ease of individual investment, and can be a great source of income for the investor, and due to the demand far outstripping the supply (PBSA buildings can only house 25% of the student population), investors stand to profit far more than they can potentially lose.

The major downside to PBSA is that generally it is a cash only investment – meaning no mortgage finance is available. This can unfortunately rule out a number of investors with under £50,000 savings as prices are usually from £50,000 upwards.

Pros and Cons to an HMO

HMOs have a large stipulation for investors, which is the requirement of a license. Because HMOs are also a usual tactic in housing University students, they are similar to PBSAs in the need for regulation and the somewhat difficult aspect of managing, but actually require more headaches than a PBSA. Regulations on HMOs are only growing more troublesome.

Investors are heading toward more sustainable ways of housing students and building in general, which means already in use HMOs may need to rebuild to meet current regulations. Most investors project that the added regulations for the HMO market will lead to even steadier growth in the PBSA market, which stands to gain quite a bit of profit from an HMO downturn or drop in the market.

The other advantages of HMO’s is that unlike PBSA, they is mortgage finance available. Although mortgages now are becoming more specialist for HMO’s and lenders will want to see that a landlord or investor has experience owning rental property before they will agree to lend to them to purchase an HMO.

Invest Intelligently

Whether it’s a PBSA or HMO, investors still have the opportunity to gain a secure income. PBSA does have the larger draw to current and future investors in terms of the facts listed above. When deciding your next possible investment venture, it’s essential to research all possibilities before making the executive decision.

Get in Touch

To discuss student property investment, talk with us directly you can call us on  +44 (0) 2039507939 or send us an email at If this is your first time landing on Thirlmere Deacon Property Investments I encourage you to visit our homepage to read more about us and to see what we have on offer.

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