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South Africans are making their living renting to students on

As the cost-of-living rises, many South Africans are looking for secondary sources of income to supplement their income. Property Wheel caught up with co-founders of, Alexandria Procter and Greg Ramsay-Keal to chat about how empty-nesters, guesthouse owners and ‘newbie’ property investors are using their platform to source long term student tenants to supplement their income.

Knowing the student market has helped Alexandria and Greg to explode onto the local property scene. They were both members of student government at the University of Cape Town, having spent their entire university career actively involved in student governance, societies, and entrepreneurship.

DigsConnect was started as an Excel spreadsheet linking students with landlords. Today it is the largest student housing platform on the African continent, allowing homeowners and property managers to upload their properties and for students to search and contact them directly.

The website registered its highest number of bookings in 2022 and the company is on track to triple this number for 2023’s intake according to Greg. “Our growth has been explosive. For the 2022 intake many of our members were totally overwhelmed by the sheer volume of requests they received through the platform. No doubt we require more property stock on the website to keep up with the ever-increasing demand from students on our platform”.

We have definitely seen an increase in enquiries from South Africans wanting to list bedrooms in their home to students to earn additional income,” notes Alexandria. DigsConnect has been especially appealing to landlords due to its competitive pricing, charging a 3.5% (excl. VAT) service fee on a successful placement only once the tenant is confirmed with zero upfront fees or costs. “Landlords see huge value in only paying for our service when they have successfully placed a student tenant, rather than paying a marketing cost for the exposure of their listing on other channels” says Greg.

One landlord Catherine has made her living from student accommodation by listing her properties with DigsConnect after running a guesthouse for many years. Having converted her property into student accommodation, she has never looked back. “I now have my monthly income. Students are there, and happyand I get my life back. I can now even go on a little holiday with my kids, which I haven’t been able to do in 15 years.”

Once registered on the platform, landlords are assigned a dedicated account manager reachable via a call or WhatsApp who provides them with tips to improve their listing performance while also ensuring that none of their leads fall through the cracks.

We have a dedicated team who can help you get set up on the platform and will guide you through the process. Simply start the ‘create listing’ process on the website and someone will be in contact on the same day to assist you,” says Greg.

Landlords receive comprehensive applicant information on the platform which allows them to pre-vet prospective student tenants including their personal information, the fee payer, their college or university, their desired lease duration, and their preferred move-in date. 

Landlords love that our platform gives them chat functionality where they get to know their prospective student tenant and their relevant information before sharing their personal info, arranging a viewing, or signing a lease. Landlords also love that our support team follow up with the student tenant throughout the process and guide them on the next steps, so that no communication is missed,” comments Greg.  

The yield that landlords achieve in letting to a student is far higher than in the open residential market,” comments Alexandria. “In many instances, a parent or guardian is paying the monthly rental to provide safe accommodation for their child, so this reduces the risk of non-payment. Many student tenants also provide a guaranteed ten-month contract making your property available over the sought-after holiday period when lucrative short-term rentals abound.”

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