PBSA vs HMO: Which Is The Best Student Accommodation For You?

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Embarking on your university journey brings a myriad of choices, and among the most pivotal is selecting the right student accommodation. In the vibrant landscape of UK universities, two options often take centre stage – Purpose-Built Student Accommodation (PBSA) and House in Multiple Occupation (HMO). As you navigate this crucial decision, understanding the distinctive features of each becomes paramount.

The journey of university life is not just about academic pursuits; it's about creating an environment that fosters growth, independence, and a sense of community. With PBSA and HMO as your potential homes away from home, let's delve into the details and discover which accommodation suits you best.

Defining PBSA and HMO

Purpose-Built Student Accommodation (PBSA)

Managed by private companies with a keen focus on student needs, Purpose-Built Student Accommodation (PBSAs) are designed exclusively for the university experience. These accommodations often boast fully-furnished living spaces, creating a hassle-free transition for students moving away from home.

In the realm of PBSA, convenience is key. These purpose-designed buildings offer more than just a place to sleep; they provide a comprehensive living experience. With communal spaces for socialising, study areas for focused academic pursuits, and additional perks such as gyms or cinemas, PBSAs cater to the diverse needs and preferences of today's students.

House in Multiple Occupation (HMO)

Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) presents a different facet of student living. In the UK, HMOs typically involve renting a private bedroom within a shared house. Privately owned and managed by landlords, HMOs accommodate multiple tenants, each having their own space while sharing communal areas like kitchens and bathrooms.

It's essential to note that the amenities and services in HMOs can differ significantly from one property to another, depending on the landlord's offerings.

Cost Considerations

PBSA: Balancing Convenience and Budget

PBSA, with its tailored services and comprehensive offerings, often comes with a higher price tag. The convenience of an all-inclusive package that covers rent, utilities, and various amenities appeals to those seeking a straightforward budgeting process. While the cost of PBSA may seem steep at first glance, it's crucial to weigh the benefits against the expenses.

One significant advantage of PBSA is the predictability of costs. With most expenses included in the overall rent, students can avoid unexpected financial surprises. PBSA providers often offer transparent pricing, making it easier for students to plan and manage their budgets effectively.

HMO: Navigating Affordability and Flexibility

HMOs generally present a more budget-friendly option for students mindful of their financial constraints. Renting a room within a shared house allows for a more flexible financial arrangement, with costs varying based on location, property condition, and included services.

However, the cost responsibility in HMOs is more distributed, with tenants individually managing bills such as utilities and internet. While this may offer more control over specific expenses, it also requires a heightened awareness of personal budgeting and financial planning.

As you assess your financial priorities, consider the balance between the convenience of an all-inclusive PBSA package and the potential cost savings associated with the more independent financial structure of an HMO. The right choice depends on your individual preferences, lifestyle, and, of course, your budget constraints.

Amenities and Services

PBSA: Elevating Student Living

PBSAs redefine the student living experience by offering a range of amenities and services designed to enhance both comfort and convenience.

  1. Fully Furnished Spaces: PBSAs come ready-to-live-in, alleviating the stress of furnishing your own space. From beds to desks and everything in between, these accommodations are thoughtfully equipped to meet your needs.
  2. Communal Spaces: PBSAs often feature shared communal areas where students can socialize, study, and relax. These spaces foster a sense of community, providing opportunities to connect with fellow students in a comfortable and engaging environment.
  3. Additional Amenities: Some PBSAs go above and beyond, offering extra perks such as on-site gyms, cinemas, or even rooftop terraces. These facilities contribute to a holistic student experience, promoting a healthy work-life balance.

HMO: A Personalised Approach

HMOs offer a different kind of student living experience:

  1. Shared Facilities: HMOs typically provide private bedrooms while sharing communal spaces like kitchens and bathrooms. This arrangement allows for a more communal living experience while still maintaining personal space.
  2. Varied Offerings: The amenities in HMOs can vary significantly depending on the landlord and property. Some HMOs may offer basic facilities, while others may include additional perks like a garden or a shared living room.
  3. Customisable Living: HMOs often allow for a more personalized living experience. You have the flexibility to choose a property that aligns with your preferences, and the communal nature of HMOs encourages collaboration in managing shared spaces.

Location and Accessibility

PBSA: Proximity to University Life

PBSAs are strategically positioned near universities, offering students the advantage of easy access to campus facilities and academic resources. This close proximity not only saves valuable time but also fosters a sense of community within the student population.

  1. Convenience: Living near the university means shorter commutes to classes, libraries, and other campus facilities. This can be particularly beneficial during exam periods or when you have early morning lectures.
  2. Local Amenities: PBSAs are often situated in areas with a bustling student scene, providing access to nearby amenities such as cafes, restaurants, and recreational spaces. This contributes to a vibrant and dynamic student lifestyle.
  3. Community Atmosphere: The concentrated presence of students in PBSA areas creates a community atmosphere. Engaging with peers becomes more accessible, and the overall university experience is enhanced by the shared journey with fellow students.

If the PBSA isn’t a stone’s throw away from your chosen uni, many providers will offer travel permits, either complementary or for a reduced price.

HMO: Varied Locations Based on Property Availability

In contrast, HMOs are scattered across different areas, and their locations depend on the availability of properties in specific areas. This diversity offers both advantages and considerations for prospective tenants.

  1. Neighbourhood Variability: HMOs can be found in various areas, each with its unique character. From quieter residential areas to bustling city centres, your choice of HMO location can influence your lifestyle and daily experiences.
  2. Commute Considerations: Depending on the location of your HMO, you may need to factor in commuting time to reach the university. While this might offer a quieter living environment, it could require a more intentional effort to engage with campus life.
  3. Local Charm: HMOs in residential areas often provide a more authentic local experience. Engaging with the community outside of the university can lead to diverse social interactions and exposure to different aspects of city life.

Social Experience

PBSA: Building Communities Within Walls

PBSAs are designed not only to provide a comfortable living space but also to cultivate a sense of community among residents.

  1. Organised Social Events: Many PBSAs organize regular social events, creating opportunities for residents to connect, make friends, and engage in a vibrant community. From themed parties to study groups, these events foster a lively and supportive atmosphere.
  2. Shared Spaces for Interaction: Communal lounges, study areas, and kitchens in PBSAs serve as hubs for spontaneous interactions. Whether you're collaborating on assignments or unwinding after a day of classes, these shared spaces encourage socializing among residents.
  3. In-House Support Systems: Living in a PBSA means being part of a community where support is readily available. From on-site staff to fellow students facing similar academic challenges, the built-in support systems enhance the overall student experience.

HMO: Crafting Personal Connections

HMO accommodations offer a more independent approach to socialising, relying on the dynamics among housemates to shape the social experience:

  1. Creating Your Social Circle: In HMOs, your immediate social circle is often determined by your housemates. This setting allows for a more intimate living experience, with the potential to build strong connections with a smaller group of individuals.
  2. Independence in Social Planning: Unlike PBSAs with organized events, HMOs give tenants the autonomy to plan and execute social activities based on their preferences. This flexibility can lead to a more customized social calendar aligned with your interests.
  3. Diverse Perspectives: Living with a diverse group of housemates exposes you to different backgrounds and perspectives. The shared living environment fosters a collaborative atmosphere, where you learn to navigate and appreciate individual differences.

Ultimately, the social experience in PBSA or HMO depends on your personality, preferences, and how you envision your university social life. Whether you thrive in a structured community setting or prefer the independence to shape your social interactions, both PBSA and HMO offer unique opportunities to create lasting connections during your university years.



  1. Convenient, all-inclusive packages.
  2. Proximity to university facilities.
  3. Comprehensive amenities and organized social events.


  1. Higher cost.
  2. Limited customization of living space.
  3. Potential for a more structured living environment.



  1. Generally more budget-friendly.
  2. Flexibility in location and property choice.
  3. Personalization of living space.


  1. Responsibility for individual bills.
  2. Varied amenities and services.
  3. Potentially less organized social environment.

In making your decision, consider the balance between cost, convenience, social experience, and personalization. Reflect on the lifestyle you envision during your time at university, and how each accommodation type aligns with your goals.

If you decide to go down the PBSA route, be sure to check out the student accommodation options we have available across the UK!

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