Norwich couple assisting in student homes development after success of retirement project

PUBLISHED: 06:00 30 August 2018 | UPDATED: 10:33 30 August 2018

David and Sarah Patay run the Heathfield Student Community Home in Norwich. Picture: Ian Burt

David and Sarah Patay run the Heathfield Student Community Home in Norwich. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant 2018

A retiree who left the London property industry for a quiet life in Norfolk has found himself back in the housing game.

As a retirement project David Patey used his knowledge of the student housing market to renovate and run a former care home as a “student community home”.

But the success of his project – which has 100% occupancy and a waiting list for its second year – has led another student property developer to request his help.

Mr Patey worked as the chief executive of a housing association in London specialising in student accommodation in the 1980s and 1990s, managing a portfolio of up to 1,500 student beds.

He and wife Sarah moved to Norfolk in 2005, where Mr Patey become a manager at a housing association based in Ditchingham.

The Heathfield Student Community Home in Norwich. Picture: Ian BurtThe Heathfield Student Community Home in Norwich. Picture: Ian Burt

To retain their student connection the couple volunteered to rent space in their home to international students through charity Host, which had volunteering landlords across East Anglia.

The turning point came in 2016, after the couple moved to Norwich. Mr Patey said: “We had a couple of Asian students to stay over a bank holiday and that went so well that I did some Googling to see if there was any suitable property available in Norwich.

“Although I had spent tens of millions of pounds doing other people’s student housing I had never done one on my own.”

The couple bought Heathfield, a disused Norse care home off Ketts Hill, at auction in late 2016 and spent £400,000 renovating it into a 44-bedroom student complex.

It opened in September 2017 and the couple partnered with the University of East Anglia to help with administration for its rental contracts, achieving 75% occupancy in its first year.

Now Mr Patey has been enlisted to help with another student accommodation development in Unthank Road – by the man who outbid him for the property.

“The guy who did buy it spent the best part of a year looking at various different options for the site,” Mr Patey said.

“They were interested to see what we had done at Heathfield so they came to visit us and by the time the visit had finished he had asked if I would project manage the refurbishment of his place to a similar standard. Having thought this was a little quiet retirement project I found myself doing the same again.”

Work is under way at the Unthank Road site on a 59-bedroom complex. The team hopes to have some accommodation ready for the new academic year.

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