THE period of fear, uncertainty and stagnation in the aftermath of Lehman Brothers’ collapse is well and truly behind us – if you’re looking at the rentals market, that is. Prices in central London are at levels not seen since before the meltdown, according to property services firm LSL. Rents in London rose by 2 per cent during August and the average charge per month is now a steep £961, according to LSL. A recent survey by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors found that 26 per cent of surveyors were reporting an increase in demand for rental property.
Jo Eccles, of Sourcing Property, a buying agent, has seen doubling in rental clients over the past year. And lettings agent Tony Lam of LDG, a West End estate agent, says: “I have been working in the West End area for eight years and this is the busiest it has ever been. Factors that have made this year unique include the pent-up demand following the downturn; weak sterling attracting wealthy overseas students, and a desire for flexibility. Bankers in particular can be posted around the globe at a moment’s notice, so renting makes sense.”
Other factors include the decrease in the number of “accidental landlords” – thosewho ended up renting their properties instead of selling when the market crashed. Now that they’re selling again, rental stock is down. Demand from first-time buyers priced off the property ladder is a factor too.
What’s a tenant to do? Join the ranks of the savvy, of course. Prices are high, but gone are the days when tenants will stump up lots of money for little in return. Make sure the flat will be properly furnished when you move in. Don’t be afraid to ask for things: for example, a fresh lick of paint can often be added as part of the package.
Choose a good estate agent. Make sure they have a nice office, articulate staff and – preferably – recommendations. Know your rights, too: the legalities of taking up a rental property can be found online: the ARLA (Association of Rental Lettings Agents) website, www.arla.co.uk, is a good place to start.
And remember, with more than one offer likely to be on the table for desirable properties,
you’ll need to look your best. Be punctual, dress smartly, don’t smoke. The estate agent works for the landlord and will ultimately sway their choice if there are several offers.
If you’re an owner thinking of letting, remember that people have high standards. To get the best out of your property’s price potential, Ikea won’t cut it. “You’ve got to be prepared to spend some money, even if you think you’ve got the loveliest flat in the world,” says Lam. Finally, employ a well-regarded local landlord rather than a generalist, because they will be able to brief you best on what the local standards are for your target market.