The London rental market – April 2021

As we move into spring and, with the imminent easing of lockdown from April 12th, there is a more positive feel to the rental market in London. Across our 18 London lettings branches, we’ve seen a 19% increase in enquiries during the last 2 weeks of March from potential tenants. Even our newest branches in White City and Woolwich are reporting increased applicant registrations as people continue to firm up their return-to-work plans.

Many local renters are still looking to find a larger or higher specification home or one which offers better value. But we are also starting to see some international professionals making tentative enquiries about relocating to London in the Autumn when restrictions on international travel allow. Clearly, there is considerable pent-up demand from professionals who have endured a year of restrictions and are looking forward to a return to some sort of normality.

Over the last few months, with so much stock available, many applicants have been driving some hard bargains when they make an offer on a new apartment but they are now conscious that this time may be coming to an end as the market gradually becomes more competitive. So, offers on rental properties generally are starting to improve. With space at a premium, rents on larger apartments are holding up better now while demand for smaller studio apartments is more limited as they don’t offer the space that renters now need.

When it comes to UK residential property values, there is good news. Rightmove – the UK property portal – has just reported that the average price of property coming to the market has risen by 0.8% in March (+£2484) 2021 due to record demand from buyers. This is the strongest spring market for a decade, so if you are planning to expand your London buy-to-let portfolio over the next few months, then its worth looking at how the wider market is performing by reading the Rightmove House Price Index

So, at last there is a real sense of positivity in the air, but clearly the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have changed the way we live and work, certainly for the foreseeable future. But what does that mean for landlords and property investors in London?

What are London’s renters looking for in a home post pandemic?

Most of us recognise that we will continue to live alongside Covid 19 for some time and so to accommodate this we are all incorporating new ways of working and living into our everyday lives. Most professionals, who will be working from home at least part-time, are now looking for somewhere larger to rent, and as we look forward to the summer and better weather, some outside space such as a balcony is a must for many.

Another emerging trend is the changing importance of location. We recently undertook a study of applicant registrations which revealed that properties close to a London Tube station no longer holds the same priority status now that so many of us are working from home. Research by Find Out Now – a consumer portal – showed that 38% of respondents no longer find that living near a Tube station is important while 30% do not find it as important as before the pandemic. This shift in criteria is real food for thought for investors considering their next buy-to-let property purchase in London but let us not throw the baby out with the bath water here: a well located property near good transport connections is still very important, all this research shows, is a pattern shift in priorities.

Renting is now a lifestyle choice for many professionals

Professionals who require flexibility as they move regularly as their careers progress are the lifeblood of the corporate rental market, driving demand for high quality homes. And as international travel resumes over the next few months we expect demand to grow gradually and pick up in the Autumn.

While renting is a lifestyle choice for many of these professionals, not everyone cannot afford the mortgage required on a London property so buying is out of reach for them and this is likely to remain the case. Both these factors are driving demand for London rental properties and this is unlikely to change, so the recent dip in demand caused by Covid 19 is only temporary.

New-build apartments are maintaining their appeal for tenants

As always, new-build apartments are in highest demand thanks to their high specification finish and facilities. Residential developments such as Beaufort Park in Colindale (a favourite with renters for well over 10 years now) are attracting a lot of interest right now, particularly with BNO passport holders from Hong Kong where we’ve agreed lets with a number of new tenants recently who are moving in over the next few weeks.

In West London, the Green Quarter in the London Borough of Ealing is gaining popularity and newly completing apartments here are letting quickly. Asking rents start at £275 per week for a one bed or £320 for a two bed apartment. Our Dickens Yard Ealing and Kew Bridge branches are handling enquiries for this tastefully designed new development so if you own a rental property here please get in touch to organise a free rental appraisal.

Another popular new residential development is Filmworks, in the heart of Ealing, which is completing now. Again, we are receiving numerous enquiries from professionals’ keen to move here due to its historical media connections. Apartments are receiving waiting lists already even though tenants will not be able to move in for another two or three months.

There is also plenty of interest in rental properties at Nine Elms in Vauxhall where demand is picking up again. And our new branch at the hugely popular White City Living scheme opposite Westfield London has some excellent rental properties available but apartments are taking a little longer to rent here because of the current pandemic.

In Hampstead, we’re seeing a shortage of good rental properties (due to the lack of new build properties in the area) and those we have are letting quickly, as long as they are accurately priced. We are starting to see new instructions picking up too. Our Highgate branch is busy, handling enquiries for the new Clarendon development from St William in Haringey N8. Asking rents here start at £325 per week for a one bed apartment. As well as the high spec apartments and amenities (concierge, gym, pool, spa and sauna), this new development is just a stone’s throw from the beautiful Alexandra Palace and only six over ground stops from the tech hub of Kings Cross.

Impeccable presentation

With some professionals still furloughed and perhaps with more time on their hands than usual, many are looking at more properties online than usual, weighing up the pros and cons of each before deciding to view in person. So standards are high and competition strong.

And with so many properties to choose from now, more than ever, it is important to make sure your property looks its best and presents well online, particularly if you are competing with new-build properties nearby.

Call your local branch for a free rental valuation

If your own rental property is currently vacant, contact your local Benham & Reeves branch where are experienced staff can discuss the local market with you and arrange a free rental valuation. They can also advise on any steps you should take to enhance the presentation of your rental apartment.

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About the Author

For 35 years Anita has been the driving force behind Benham and Reeves’ success as it has grown from a single branch in Hampstead, to one of central London’s oldest, independently owned sales, letting and property management companies. Anita's vision has driven the expansion of the business to offer a complete range of property investment related services from under one roof, from purchase to handover, furnishings and/or refurbishment to lettings and property management. Read more about Anita Mehra here - Read full profile

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