The London rental market – February 2021

With the UK in its third lockdown, the London rental market remains challenging. And while the property market is very much open for business, operating within strict Covid 19 regulations set by the government, demand from tenants is understandably weaker than usual and there is an oversupply of rental properties in London as most professionals are choosing to stay put in their existing homes – for now.

On a more positive note, we are seeing potential applicants spending a lot more time looking at our properties online although they are not yet ready to take their property search to the next stage. This of course is understandable but it is clear that professionals who are currently furloughed or simply reluctant to make a move right now, are making plans for later in the year when restrictions are eased.

Expanding our online property marketing

Already well known for our pro-active marketing campaigns, we have stepped up our marketing activities. We are investing further in Google and You Tube Ads, as well as carrying out digital advertising campaigns across social media platforms to ensure that our rental properties receive maximum exposure.

We are also actively targeting more corporate tenants and professionals (who are less likely to be furloughed), creating market update videos and location ‘walk throughs’ to make the process of viewing and renting a property much easier – these are currently our top performing content.

We’ve noticed that more applicants are searching our property listings in the evenings and so we have an automated appointment booking service that assists applicants out of hours so our teams can respond to enquiries first thing the following morning, arranging the required viewings immediately.

Some of our property viewings will be in person (adhering to all Covid 19 distancing and hygiene regulations), and some will be virtual tours while others could be by video link. Whichever method is chosen, clients can be assured that we have all bases covered and all our rental properties are receiving 100% attention, 24/7.

Typical tenant profiles are changing

While overall, rental enquiries are undoubtedly slower during lockdown, even now, there are significant ‘pockets’ of demand from certain sectors such as the many tech companies (including Facebook and Google) who continue to relocate staff to London.

And of course, demand is increasing from BNO Passport Holders from Hong Kong who are looking to move to London this year. Many of these are renting initially before they decide where to buy a property. We are also working with a number of oil and gas companies relocating staff to London.

However, around 30% of our usual business is made up of students and as their university education is now taking place online or is on hold until the next academic year, there are fewer students looking for homes at the moment. So flexibility and a willingness to negotiate are key to securing tenants while demand is generally weaker than usual.

Which types of rental property are in highest demand?

The type of rental properties that applicants are searching for is revealing and reflects our new, more home-based lifestyles. Professionals are prioritising more space (such as a second bedroom or study area), or better value for money – often both. The need for more space for those working from home means apartments with a second bedroom are very popular.

Another growing trend that landlords should note is the desire by many tenants to take out longer leases, to take advantage of the lower rents currently available. Clearly, it is beneficial for tenants to fix their rent for as long as possible while the market is subdued, but landlords must consider their own position.

The importance of presentation

With many brand new rental properties coming to the market in developments across London, competition to attract a tenant is strong so presentation is key, particularly for landlords who own older properties.

Landlords are competing with these high quality homes in new developments and professionals have come to expect showhome standards, now more than ever as applicants have their pick of properties across London. A top quality finish and best presentation are ‘musts’ for increasingly demanding professionals.

Refurbished property in South Kensington
The market has moved on dramatically over the last few months so now is the time to take a long, hard look at your rental property and decide if any refurbishment is required. Browse the website of a successful developer and see how your property compares to theirs. If it falls short, you’ll need to consider some redecoration and maybe a new kitchen and bathroom to make sure it offers a similar standard of accommodation.

With so many viewings now taking place remotely via video link, presenting well online is more important than ever.

Brand new developments are setting the bar high

Millbrook Park, a large scale scheme in Mill Hill, London NW7, is one of the developments currently attracting a lot of interest from renters. The development has high specification properties, with great community facilities and beautiful open parkland in one of London’s most popular boroughs. It’s a short Tube ride to central London from the adjacent Mill Hill East tube station so ideal whether you are working from home or commuting to the office.

We have a number of rental properties available here already and they are letting quickly.

Our new lettings branch at White City Living

Another very popular development is White City Living, a huge Berkeley scheme in Shepherds Bush, W12, where we have just opened up our new branch on-site handing lettings and sales. This luxurious residential development is popular with young professionals and has outstanding residents’ facilities – and of course it’s next door to Westfield London making it a top rental hotspot.

For a local market update from White City Living watch our latest vlog here

Looking ahead

The UK Covid 19 vaccine programme is rolling out quickly now and this will be a gamechanger in its effect on how Londoners live their lives. We anticipate a staged return to work after the summer for London’s professionals, with pent-up demand for new homes released and higher demand for London rental accommodation generally.

Of course, this is something we are all looking forward to and as we look ahead to busier times, if you have a vacant rental property that is currently sticking and you are unable to let, call your local Benham & Reeves branch who will be able to help with an accurate rental valuation in the current market as well as tips on how to ensure the property appeals to tenants.

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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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