How landlords can help their rental property succeed

By Alice Umfreville, lettings manager, Nicolas Van Patrick

Lettings are encouragingly busy. September tends to see a rush of people doing quick moves but we were unsure as to what to expect this year because of the pandemic. However, on the positive side, there have been plenty of viewings and deals to be done. From what we are seeing, Covid – 19 has had far less of an impact on our market than Brexit – at least so far.

It’s not an easy market though, and it is price-sensitive. Valuing can be frustrating, now more than ever, but it is fairly predictable too – if we are asked to value a property, and we know the landlord is getting other agents in as well, without fail we can forecast which one(s) will be guilty of over-valuing. A good letting agent should not be over-valuing property at any time – and in this market, it is particularly unwise when there is so much uncertainty and so much property available. Doing so has a two-fold impact; it often takes longer to let and achieves lower rent levels than if the property were to come on at the correct price in the first instance. And it misguides applicants into thinking that every landlord will accept ridiculous price reductions because they’ve seen something at an over-inflated price and been advised the landlord is open to dramatic offers.

At Nicolas Van Patrick, we pride ourselves on being upfront with our clients as to what we think price-wise. We are able to back up our pricing so that tenants feel comfortable that they are paying the right amount. While we have seen more property come to market since lockdown measures eased, we have priced these accordingly. If any adjustments have been necessary on properties already on the market, then we have worked carefully with our clients to bring the rent levels in line.

When lockdown first took hold, we saw some tenancies come to an end as a fraction of international tenants repatriated whilst they were still able to. Many of the properties that returned to market were within the sub-£1,000 a week bracket. Generally, in the areas we cover, a large percentage of this market is dominated by international students – many of which have no plans to return to the UK. Having said that, in the last month we have arranged a number of tenancies for international tenants from Europe, Asia, and the Ukraine. Evidently, even with so much learning going online, many students would rather be in London so they still have some element of social life with their fellow students.  Interestingly the majority of these particular tenancies have been arranged through video viewings while the student has been preparing to return to London.

As we head towards winter, we may see new stock coming onto the rental market from resistant landlords. These tend to be homeowners who originally wanted to sell but because purchase prices may not be what they want to achieve, they will hold onto their property while they wait for values to improve – effectively allowing us to babysit the property with well-placed tenants.

Although there are lots of available rental properties, many are poor quality and we are certainly more selective than others when it comes to what we will bring to market. We tell landlords that not only is correct pricing vital, but if you haven’t done any work in the past three years, or two tenancies, then you probably need to and tenants expect it. It is highly likely that those looking at your property are also looking at scores of others so if it is not looking sharp, it won’t let. Landlords are often prepared to do work once they have a tenant lined up, and as part of the offer, but I would advise rather than waiting around they do the work in order to get the offer. It’s the wrong market to take the other view and we are always happy to give advice to anyone wondering how to get the best from their properties. Thankfully, most clients are taking this on board and spending on improvements in order to proactively help a property achieve the best price it can. Landlords can take comfort from the fact that if they get the property’s presentation and price right, there will always be a pool of people who need to rent.

Much has been said about the mass exodus from the city to the country in search of outdoor space. But when I ask tenants how important this is, most say it would be lovely to have but ultimately it wouldn’t deter them from a move. Being close to a park or green space is often enough but let’s face it, if you live in a city, useable outdoor space tends to be an anomaly, unless you have the luxury of a bigger budget. The reality is that the desire for a home office  is far higher up on people’s lists.

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