Estate agents ‘permanently apologising to tenants’ as families of 5 scramble for 1-bed flats amid rent crisis
Letting agents are having families of five apply for one-bedroom properties because they are so desperate to find somewhere to live, and viewings are being snapped up in a matter of minutes as the screw tightens on the rental market.
The rising price of rental homes that are new to the market has far outstripped inflation at 10.4 per cent year-on-year, according to data from property website Zoopla published earlier in the summer. It also showed that rents were taking up the highest proportion of earnings in a decade, at 28 per cent.
Renters are reporting queues out of houses on viewings and being forced to provide a wealthy guarantor – someone who will agree to step in financially if a tenant can’t pay rent – before they can submit an offer.
Below, two estate agents share their experiences of how bad the rental market has got.
Steven Bond, managing director at Beresfords Estate Agents in Essex:
“Once properties go on to the property websites we receive lots of enquiries within the day, and we tend to just go for five or six viewings. We don’t book them all in, because then you just end up with 20 viewings, 19 of whom are going to feel even more demoralised.
“Tenants are frustrated. There isn’t enough housing stock and we as agents can’t create more. Some people are desperate because their personal circumstances dictate that they’re going to be effectively homeless so it becomes very stressful for them. We really feel that pain.
“We do get some people bidding over the asking price but we discourage that. It’s a fierce market and we say to our landlords there’s every chance you end up in a bidding war, but the tenant who is willing to pay the most isn’t always the most suitable.
“At the moment, we are seeing families of four or five applying to live in one-bedroom flats, and you can’t have families in that sort of accommodation.
“When I’m asked how we could sort it, I say that the government needs to build more social housing. A lot of people that are forced to go to the private sector would qualify for social housing but there’s just not enough.
“Secondly, we need to encourage people to invest in the buy-to-let market. If you need more renting stock, then there needs to be encouragement to do that. I’d also introduce longer leases – perhaps something like a two-year lease, with six-month notice to leave.”
Patrick Bullick, owner and managing director at Stanley Property in London:
“If we put a property on Rightmove or Zoopla, within five minutes we’re getting phone calls.
“We’ve started putting them on the market on Sunday evening, then Monday morning we deal all the emails and phone calls that have come in. Then we have a block viewing and chances are we’ll get multiple offers. This is what we see for the one and two-bedoom flats – it’s not quite the same for bigger flats where there is a little less demand.
“The time it takes, from listing a new property to offers being accepted and everything sorted, can be about 48 hours, but that’s as we make sure to do everything properly. There are some poor practices going on in the industry at the moment though. I’ve heard of a young man asked to put a deposit down before an offer had been submitted, which is appalling. I’m sometimes ashamed to be an estate agent because of the reputation agents have, so we always try and do things well.
“We are seeing people bidding higher than what the flat is listed for, but this won’t be a continuous upwards trend. It can’t just keep going up and up and up.
“A one-bedroom flat in Chelsea [west London] is at £2,000 a month minimum and you can’t keep punching up forever. What is more likely to happen is people will move further and further out, forced out by the cost.
“We are permanently apologising to people at the moment, because there simply aren’t enough properties that suit what they need.
“We get groups of friends looking as a group and they need a property with a houses in multiple occupation licence for example, but there aren’t enough out there with this, so we have to say sorry, there’s nothing we can do.