Is it really so easy to rent out your house at medal-winning prices during the Olympics?
Lena Corner reports on her struggle to turn her three-bed into a 2012 money-spinner.
It's now less than six months to go until the Olympics and the burning question on many Londoner's lips is: have you rented your property out yet? And if not, why not? According to some over-enthusiastic reports some of us in the capital are heading for a property "gold rush".
Rents on London homes, it is claimed, could be four- or five-times higher than normal. And the millions of visitors due this summer apparently come bearing fistfuls of cash clamouring to rent your house in Stratford, flat in Bow or one-bed apartment in Blackheath.
After all my attempts to get hold of tickets to the Games failed, I decide to have a go at cashing in on this gold rush.
I've got a slightly down-at-heel three-bed house in Stoke Newington, Hackney, an "Olympic borough", just four stops from the stadium. It's got ugly PVC front windows, no downstairs loo and a front door you have to kick to get open but, still, I thought it's worth a shot. When the man from Foxtons estate agents breezed in he took a quick look around and declared I could rent it for £3,250 a week. As I stood there greedily planning how I'd blow this windfall, he started filling me in on a few costs. Firstly they would take a massive 26 per cent of this amount in fees. They would also charge an additional £1,000 administration fee which I'd have to pay up front (this covers cleaning before and after and I'm not sure what else). I'd also have to get an Energy Performance Certificate which Foxtons could supply for £75. And on top of all that, I'd have to pay tax on the rental income too. All this before I'd even begun to think about the paperwork, the legal forms, the tidying away of my personal belongings and the shifting of my family to my mum's house. I began to wonder if it was going to be worth the effort.
Still he managed to coax me to sign on the dotted line and I thought if nothing else it would allow me gauge if the price was as pie in the sky as it sounded. The following week they sent around a photographer. "Did you forget I was coming?" she said, taking one look round the sitting room.
Then I heard about Accommodate London, the people who set up Tennis London, which successfully cornered the market in letting out people's homes in the Wimbledon area during the tennis fortnight. Joanna Doniger, who started it back in 1993 is an old pro and currently has 300 Olympic properties on her books and is charging a much more palatable 15 per cent in fees.
Doniger is much more downbeat about my prospects. She reckons I could possibly get £300 per night (£2,100 a week) for my house. "I think people are being pretty unrealistic about pricing," she says. "Half of London didn't get any Olympic tickets so they want to get out of town and rent their houses out. Plus we are in the middle of a recession – corporate companies aren't spending money on this sort of thing. Ultimately it could be a way of making a bit of money to go on holiday, but it's not going to buy you a car or change your life." The areas where properties are shifting, she tells me, are Canary Wharf, Isle of Dogs, Stratford and Victoria Park. "And there seems to be a market for bigger houses with say five to six bedrooms," she says. Doniger wouldn't even take my house on, she says, because of bad transport links (the nearest station, Dalston, is a 10 minute walk away). When I tell her there's also a bus which will get you to the stadium in 25 minutes she laughs. I try Knight Frank, which was quoted in the media as saying it was a "unique, exciting, buzzy time" for short Olympic lets. They have Sol Campbell's Chelsea townhouse on their books for £75,000 a week. Jemma Scott, head of residential corporate services, tells me she usually deals with people of a "high net worth", and from them she is receiving an overwhelming amount of enquiries. "The kind of properties we are dealing with are in Mayfair, Belgravia and Knightsbridge," she says.
"And for those the clients expect to turn up with a suitcase and receive the standards of a seven-star hotel." Not a shabby family home in Stokey then.
So I turn to the web. Rent for the Games (rentforthegames.com) is a Canadian company that was set up in 2006 prior to the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. "All the hotels have been booked up by the IOC and lack of accommodation was a real issue," says founder and CEO Martin Schoenberg. "We came along at the right time offering the right service."
Schoenberg and his team are now hoping to take their specialist Olympic knowledge and apply it to London and other Games following that. Schoenberg says a good ball-park rental figure is £1,000-£1,500 per bedroom, per week. Currently he has 100 properties available on the site and has already rented out more than 40, including a mansion in Wimbledon and a four-bed in Cambridge Heath for £3,500 a week. Time is on my side, he tells me. If their experience at Vancouver is anything to go by, things only really start hotting up four to five months before the Games actually start, so there's still time to get signed up.
It now seems there is quite a collection of people, in Hackney at least, who didn't get tickets and are now also looking to rent out their properties.
Kelly Stainton asked Next Move to come and give her a valuation on her four-bed house in Clapton.
"They told me that the demand is not yet proven and so are giving much more conservative estimates than have bandied around in the press," she says. "I'm not sure it's going to be worth the effort."
Another had interest from a prospective tenant who was coming from abroad and offered them her four-bed house for £4,000 per week, despite being quoted at £5,500 (Foxtons again). After a brief silence he came back with an email saying they had managed to find a hotel close to the Games site.
Perhaps London's dearth of hotel rooms has been exaggerated. It's estimated there are around 135,000 rooms within 50km of the Olympic Park. But that certainly doesn't account for where all those extra millions of visitors are planning to stay.
Right now one thing's for sure – it's not at my house. I've now put it on Gumtree, Craiglist and Crashpadder and heard not a peep out of any. It's been "heavily marketed" with Foxtons since November and the only contact I've had is a courtesy call to say I've had no offers. Perhaps we are being optimistic about prices.
Perhaps I should have tidied up for the photographer. Or perhaps I've just been a little bit too greedy.
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