How can renters looking for a new home give themselves a head start right now?

As renters are being squeezed by strong competition and rising rents, Vicky Shaw finds out what they can do to help get ahead.

Vicky Shaw
Friday 11 August 2023 08:15 BST
It’s a tough market for renters right now (Alamy/PA)
It’s a tough market for renters right now (Alamy/PA)

Competition for rental homes is fierce right now, with multiple tenants chasing properties on the market.

Recent analysis from Rightmove found that property agents were receiving 20 inquiries in May 2023 to view each rental home on average – a surge from 2019 figures, when the average was six per property.

Rents have also risen sharply, with landlords facing their own increased costs from mortgage rate hikes. According to estate agent Hamptons, the average rent on a newly-let property in Britain rose to a record high of £1,273 per month in June.

So, in such a difficult market, how can tenants searching for a home put themselves in the best position possible? Tim Bannister, a property expert at Rightmove, believes there are some steps tenants can take to improve their chances – including being well prepared from the start.

Tenants need to make sure they are really organised in sorting out their necessary documentation, getting their finances in order, and sorting their references quickly,” suggests Bannister. “Being really clear about your requirements, for example when you could move into a property, how long you anticipate staying in the property, and who you plan to move in with, can help agents keep you in mind for the right properties.”

Signing up to property alerts can also help tenants to get ahead, he says, as this means they will be notified as soon as a property comes onto the market – so if they spot one that fits the bill, they can try to organise a viewing as soon as possible.

Getting to know the local letting agents in your area could also help improve your chances when a suitable property comes up. Plus, speaking to your bank may not seem like an obvious thing to do, but for some tenants it could help.

“Firstly, if you’re in a tough spot and not sure where to turn for help, speaking to your bank is a good place to start,” says Claire Shaw, a societal impact manager at first direct. “This could be for a range of reasons, including if you have issues in your current tenancy, if you’re struggling to raise a deposit or generally in a difficult position financially.

“First direct has a partnership with Shelter that is geared towards supporting renters who need legal advice, as well as a trained team of money coaches that can help provide practical financial tips and guidance,” Shaw adds. “Most banks will also work with a network of external partners that they can refer you to for extra support.”

If you are struggling to raise a deposit, for example, Shaw suggests your bank may be able to offer support: “If you’re looking for help around saving a lump sum, this is also something your bank can support with, including choosing the best saving account and putting together a plan of action to achieve your saving goals.”

And if you’re really struggling with your finances, your bank might also be able to look at alternative solutions or signpost to external support. Shaw adds: “In terms of managing the steep competition for properties, there’s some straightforward steps people can take to get an advantage.

“Firstly, get a thorough understanding of all the required info you may need in advance of the viewing – including whether you might require a guarantor, the value of the deposit needed, council tax band info, EPC (energy performance certificate) rating and anything else that might influence your decision. This will avoid you wasting time viewing unsuitable properties.

“Equally, get an understanding of all the details the landlord or agency will need from you, so you can act fast if you want to apply. Ensure your references are sorted in advance, that you have proof of earnings should you need it, and that you can pay any admin fees quickly to secure the property.”

For now, at least, it looks as though tenants will continue to face tough competition.

Adam Fairweather, a regional lettings director at Hamptons, says applicant figures “are still eye-wateringly high”, adding that, in the past some tenants would have had offers agreed “without hesitation by landlords who would be very happy with the prospective tenant profile”.

He points out that pressures on rental demand vary across the whole market, adding: “There is more choice at the highest budget ranges but this prime part of the market is terms of transaction volumes is naturally small.”

The “mid and entry level” parts of the market face the greatest pressures, Fairweather believes. He adds: “We work really hard to help the prospective tenants looking for this type of property, knowing how tough this must be for them.”

But while profits for landlords are important, they will also want to make sure they have the right person living in their property. As Fairweather says: “Good landlords know that a great tenant is sometimes not the one that had the deepest pockets.”

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