Is Renting The New Buying?
CREATED IN PARTNERSHIP WITH SAVILLS
With this is mind, we asked Savills’ head of Super Prime Lettings Isabella Birch Reynardson to give us the low-down on all-things lettings. Whether you’re looking to rent while doing up your own home or like to lead a transitory lifestyle, this is the guide for you…
What are the benefits of renting?
Aside from the benefit of not having to pay sizeable SDLT (stamp duty land tax) on a sales transaction, renting a property comes with many benefits. Renting is quick, easy and you can have a bit of fun experimenting with where, how and who you live with. We’ve also seen our tenants become increasingly transient in the way they conduct their lives, making a rented 'lock and leave' in London a real convenience. Renting a property is also attractive as it alleviates tenants from the responsibility of completely maintaining a house and dealing with issues such as routine external redecoration or works to the roof.
Buying a property is usually mooted as a financially sounder option than renting. Is this still the case?
I think it depends on the individual. In my market, we see a lot people in London for three-to-five-year stints where their rent over this time can equate to the level of SDLT they would be paying on an acquisition. Based on this, it often makes financial sense to simply rent and hand a property back when it’s time to move on.
Where are the areas you’ll save money if you rent rather than buy?
Maintenance! We’ve seen an influx of high-end new-build properties in the last few years but London has a variety of historic properties, from townhouses and lateral flats to redeveloped mews houses. Despite the renovations, these ‘older’ properties come with high levels of necessary maintenance and this can be costly. Additionally, the surge in the amount of technology, swimming pools and lifts means the annual cost of running a property of this calibre are high. When it comes to new-build units, service charges can be high, however this charge falls to the landlord for the duration of a tenancy so that can be a real area of cost saving for tenants.
What’s the best way to find lovely homes to rent long term?
I am particularly old school so I would say to get in touch with an agent, chat or meet with them where possible and really dig deep on what you’re after. Let them understand how you live your life – do you entertain a lot or eat out? Do you like to walk your kids to school or do you drive everywhere? These are key questions that allow an agent to build a picture and subsequently seek out what you’re after. I would also add that starting early is key. It can be tricky as if the timeframe doesn’t match up, you can lose something, but it’s good to get the lay of the land and understand the market before ‘pulling the trigger’ on something.
What should you be looking for when you view a rental property?
I always say to our applicants that a property is usually reflective of the owner. Given the fact that a tenancy means an ongoing relationship (whether managed by a landlord or an agent), it’s key to know that you’re dealing with someone who is ‘on the case’ and takes pride in their properties. The overall presentation really is key. I would add that it’s important to not just look but touch what you’re viewing. Check the quality is to your liking, that there is nothing hidden away and always ask your agent if there is anything that you should know. Lastly all landlords and agents should be open about any changes in the local area – be it infrastructure or neighbouring building works. With London the scale it is, it’s fairly inevitable that something will be going on and having knowledge on this is important.
How much of a personal stamp can you put on rented accommodation?
I think it depends, again, on the owner and the tenant. The historic rules are that changes can be made, subject to approval and making good before your tenancy expires. I would add that installing art collections has been a real trend this year, which can make such a difference to a property. Other items such as switching smaller, soft furnishings such as throws and cushions can also add colour and personality to a space. These are so easy to add – and then remove – without any costs of rectifying more permanent changes that you’ve made, such as painting the walls a bold colour.
What extras are landlords and developers starting to offer tenants to enhance their living experience?
Lifestyle services have been a real trend over the last couple of years and tenants really take to this. These can include concierge, off-street parking or interior design. I would add that functionality is key for rented property – and it’s always been my belief that while a buyer can just fall in love with a space and make it work – in the world of lettings, a property needs to serve its purpose. Convenience, security and aesthetic are hugely important. In the last few years, we’ve seen a sharp increase in the number of properties offered on a furnished basis, often interior designed, dressed or styled. This offers any incoming tenants the benefit of high calibre, easy living.
Talk us through the logistics of renting out a London home while moving to a larger home, further out.
If you’re considering this, I’d get the lay of the land for your onward move. I always think it’s best to get going with sourcing a tenant before making any onward offers. Don’t forget to be upfront with your London agent and the new tenants in the negotiations so they understand the circumstances. I am a firm believer that if either side knows what each other’s plans are, people can be helpful to each other and understanding if timelines shift, which can of course happen. It’s key to remember that renting a property is a personal transaction so remember that you’re dealing with someone else and their own logistics at the other end.
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