There is no doubt that doom and gloom about the property market – including buy to let – is rife at the moment, including speculation about property prices falling dramatically and landlords selling up in droves.
However, according to Leaders – one of the UK’s largest independently owned letting specialists which has 34 offices across the South East – it is important to look at the facts and figures on a local rather than national level in order to get an accurate picture of the market and how it affects you.
Says Leaders’ Managing Director, Paul Weller: “The problem with looking at averages and trends is they don’t reflect a true picture of what is happening in specific locations. For example, the latest quarterly report from ARLA shows letting agents reporting an average slight fall in rents in the South East, yet we have seen an average rent rise of 1.5% over the 3 months to March 2008 across the towns and cities we cover. Within this increase there have been a number of particular hotspots where rents have risen by up to 2.5%, including areas in Surrey, Sussex and Hampshire.
“In any given period of time, rents on some property types may be falling in some areas because of oversupply, whilst other property types may be in greater demand and show significant rent increases. These details are never reflected in average figures, which is why you need to speak to a local specialist who knows your market inside out – what is most in demand in which areas; how best to present it; and what its realistic rental value is.”
The areas in which Leaders operate have all been chosen for the potential of their letting market. For tenants, the same circumstances prevail today as over the last ten years: they still want and need accommodation in the right location, of good quality and at the right price. In fact rental demand is at an all time high across the South East. This shows no sign of abating, particularly as first time buyers are finding it almost impossible to get a mortgage in the current climate. And even those who can afford to buy are choosing to rent while they wait to see what happens to house prices.
Leaders believe that the outlook for the vast majority of landlords in the areas they cover is very positive provided they took accurate professional advice before buying their property. This view is reflected by landlords themselves, with nine out of ten in ARLA’s most recent landlord survey stating they have no intention of selling their properties for nearly 17 years. Four out of ten expected to invest further in the Private Rented Sector this year.
Says Paul: “Rental market conditions in our areas are currently favourable for existing and new investors and we are pleased to be able to give out an optimistic message in the midst of all the negativity. The slowing sales market is increasing both rental demand and opportunities for purchasing properties at good prices. But, as always, we would advise investors to be as well informed as they possibly can.
“Without expert independent guidance you are at risk of misjudging the market or missing an opportunity. In our experience, getting inaccurate or no advice before investing is the most common reason why landlords get into difficulties; and it is from the unfortunate experiences of these landlords that much of the current negativity about the buy to let market has been generated.
“This happens particularly when landlords take lettings advice from the same agent selling them the property; they are not independent and may overestimate the property’s rental value and/or demand to gain a sale. Over the 25 years we have been in business we have seen this happen time and again, despite our continual warnings to landlords to ensure the advice they rely on is from an independent lettings specialist.
It is also invaluable to choose a letting specialist with offices in a number of areas because they will have an insight into regional variations and hotspots that an agent specialising in just one area will not have.”
Established in 1983, Leaders has 34 branches and is a fully bonded member of ARLA. The company has built its reputation on providing a friendly, reliable and professional service and as a result remains the first choice for thousands of landlords and tenants across Sussex, Surrey, Berkshire, Hampshire and Dorset. For more information please visit www.leaders.co.uk