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Under the skin of the letting market

Here we share news and views on both the local letting market in & around Oxfordshire and all planned and recent legislation.

A Smooth Sea Never Made a Skilled Sailor

Sometimes things can go wrong when letting property – it would be naïve to think it will be smooth sailing 100% of the time – but how you deal with these situations is the true measure of success. Our Abingdon team recently demonstrated their calm, decisive expertise when a tenant vacated a property without warning. The Property Manager and Letting Specialist – both based locally to the property – worked together to get the property back to standard, relist it and let it within a week.

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Diligence and flexibility are essential for success

Overall we have had a positive start to 2018, although across our eight offices it is apparent there is an overall air of caution in the market. We have been proactive in advising our clients on rent and presentation of their properties in the current market and we are still successfully letting homes across the county. As the Japanese proverb says, “The bamboo that bends is stronger than the oak that resists” and the most success has been achieved where landlords have been flexible to meet current demand.

Strong supply and indecisive demand

Stock has been pretty high across the board this quarter and this usually results in applicants taking longer to make a decision. Across our offices we’ve had reports of applicants wanting to view more than seven properties before making a decision. Despite this, we let more than 500 properties in the first quarter, which is down to accurate rent setting and careful applicant matching. For example, this photo below is a 4 bedroom barn conversion in Clanfield at £4,0001 which came to the market in January. We let it on the first viewing to a family who wanted to be close to Burford for their children’s schooling.

Location, location, location                

Never before has this saying been taken so literally by our applicants. Search requirements have changed from “I need to be inside the ring road” to “I can’t live here because it’s too far from the bus stop”. For example, a very high quality 1 bedroom apartment at £1,325 less than a mile from Carfax was rejected by one applicant for being too far out of the city (although it then let to an academic who was more than happy with the location). The photo below is a 3 bedroom detached house on one of the best roads in Headington (£1,800), which let in March – thanks to its great location – to a family moving from abroad.

Quality, quality, quality

With more supply and applicants’ stricter criteria it is more important than ever for landlords to ensure their property is of the highest standard in order to achieve the best possible rent. Our North Oxford team listed a brand new development of seven apartments in Kidlington (photo below) at the start of March. The development was acquired by our search and acquisition division, Inspired Investment, and bespoke-designed for the rental market. All apartments were professionally furnished to stand out, and six of them let within three weeks (the majority on the first viewing) thanks to the high standard, good location and correct pricing.

New developments

Overall, renewals have been broadly flat year on year, but where there have been new developments in areas of Oxfordshire we have seen a reduction in the number of tenants renewing (for example, our renewals were down 10% year on year in Bicester) and an increase in those surrendering their tenancies – fuelled by the abolition of stamp duty for first time buyers. The new developments continue across the county with more due for completion in 2018 in Chesterton, Bicester and East Oxford, which provide good buy-to-let opportunities.

Don’t rule out second-hand property

Inspired Investment has identified a recent trend of investors searching for property with a tenant in-situ. For example, one client was relocating from abroad to live in tied accommodation in London. With the money from their house sale they wanted to buy an investment property in Oxford. We helped them to acquire a 2 bedroom apartment which was being sold – with the tenant – by an existing client. The new owner is earning rental income from day one and the location is good for capital growth and future resale. If you are interested in similar opportunities call our team on 01865 302314.

Over-quote to win the business continues to trick landlords

In a busier market, the 1 bedroom apartments at the Westgate (photo above) could have achieved rents of around £1,500, however in the current climate we felt £1,350 was a more realistic level. We quickly let three of these apartments at the asking rent (and the tenants have already moved in). A quick look on Rightmove finds similar apartments still sitting on the market with other agents because they were priced too highly.

What has been letting best

Typical for Quarter 1: smaller properties have let well

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Don’t miss the summer letting wave

The peak time to let your property is between May and August. Get your property on the market now.

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Family-Fun Activities for the Easter Weekend 2018

With the long weekend ahead of us, it’s time to think about what activities are available for our families this Easter. Whether there is rain or shine, here are our favourite events coming up.

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Countdown to MEES: Will your property be lettable in April 2018?

The Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) were introduced in March 2015 with the aim of improving the energy efficiency of privately rented properties. From 1st April 2018 all buildings in England or Wales will need to have a rating of A-E on their Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) before they can be rented (this applies to new tenancies and renewals of tenancies) and from 1st April 2020 all existing tenancies will need to have a grade of A-E (there are limited exemptions, such as some listed buildings or very short lets). After these deadlines it will be unlawful to rent a property which breaches the requirement for a minimum E rating, which carries a penalty of up to £5,000.

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Feefo Trusted Service Awards 2018

Another year has come and gone, and we have received the Gold Trusted Service Award on Feefo’s fantastic platform for a second year. Thanks to the tenants and landlords who have given us positive feedback, we have achieved an average score of 4.5 stars while collecting at least 50 reviews over 2017.

With an exciting year ahead, our goal is to continuously foster our relationships with our landlords and tenants. Here are some examples where landlords have been able to describe our service, better than we could:

“Would thoroughly rate Finders Keepers – superb customer service.” –Ms. Cook, Bicester Office

“Professional, efficient, courteous yet friendly – experts in their field.” –Mrs. Colaco, East Oxford Office

“Design offers, overall design management, project management and ability to be very flexible and patient. Great company to work with.” –Mr. Lloyd, Bricks & Mortar Client

Click here to read more of our reviews!

Over £12,000 has been raised for Sobell House

Our team at Finders Keepers worked hard last year to raise money for Sobell House Hospice, their charity of the year 2017. Across our network of eight offices, the team ran, cycled, baked, gardened, marshalled car parks and manned bucket collections all with the aim of raising money for Sobell House or helping out by volunteering time. Even our landlords got involved, donating some of their rent for this fantastic local charity. At the end of the year of supporting Sobell House, we had raised an impressive £12,015.56 and donated 76 hours of time.

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