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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.

“The cocktail belt”: Rural properties with easy access to cities are proving popular

Have you heard of The Cocktail Belt? Featured in this week’s Bricks and Mortar section of The Times, the term is used to describe an alternative to the commuter belt: clusters of villages where residents benefit from the country location but with a city’s cultural amenities nearby. Ideal for those who are still working from home (or working flexibly), the idea is they get more bang for their buck.

The Cotswolds featured in the article, with the well-known Daylesford Organic and Soho Farmhouse mentioned, and we are finding that west Oxfordshire villages are just as popular with tenants. Indeed, our Witney office has recently let three properties that would likely qualify as being in a ‘cocktail belt’:

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Rental Reform White Paper not published until 2022

The eagerly awaited Rental Reform White Paper will now not be published until 2022, The Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has said.

The Queen’s speech in May this year included a commitment by the Government’s for rental form and the White Paper was widely understood to be due to be issued this autumn. However, more time has now been provided to allow the contributors to develop policies, review the findings of the National Audit Office’s review of regulation of the sector and to engage with the sector to enable them to produce a “balanced package of reforms”.

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A summer of short supply and increasing rents

The unusual trends of the last 18 months has meant that quarter 3 (July, August and September) has not felt like a ‘typical’ summer in Oxfordshire’s letting market. Supply has continued to be an issue across all eight of our offices – and indeed the market as a whole. This has resulted in many properties letting off-market, on the first viewing, or at a higher rent than listed as applicants are eager to secure their next home.

A recent Zoopla report stated that rental demand is up 19% year-on-year while the total stock of rental property is down 13%1and this has very much felt the case in Oxfordshire. The end of the stamp duty holiday saw continued demand from sellers moving into rental property in order to push their sale through, and a return to the office (even part-time) has also influenced applicants who want space to work from home but also to be close to work. For example, a 1 bedroom apartment in a converted development listed at £9002 which let quickly due to its proximity to the Oxford Science Park (main photo). We have also seen an increase in relocation agents searching on behalf of those who had been working from home (abroad) for a UK company, who are now required to be in the UK office at least some of the time.

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Thinking about letting to tenants with a pet?

Demand for pet-friendly rental properties has increased 120% compared to last summer, according to a recent report from Rightmove. Although there is no legal obligation for landlords to accept a pet when letting their property, there is a requirement to provide a valid reason for turning down the request. It is not suitable for all properties, and we advise our landlords on a case-by-case basis, but there are certainly benefits to considering allowing pets in your rental property and there are ways in which you can protect your asset.

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Failed Sale Successfully Lets

Last year’s stamp duty holiday unquestionably powered the sales market as both buyers and sellers tried to benefit from the Chancellor’s discount. Across Oxfordshire, some landlords took the opportunity to try to sell their investment property while the sales market was hot. Some properties sold to home owners, others sold to investors and returned to the rental market, but we have also started to see properties which have failed to sell coming back to the rental market. Our Central Oxford team has a recent example which they re-let within an hour of being reinstructed.

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Upgrade to increase rental potential

“There are three things that matter in property: location, location, location.” We have all heard this saying, and whilst location is undeniably important when it comes to property, it is not the only significant factor for rental properties. The condition of the property is also very important in determining how appealing your property will be to tenants and will therefore impact the rental amount.

We were contacted by an investor landlord who had recently acquired a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom apartment in a popular North Oxford development, which was in need of renovation. The owner lived abroad, so they were looking for an agency to manage the whole process for them.

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A strong rental market as housing demand remains high

The story of Oxfordshire’s rental market in quarter 2 (April, May and June) has to be one of an imbalance of supply and demand. Rental demand is the highest it has been for years (graph below) while supply has struggled to keep up. In fact, it is so strong that some properties are inundated with enquiries almost as soon as they are marketed. For example, a 3-bedroom house in Little Minster (main photo) was listed at £2,5001 and within a few hours three enquiries were received from applicants wanting to apply without physically viewing it. This disparity has an impact on applicant decisiveness, rent levels and tenants renewing, as observed by our offices across Oxfordshire.

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