For many of the UK’s renters, it’s been a long year. COVID has kept us all locked indoors, nowhere to go and nobody to see. For those of us renting homes without gardens or outdoor space, this time has been especially difficult to endure.
Throughout this period, many tenants have hoped to move into bigger, more spacious, or simply more lockdown-appropriate rentals, but the market has made it very difficult to do so.
The first concern has been safety – thousands of renters have thought it best to avoid getting involved in the home moving process when such a deadly virus is circling around us. This has kept many of us away from the market.
Second, there’s the confusing issue of value for money and price. If you rent in London and have been looking to find a new home in the same city, throughout much of COVID it was, financially speaking, a good time to move. So many people have escaped the city that a lot of London landlords have been forced to drop their rent values in order to find new tenants.
Elsewhere in the country, however, and mainly outside of the major cities, rent values have been rising quickly instead of dropping. For tenants living in these areas, demand for spacious rental properties with outdoor space has been going up and up.
So what about renting in summer 2021?
Now that it appears we’re approaching the hopeful end of the COVID-19 pandemic, is it a good time for frustrated and cooped-up renters to find a new home?
With many of us already vaccinated and the number of COVID infections dropping up and down the UK, it does finally feel safe to get out and start viewing potential new homes but, because of this, demand on the rental market is about to go nuclear.
According to Nationwide, 40% of UK tenants are planning to move home now that COVID restrictions have eased in what the building society is calling a ‘mini boom’ for the private rental market.
Nationwide has said:
“Research we conducted in April showed that the pandemic had prompted more than a quarter of people (29%) to move or consider moving home.
“Looking across tenure types, tenants in the private rented sector were most likely to be moving or considering a move, at 40% of those surveyed, compared with 32% of those owning their home with a mortgage and 20% of those who owned their home outright.”
Rental market copies sales boom
If Nationwide’s prediction is correct, it means that the UK’s private rental market is about to experience a similar boom to that which we’ve seen in the sales market over the past year.
For many renters, this could be seen as bad news: more demand on the market means that landlords can charge more for their properties, safe in the knowledge that someone will be willing to pay the inflated rent value. With 40% of the market actively looking to move, competition for homes will likely go through the roof.
However, with many city workers moving away from the big cities due to an increase in remote working and the death of the traditional office, summer 2021 should still be an affordable time for urban renters to move.
Furthermore, some experts say that so many young people are now buying their first homes (thanks to government initiatives like the stamp duty holiday and 95% mortgages) that rental values should stay more or less steady despite a surge in demand. In other words, enough people will be leaving the rental market to create room for the new people entering the rental market.
All of these ifs and maybes have caused the BBC to label the UK rental market as ‘unusually uncertain’. For example, rent costs for flats and terraced houses may well drop as people desire more space from their rented homes, while demand, and therefore price, of detached and semi-detached homes will skyrocket.
It could be argued that the current uncertainty around the rental market is simply a reflection of broader uncertainties created by the pandemic, including widespread uncertainty surrounding job security. This has led some commentators to call for a new, more flexible way of thinking when it comes to renting.
Chris Norris, Policy Director for the National Residential Landlords Association, has said:
“As we emerge from the lockdown an agile and flexible rental sector is more important than ever as tenants seek to move and many people become more reluctant to make major purchases until future employment prospects become clearer.”
So, is Summer 2021 a good time to think about moving into a new rented home?
In short, yes, it’s definitely worth looking into moving. Depending on what part of the country you’re interested in and what type of home you’re looking for, you might find some great deals and be able to sign a cheap tenancy agreement which will give you reduced rent for the coming 18-24 months (If you’re happy to stay put for a couple of years, this is a fantastic time to sign a long-term tenancy agreement just so long as you can get your landlord to promise the rent will stay the same throughout the tenancy).
However, with competition for rented homes set to be very high in certain regions, you’ll need to strike a balance between acting quickly and decisively while also making sure not to panic in the face of strong competition and end up signing a contract for a home you’re not 100% keen on.
If you dip a toe in the water and find no homes on the market which excite you, don’t feel pressured to move for the sake of it.
There is likely going to be a narrative in the media that the rental market is ‘frantic’ and ‘fast moving’ and this might cause you to think, if I don’t move now, I’m going to miss out. This simply isn’t true – you can sit and wait for three or four months as the country recovers from a year of lockdown and, by keeping one eye on the market, pounce when the right property comes along.