Categories
Future of Property

Why we became the world’s first property platform to show air quality data

This week, we released a comprehensive update to the SearchSmartly platform. Amongst the many improvements that we’re very excited about, one is particularly important to us.

Our mission at SearchSmartly is to empower our users to find the best homes for their unique needs. Transparency through data, technology, and trust is how we deliver on that promise. We know that in the stress and time that property search consumes, it’s easy to miss out on things that do matter. Which brings us to air quality.

In the UK alone, 34,000 people die prematurely because of air pollution. It’s one of the greatest – yet most silent – threats to our society. This problem is particularly grave in metropolitan areas like London, our home city. Secular trends will only make this issue worse: according to the UN, a further 13% of the world’s population will migrate into cities by 2050. It doesn’t take much to recognise that this will result in more congestion, illness and death.

The path ahead

There is light at the end of the tunnel. COVID-19 provides us with a generational opportunity to embrace a modal shift towards active travel. Our own user data shows a 77% increase in willingness for Londoners to cycle to work. Cities are doing more to ban cars from the centre of cities. There is progress. But it isn’t enough. More transparency is needed to empower people to make holistic decisions for a better, healthier life. Knowing the air you and your family breathe around your home is an important step in this journey.

We are proud to be the first property search platform that not only leads with the user’s lifestyle needs in mind, but also their complete wellbeing. With the inclusion of air pollution data in our search results, we continue in our efforts to help our users to find the right place to call home.

This is one step. There’s still a long way to go!

Categories
Agents

Property in the post-COVID world

For the property industry, COVID-19 has brought about a host of unprecedented challenges; changes that will be felt by all stakeholders.

We at SearchSmartly believe that what will emerge is an industry that is more technically-savvy, customer-centric and thoughtful in its approach to the wellbeing and living of society. The depth of these changes is likely to be strongly affected by how long this crisis, and its associated economic impacts, truly lasts. This will be led by changes around repayments and new ways of doing business driven by entrepreneurial, energetic estate agents who aim to out-perform the status quo of a pre-crisis industry.

Empathetic approaches to repayment

From the onset, unemployed and furloughed staff will likely be disrupted with rent and mortgage payment issues. With an estimated 9 million people affected, this strain will ultimately force landlords and agents to adopt more flexible means of re-payment. The government’s introduction of payment holidays will likely lay the foundations to this. Supported further by the protection of consumer credit scores – which can strongly impact an individual’s financial wellbeing – we believe this will encourage banks and mortgage providers to adopt a more thoughtful, inclusive approach to consumer protection. In doing so, more flexible payment agreements could become commonplace in the future.

New technology to enable new business

With the inability to provide physical property viewings, agents have quickly had to adapt to providing video viewings to customers. Although not an entirely new concept, video viewings will likely become more of a norm within the property industry as social distancing enforcements and temporary restrictions on movement adds to its adoption. This could very well be the tipping point in which technology becomes readily adopted in increasing proportions within the industry. As consumer demands begin to shift and fragment, the best agents will adapt in the delivery of their customer service.

Remote-working becoming the norm

In a Post-COVID world, remote-working will likely become more commonplace in a professional setting. As a result, what we could begin to see in the long-term is the growth of community-first relocation. With less emphasis on a daily commute into work, consumers will make decisions about where they live based on factors that matter to them: proximity to loved ones, nearer to green spaces, access to great cycling paths etc. No longer will commuting become a leading factor in a customer’s relocation efforts. 

Ultimately, the grey skies set upon us all in the industry will clear. Beyond the clouds will emerge a landscape in which the property experience for consumers will adapt to changing needs, and the estate agency world will adapt to new business realities in a post-COVID world. 

Categories
Property Advice

COVID-19: Tenancy Deposit Guide

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect us all, many tenants, letting agents and landlords may be in the dark around issues concerning their tenancy at various stages. As a result, we’ve decided to shed some light on this for our users and those who may seek value in it. 

Thanks to our friends over at the Tenancy Deposit Scheme for providing their expert, impartial advice. 

Pre-Tenancy

I am a tenant who is about to move-in without a check-in/inventory run, how can I best deal with this?

  • Without the ability to have a re-move inventory or clean, we advise tenants to work with landlords to have a written record of issues on photo/video so that it is not held against you on checkout. We advise that all correspondence is done via email to maintain a trail for future reference. 

I am signing a tenancy agreement for a future date but am currently out of work so unable to afford a deposit, what can I do?

  • If you are unable to currently afford a deposit, you can work with the landlord to agree to pay the deposit at a later date. Alternatively, it may be possible to pay the deposit in instalments with the landlord having to protect the deposit for 30 days within receiving it. 

Mid-Tenancy

I am unable to pay this month’s rent, can this be taken away from my deposit instead?

  • Unfortunately in this instance, it would not be possible to use your deposit against any rent due until the end-of-tenancy process. 
  • According to the law, it is only possible to use your deposit against your rent once a record of rent payments have taken place, after which any outstanding unpaid rent would be able to come out of your deposit.

I have lost my job, what does this mean for my tenancy?

  • Should this unfortunate event occur, you  should work together with your landlord to establish a rent reduction or an affordable repayment plan. 
  • Under the government guidelines, the landlord is unable to use your deposit for the rent. It is only possible to use the deposit to pay arrears once the tenancy agreement has come to an end. 

I am a student who is about to leave a rented property, do I have to pay rent?

  • You will have to pay rent if you are still under contractual obligation. The only time this is not needed is if you reach an agreement with the landlord that it is no longer due, or to end the tenancy early with no further obligation to financially cover the remainder of the tenancy agreement. 

Post-Tenancy

My tenancy is about to end during self-isolation

  • During this period, landlords and agents are expected to work alongside tenants to navigate through these problems. A suggestion includes:
    • Tenants doing a video call and a virtual walk-around

My tenants are moving-out during self-isolation

  • During the pandemic, it may be more sensible to give a maximum of 4 weeks from the end of tenancy date for the delivery of a check-out report.
  • Landlords and agents are advised to maintain an email trail advising the tenant that a check-out inspection will be unable to take place immediately, therefore delaying the return of their deposit. 

My tenancy agreement ends during isolation, how do I best navigate this?

  • Normally, a check-out report should be completed as close to the tenancy date as possible, and to avoid any doubts about cleaning or damage being caused by anyone other than the tenant (for example, contractors or prospective tenants). During the pandemic, it may be more sensible to give more time (up to 4 weeks from the end of tenancy date) for the delivery of a check-out report in order for any traces of the virus to die out before the check-out is conducted. However, this will delay the return of your deposit, and may make it difficult to ascertain the source of any damage found on check-out.
  • For this reason, we suggest that tenants offer a thorough video walk-around of the property as close to the end of the tenancy as possible to provide documentation of the state of the property on checkout, and to expedite the return of your deposit.

Categories
Uncategorized

How to record the perfect video viewing

Thanks to improvements in technology and the increasing popularity of video, property walkthroughs have become a popular way for prospective renters and buyers to learn more about a property before deciding to rent or buy it. Unfortunately, it isn’t always possible for estate agents to gain access to a property in order to record a video viewing, so existing tenants and homeowners can sometimes be asked to record these tours themselves.  

To help make you capture a great video viewing the first time around, the team here at SearchSmartly have put five simple tips to follow:

Start with a quick tidy

Before shooting, spend a few minutes to ensure the spaces are as tidy as possible with minimal clutter. This will help provide an accurate representation of the property and floor space. 

Open the curtains for lighting

Ensuring your property is well-lit can have a great impact on the quality of video, so keep your curtains open! The best time of day to shoot is in the afternoon, when the natural lighting will help to show a true representation of the property with clearly captured footage. If any rooms do not have access to natural lighting, such as the bathrooms, make sure you turn on the lights as you step into the room. Your smartphone’s flashlight should only be used as an absolute last resort.

Watch your camera angles

In order to provide an accurate and authentic perspective, videos should be shot with the phone held vertically at shoulder height. If you hold the phone too high, it will make the room look much smaller than it really is. Similarly, if you hold the phone too low, things will look larger than they really are. Finally, make sure your phone is zoomed as far out as possible, using a ‘wide angle’ setting if your phone has one.

Keep things slow and steady

When shooting video it’s important to maintain a steady hand, and walk through the property at a consistent and deliberate speed. This will provide a smooth recording that will allow viewers to see all the details they need. When turning around, try and keep your movements slow and deliberate, too. Finally, rather than zooming digitally, take a couple of steps towards the item you want to show. 

Details matter

When shooting, it is important to remember that the viewer won’t be in the room. Be conscious of this and try to capture as much footage in one shooting. Features such as storage, dishwasher, washing machine, and boilers are all important to viewers, so make sure you capture them on your tour! Explore storage spaces by opening them and showing how much space they offer. As an extra bonus, turn on the taps to show water pressure, and maybe even provide a short narration of each room you are walking into.

Need more help?
Here’s an example of a recent video your conducted by our team for a client. You can use this as an example of what to aim for.

Categories
Uncategorized

The SearchSmartly Guide for Tenants during COVID-19

Amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it’s become increasingly difficult for potential and current tenants to know what they can (and can’t) do in a variety of challenging situations that they might find themselves in. Here, we’ll be shedding some light on the latest government guidelines around issues such as moving home, keeping things running, and for those who are having difficulties in paying rent – evictions.

We will be updating this post with any new official guidance as it comes in. And if you have any questions that aren’t covered below, do reach and we’d be happy to provide any guidance that we can!

I haven’t started my search yet, but need to move soon. What should I do?

The advice we’re hearing from the government outlines that whilst emergency measures are in place to fight coronavirus, home buyers and renters should delay moving to a new home unless they’ve already started the process and are close to exchanging contracts. So, if you have just started your search, strongly consider delaying your move until emergency restrictions are lifted.

I have a move coming up soon, can I still move in?

If for contractual reasons your move is unavoidable, the government’s advice is that all parties should try to work to reach an agreement to delay the move. If a delay isn’t possible, then all parties must follow advice on social distancing to minimise the spread of the virus, keeping at least 2 meters from one another, for example. With limitations in place on non-essential services, this will also mean that you may have to move in without the usual pre-move professional clean and inventory checks.

My home needs maintenance – can essential repairs be carried out?

The government has announced that maintenance on rental homes can still be carried out. Services, delivered by tradespeople concerning repairs and maintenance can take place providing that the tradesperson is well and has no symptoms. In addition, they must comply with the Public Health England guidelines of maintaining a 2 metre distance from any household occupants. 

I’m struggling to pay my rent because of the virus. What are my rights?

In order to protect tenants who may be affected by the Coronavirus, the government has increased the standard eviction notice period from 2 months to 3 months. This currently means that no court proceedings can begin earlier than 3 months from the date the notice is served.

Although not legally binding, the government has pledged to introduce a complete ban on evictions and additional protections for renters affected by COVID-19. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government stated that after the 3 month period, landlords and tenants will be expected to work together to establish an affordable repayment plan, taking into accounts tenants’ individual circumstances.

Categories
Uncategorized

COVID-19: How to prevent your property search from stalling

Moving home can be fraught with challenges in the best of times. Unfortunately, the global spread of the coronavirus has only added to the stress of this experience. Although some may consider deferring their move, many don’t have this option for various reasons, be it having served notice on their existing home, starting a new job imminently, and so on. Here at SearchSmartly, we’ve been getting enquiries asking for advice for what to do in this situation, so here are three tips that we’d like to share for anyone not sure about how to manage their property search in these uncertain times. 


Don’t hang around

With recently government advice on social distancing and the restriction of gatherings or public movement, it is possible that in efforts to curb the spread of the virus, stricter rules may get imposed. We would advise that should you be in the midst of a property move or thinking about it, then it would be better to act sooner with conviction in order to prevent these limitations from affecting your search. 


You’ll have less competition


As restrictions limit the number of people conducting viewings, there will likely be less competition for the right home. Here at SearchSmartly, we’re committed to finding the most suitable homes for our users and will ensure that we continue to deliver on a customer-first property search and move experience. 


Do video viewings from the comfort of your home


Agents are still available for in-person viewings, but in some cases they are operating with reduced staff. It may be easier and safer to conduct viewings via video on FaceTime, Skype, WhatsApp, and most agents will be happy to support such viewings. In some cases, the agents may also have a 3D tour available for the property, too. At SearchSmartly, many of our users have found their next home via video tours, often when relocating internationally, so why not give this a go?
If you’d like to arrange video viewings for any of the properties available on SearchSmartly, simply let us know and we’d be happy to help!

Categories
Uncategorized

Daisy’s smart property search in London

On our mission to transform the property search experience for renters and buyers, the team here at SearchSmartly often come across property search requirements that are often as unique as the individuals that use our service. Here, we’ll be highlighting noteworthy case studies of some of the most interesting user requirements we’ve recently come across.

In this week’s case study, we have Daisy.

Daisy is a recent graduate from Exeter University, and is originally from the North East. She is about to join the graduate scheme at a government agency based in St. Paul’s and is looking to find an apartment with her partner; a trainee solicitor based in Liverpool Street. 

Together, Daisy and her partner have a maximum budget of £1,700 per month and would like a cycle commute that is no longer than 45 minutes each way. As avid foodies, they would love to be close to a high street with a variety of eating options, and perhaps a few hidden gems that they could ‘wow’ their friends with. Daisy’s partner is a keen runner, and having a park nearby would allow him to keep up his hobby.

This insight led to SearchSmartly’s smart matchmaking tool providing a number of quality options of available properties in London that all met the couple’s varied requirements.

Below are three examples that caught Daisy’s eye:

  1. West London Studios, SW6 – £1,582 pcm This property stood out because of the locality of great eateries. Located just off the Fulham road, Daisy would be spoilt for choice on new places to try. With King’s Road also within walking distance, she knew the options available would be endless, including the likes of The Butcher’s Hook (where Chelsea FC was founded!) and Chimayo . Complemented by the existence of 5 local parks, weekend cycling was certainly on the cards.

2. West End Lane, NW6 – £1,599 pcm Within the confines of the lifestyle-centric, leafy West Hampstead neighbourhood situated close to central London. This option left an impression on Daisy and her partner largely thanks to the availability of green space. With the added benefit of great restaurants located nearby such as The Gallery and Pham House, this open plan apartment they found was worthy of a viewing. 

3. Dalston Square, E8 £1,690pcm The final property, located in the trendy Dalston district of London offered Daisy the opportunity to be in the heart of the action whilst having a pretty short commute to work; ideal for the days when London’s brilliant weather isn’t on her side. Within close proximity to an endless option of dining and evening entertainment, this popular location certainly caught the eye of the pair but with a higher price point, there was a potential compromise to be struck given the much shorter commute offered by the Dalston location. 

Using SearchSmartly, our users discover uniquely tailored, bespoke properties in the finest corners of London. If you are looking to relocate why not uncover your matches and find a place perfect for you

Categories
Uncategorized

Guide to Renting with Pets in London

The Ultimate Guide to Renting in London with Your Pet

Finding somewhere to rent in London is hard enough as it is. For owners of pets, this is made several times harder because of the difficulty in finding pet friendly landlords and properties. SearchSmartly decided to find solutions that will put any London pet-owner at ease when looking to rent in the city

Guide to renting with pets

Renting a property as a pet-owner depends on the willingness of the landlord to accept pets in their property. Landlords are concerned about damage to the property, noise, and fouling. In order to put your pet’s best paw forward, we have assembled a few steps you can take to help you secure a lease.  

Step One: Prepare a Pet CV. Use the CV as an opportunity to talk about your pet’s behaviour and personality. You should also mention any training your pets have received and how they behave inside of the home. Include details of your pet’s last vaccinations and flea & worming treatments. Here is a Pet CV template that you can use to address any concerns your landlord may have regarding your pet. 

Step Two: Be prepared to pay a higher deposit, have less flexibility on the asking price or pay for any professional end of tenancy cleaning services. But hey, if your landlord is impressed with your pet CV, and if you maintain the property correctly, you may not have to! A reference from your previous landlord addressing those points would add leverage to your offer. 

Step Three: Search for properties matching your lifestyle. 

  • Use the SearchSmartly filter to find a list of properties suitable for your budget, commute, and lifestyle requirements. 
  • Book a viewing with the property that is of interest to you, completing the registration form when prompted to do so. 
  • Fill in your contact details, move in date, and add a comment about your pet in the notes section. 

Keep in mind that newbuilds don’t generally allow pets, but unless it’s a strict building association policy, having your pet CV at hand, would help you negotiate with the property landlord. 

We hope you find this information useful. Do let us know in the comments or feel free to get in touch via our website. 

To start your search click here

To download a Pet CV template, click here

Categories
Uncategorized

What do I need to secure a property?

For many first-time tenants, it can be difficult to know what is needed to secure a rental property. 

After speaking with many of our customers, we’ve decided to answer some frequently asked questions on what financing and documentation is needed. 

What documents do I need to secure a property?

In order to legally rent a property, there are several documents that are required in order to go through this process. These include:

  • Proof of Identity: A valid passport/driving licence (UK residents only)
  • Proof of employment/study: This will need to be an official (typically on official institution letterhead paper) letter confirming your place of employment/studies 
  • Proof of employment: For some agents, they require prospective tenants to be able to provide pay slips for their previous three months of employment as proof of ability to pay; this can also apply to students so always be sure to have it prepared in any case that it is requested
  • Proof of funds: In addition to this, some agents may go as far as requesting bank statements in order to clarify that potential tenants have the ability to pay the rent 
  • Proof of address: More applicable to UK-based residents, agents may also request a proof of address. This will usually be in the form of an official letter dated within the last three months. This can be a tax/utilities bill. 

What if I’m not employed, or don’t have a stable income?

There are two ways around this: you can provide a UK-based guarantor who will agree to pay the rent on your behalf in case you fall behind on payments, or you can pay 6 months of rent in advance as a guarantee to the landlord.

Do I need a UK bank account to secure a property?

No – for most agents, the ability to pay the deposits required from foreign accounts is totally acceptable. However, this may vary from agent to agent so be sure to ask about this early in the process

What deposits are required to secure a property?

Once you have agreed on a property with an agent, there are two types of deposits that are required, these are:

  • Holding Deposit: This deposit is typically asked for once an agreement has been made but not confirmed in contract. It’s important to note that once this has been paid, you have agreed to rent the property and the agent has agreed to rent it to you. This will be worth 1 week’s rent. 
  • Security Deposit: Once paperwork has been signed off, agents/landlords will ask for a security deposit. This is to ensure that rent is paid whilst also acting as protection against damage to the property caused by the tenants. This will be worth 5 week’s rent. 

Can a non-UK citizen be used as a guarantor? 

As the UK continues to be a popular destination for international students and young professionals, the question of a guarantor being a non-UK citizen remains ever-relevant. Generally, due to the enforce-ability of having a guarantor, they need to be a UK citizen, which can range from being an extended family member to a friend. In the circumstances where a guarantor can’t be provided, agents/landlords will offset this by asking for six months’ rent upfront. 

Categories
Uncategorized

Introduction of the Tenant Fees Act

Tenants across England from June will be relieved to hear that the upfront costs of renting will be considerably reduced. Thanks to the Tenant Fees Act – which puts a ban on lettings fees, tenants from June 1st will no longer be expected to make payments for services provided by agents and landlords such as:

  • Administrative fees
  • Credit check fees
  • Viewing charges
  • Reference fees
  • Tenancy agreements

The act pertains specifically to any new agreements signed from June 1st 2019 whilst tenants currently in agreements that precede this will get the rights to this from June 1st 2020.

By eliminating such costs, it’s expected to save renters up to £800 off fees that have historically stifled a proportion of the market. As a result, the government estimates that these new fee bans will save 4.8 million renters around £240m a year.

This ban does however exclude the following payments/costs which landlords and agents can be expected to charge for:

  • Refundable deposit capped at five weeks’ rent (six if the annual rent surpasses £50,000)
  • Refundable confirmation deposit capped at one week’s rent
  • Changes in tenancy agreement for occupancy changes, pets, or subletting capped typically at £50 but can be variable (with evidence provided)
  • Early termination fee
  • Default fees for late payment of rent or replacement of lost keys or door fobs

For agents and landlords, charging illegal fees could cost fines up to £5,000 for first-time offenders whilst an unlimited fine can be expected for repeat offenders within a five year window.

Here at SearchSmartly, we work strictly with reputable agents who abide by the new acts implemented, ensuring that all proposed tenancies exclude illegal or unscrupulous behaviour that do not benefit potential tenants. If you are looking to move, why not start your search with us and our trusted agents.