Categories
Uncategorized

Moving to London (Part IV): Moving In

Following a long search process, with all the browsing, viewings and paperwork, you’ve finally done it – you have a new home in London! Not only can you finally relax and settle into your new place, there’s a whole new neighbourhood (and city!) ready for you to explore, and if you’re moving in with new flatmates, some new friends to get to know. The hardest part is over, and now all there is left to do is move in. By taking the right steps, you can avoid costly mistakes and also save yourself some hassle along the way. To help, we’ve compiled some tips to make this process as smooth as possible. 

If you’ve used SearchSmartly to find your home, congratulations! You have now unlocked our free move-in concierge service delivered by our partners JustMoveIn. They will help you with many of the tasks on our checklist below (address changes, switching you over to the most suitable utility provider, and much more) – saving you up to 8 hours of admin time. Just let us know when you’ve signed your contract at hello@searchsmartly.co to unlock this offer.

Moving your belongings

  • It’s advisable to organise moving your belongings from your old place into your new property around 1-2 months in advance. Consider which option would be most suitable for you: a move-in company, using the help of family and friends, or if you don’t have too many items, moving items yourself by car or public transport. 
  • Order materials that you need to pack also around 1-2 months in advance, such as moving boxes and tape. 
  • Don’t forget to book some days off work for the move if you need several days for it!

Changing Address

  • A few weeks before your move, you can begin to change your address with various organisations, which could include: the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, HM Revenue & Customs, the electoral register, your bank and credit card providers, and your employer. 
  • You should also change your address with any subscription services you may have in order to avoid items being sent to your old address, such as newspapers and food deliveries. 
  • After moving in, you can also register with the local doctor (GP) and dentist. 

Utilities

  • Let your utilities provider in your current home know that you are moving so that you can cancel your contracts (unless the landlord is responsible for your bills).
  • If bills are not included in your new tenancy, you can either stick to the same provider or choose a new one. It’s always worth shopping around to see if you can get a cheaper deal, don’t feel obliged to stick to the current company. Our move-in concierge partners, JustMoveIn, can help with this.
  • Take note of utility readings in both your current home when leaving and your new home when arriving. Take a picture so you have a record.  

Other costs

  • Wifi: you can search online to find who provides wifi in your area, as well as to compare the best deals available to you. 
  • TV Licence: if you are planning to watch nationally broadcasted TV channels, including online via their streaming services (such as BBC iPlayer) you will need to pay for a TV licence. If you were already paying for a licence at your old home, notify the licensing agency of your move so that they can change your address. 
  • Insurance: taking out contents insurance for your new home will cover your possessions in the event of theft, loss or damage. 
  • Council Tax: if you are required to pay council tax, contact your new local council in order to set up payment. They will register you, send you your bill and advise you on  how to pay. To save hundreds of pounds, check for exemptions! Not everyone is required to pay council tax, for example, if you are in full-time education. You can check online to see whether you are exempt. 

The condition of the property

  • As soon as you arrive, take pictures of the property and compare them with your check-in inventory. It is especially important to check for any damages and/or signs of wear and tear, and to make sure these are documented in your inventory. If not, you should email these to the agent or landlord. Without these photos, you may be at risk of being charged for damages that you did not cause at the end of your tenancy. 
  • Beyond visible damages, it’s also worth checking if everything is working, such as light switches, taps, locks, smoke alarms and windows.
  • If renting a furnished property or one with white goods, check the inventory to see if all the items on the list are also in the property. If there is anything missing, notify the landlord. Even if you are not given an inventory, you can request one. 
  • The landlord has a responsibility to ensure that the property is clean when you arrive, although minor signs of wear and tear are permitted. Remember that you’ll be expected to leave the property in a similar condition to how it was given to you, so if it hasn’t been professionally cleaned before your move-in, you shouldn’t be expected to professionally clean it when you move out.
  • Before you move anything around in the property or put up decorations, ask your landlord if you are permitted to do so. Landlords differ in their leniency when it comes to decorations and furniture rearrangement, and if you leave marks on the wall from blu tack for example, you are likely to lose money from your deposit. 

Documents and safety

  • When moving in, the landlord should be able to provide you with the following documents. If you do not receive any of these, you can ask your landlord to provide them 
    • gas safety certificate
    • electrical safety certificate
    • energy safety certificate
    • deposit receipt and documentation
  • Emergency contact details: ask the landlord who to contact in the event of an emergency. Legally, the landlord is required to provide you with their name, address and telephone number. 

With this checklist out of your way, it’s time to crack open a celebratory drink – you’ve officially come to the end of your property search journey! If you are just getting ready to embark on your own hunt for a property to rent in London, why not try SearchSmartly? In addition to our smart property search tools which can help you discover hidden gems that we know you’ll love, our friendly team will support you right from the early stages to the day you’ve moved in and had everything set up.

Looking for more advice on other steps in your property search journey? Why not explore other parts of our How to Rent Guide and find out how to search for a property, make a viewing and prepare the right documentation. 

Categories
Uncategorized

Moving to London (Part III): Documentation 

After sifting through what probably feels like hundreds of properties, you’ve finally viewed a home that makes you shout – “this is the one!”. The good news is that the end of your property search is finally in sight. Having reached this exciting stage in your search, the final steps ahead are to make an offer that the landlord will be willing to accept, and to submit all the relevant documentation to rent the property.

Submitting an Offer

Submitting an offer is just that – an offer. This shows that you are very serious about committing to the home, but it is no guarantee of securing the property. Considering the competitiveness of the London rental market, there are often several applicants placing an offer for the same property at one time, and the landlord has final discretion on who they will choose. It is therefore crucial to put your best foot forward to make your offer stand out, unless you’re willing to let that property go. Here are some tips to help you make the most competitive offer you can: 

  • Be quick: landlords give preference to first offers over later offers. At SearchSmartly, we help you make the most competitive offer possible by providing you with an offer form early on in your search journey. This form includes all the relevant information landlords may ask for and prepares you to put your offer in as soon as possible.  
  • Stick to asking price: try not to negotiate too aggressively, especially if it is a busy period in the market such as summer. Most properties in London go at, or even above, the asking price. Your offer is therefore going to be less successful if you try to negotiate a lower price. 
  • If you are going to negotiate pricing, a rule of thumb is that most landlords will not go below 5% of the asking price. Consider the prices of similar properties in terms of quality, location and number of bedrooms to come up with a sensible offer before negotiating.
  • Paying upfront: offering to pay several months rent in advance can make your offer more competitive. It can also give you some negotiating power for a lower rent. 
  • Furniture: ensure that any requests regarding furniture are included in your offer, such as asking for a specific piece of furniture to be replaced or added. If you ask for such additions, be aware that the landlord may ask for a higher rental price. 

With multiple applicants vying for the same property, there is a risk that you will miss out on your ideal home by not having your documentation ready, allowing another applicant to get their offer accepted first. The following sections outline all the relevant paperwork you will need in order to avoid such a situation. Some documents can take some time to gather, so starting early is always advisable! 

It is also important to remember that the documentation stage of your property hunt is not just for the landlord to check that you are a suitable tenant. As a tenant, you have certain legal rights in the UK, and now is your chance to ensure that the tenancy agreement is complying with the law. Make sure to read the written tenancy agreement carefully before signing. 

Proof of Identity:

 First and foremost, landlords must check whether the applicant is legally allowed to rent in the UK. By law, applicants must be aged 18 or over and have the right to rent (either by way of British citizenship or through a relevant visa). In order to prove this, you may be asked for: 

  • Passport or driving license 
  • Proof of current address e.g. a utility bill 
  • Visa / associated documents to prove right to live in the UK (if coming from abroad) 

Proof of Income or Guarantor: 

Eligibility to live in the UK is not sufficient to rent a property. Landlords also will ask for evidence that you are able to meet the monthly rent of the property, normally through having annual earnings of 30 times the monthly rent (sometimes 36 times the monthly rent). For example, if your rent is £900 per month, your annual income must be at least £27,000. If you are sharing with more than one person, it is your combined income that would have to meet this requirement. Documentation to prove this could include:  

  • Recent pay slips 
  • A letter from your employer confirming job title, salary and length of employment  
  • Current employment contract 
  • Tax return for the most recent tax year 

If you are self-employed, it is likely you will be subject to stricter checks. This could include: 

  • Three years’ worth of income evidence 
  • Bank statements 
  • Company details (if you work for your own company) 
  • Invoice records 

Referencing: 

Landlords may also require a character and/or employment reference in order to ensure that you are a reliable and suitable tenant that the landlord is able to trust with their home. This could include:

  • A letter attesting to your character from a former landlord, former flatmate or school
  • A reference from your employer both supporting the suitability of your character and your income

If unable to provide a reference from your landlord, a useful alternative could be to prove that your deposit was fully refunded or to present your previous tenancy agreement and rent receipts.

The method by which landlords and agents require references differs. Some may ask for a written reference, in which case you could ask your reference to write a letter, others may use an external referencing company who will ask for your reference’s contact details in order to get in touch with them directly. 

Deposits: Always agree on the terms of your contract before you pay for your deposit, and ask for a receipt for any money paid. There are laws in place to protect your deposit: 

  • It must be refundable 
  • It must be protected in a Deposit Protection Scheme 
  • It cannot be worth more than 5 weeks’ rent (for properties with an annual rent of up to £50,000) or 6 weeks (for properties £50,000 or more). 

Once the holding deposit (equivalent to one week’s rent) has been paid, the landlord or agent should remove the property from the market.  

Landlords may ask for more than one type of deposit:

  • A security deposit (5 or 6 weeks’ rent): this is held for the duration of your tenancy. Any damages made to the property will be deducted from this deposit. If no damages are made, this will be returned to you in full at the end of the tenancy. 
  • A holding deposit (1 week’s rent): this is paid at the offer stage in order to ensure you are a serious applicant for the property. It effectively reserves the property for you, and will be refunded to you once the offer is accepted. Some landlords take the cost of this off the subsequent security deposit once contracts have been signed.

Other costs: Always ensure you check all costs involved before signing any agreement: 

  • Rent price: although the rent price is advertised, it is worth double checking what the monthly rent is. You can also ask the landlord whether the rent is negotiable or not. 
  • Bills: confirm whether bills are included in the monthly rent. If not, you can ask for an estimate of how much bills may be and which energy rating the property has. Properties with energy ratings of A or B for example will cost less than those with C or D. All properties advertised on SearchSmartly have this information at the bottom of the page. If bills are included, remember that you do not have to stick to the same energy provider that the landlord has chosen – you are able to change if you wish. 
  • Council tax: properties in the UK are subject to council tax. Certain groups may be exempt from paying, such as households where all tenants are students, so it’s worth discussing at the viewing.

Overall, documentation is a vital part of the property search process and is often the last hurdle standing between you and your new home in London. Although it may seem complicated, our team here at SearchSmartly are here to make the process as stress-free as possible. From the moment you submit your first viewing request, after filling out your search requirements here, our agents will support you through the process and answer any questions you may have. 

Ready to move ahead with the next steps in your property search journey? Why not explore other parts of our guide and find out how to search for a property, make a viewing and move in.

Categories
Uncategorized

Moving to London (Part II): The Viewing Process

Having taken the time to discover great flats and houses that match your needs, let’s say you’ve come across the perfect home. The next step that you’ll now need to take is to start organising a viewing. This is an exciting stage in your property rental journey, as you can finally see what the property looks like for yourself, picture your decorations on the walls, and check that the home fits all your requirements. The majority of agents will be able to do both in-person and virtual viewings (either by sending a video, or by doing a live video call), so if you are abroad or unable to travel, not to worry! Typically, you should look to start your first viewings 3 to 4 weeks before your planned move-in date. This will allow you to spend up to a couple of weeks on viewings, while still leaving plenty of time for paperwork and final admin tasks.

Considering that this is likely to be the only opportunity you will have to see the property before you move in, it is important to make the most out of your viewing. We’d recommend that you make a list of things you would like to check about the property, as well as any questions for the agent or landlord. Here, we have compiled a list of recommended points to check on viewing day: 

General features

  • Bedroom size 
  • Storage space
  • Water pressure and hot water: check the taps to ensure that there is hot water running and if the water pressure is high.  
  • Signs of mould/damp: Landlords have a legal duty to ensure the property is mould and damp free. Mould and damp is a health hazard – if you spot any during your viewing, ask the landlord if they will be addressing this before you move in.
  • Temperature: in the UK the weather can become quite cold. Ensure that the heating is working and ask whether there is double glazing, as this can make significant savings on heating bills. If you come from a hot country – don’t expect any air conditioning unless you’re willing to pay for a premium flat!
  • Smoke alarms: ask the landlord where the smoke alarms are and when they were last tested. 

Furnished properties

Double-check whether the property is furnished or not when making the viewing. Although there might be furniture there at the time, this may not be included when you move in. If the property is furnished, check for: 

  • Couches, beds, tables, and chairs: Are these of a good, safe standard? If something is broken, will the landlord be willing to repair or replace it before you move in?
  • Appliances: Is a fridge, freezer, dishwasher, and washing machine included? 
  • Curtains/blinds: Are these included, or will you need to arrange your own? If you are a light sleeper, do they block out enough light?
  • If anything is missing, ask the landlord if they are able to replace it before you move in.

The neighbourhood

Viewings are an ideal time to not only check whether you like the house, but also whether you would be happy living in the area. Here are some important factors to consider when walking around the neighbourhood at your viewing:

  • Public transport: how close the property is to public transport, and what the running times of the bus and train services are. 
  • Amenities: are there restaurants, supermarkets, pubs, bars, gyms and schools nearby? At SearchSmartly, we show the distance between the property and their nearest amenities.
  • Noise levels: is the property overlooking a busy street, train tracks, or an airport flight path? Stick around for 5-10 minutes and keep an eye out for any signs of noise. You may even wish to open the windows to see what noise levels might be like on a warm summer day when you might want a breeze flowing in.
  • Others: there may be other considerations that are important to you, such as whether the area is well-lit at night, or who your neighbours will be. 

Broken or damaged items

  • Make sure you check throughout the viewing whether any items are damaged or broken, both inside and outside the property. If you cannot see any apparent damages, you can ask the landlord/agent if there is anything you should know about.
  • If any items are broken, ask whether they are going to be repaired. If not, it is important that you take a photo on the first day you move in so that it is clear to the landlord that the damage was there before you arrived. 
  • Ask what the procedure is for any items that become broken or damaged during your tenancy, including checking what the emergency number is.

Overall, with just a little bit of preparation, you can make the most out of your viewings and really make sure you only commit to renting the right place for you to call home. And remember to stick to your ‘dealbreakers’ without being pressured into renting a place that just doesn’t fit your needs.

At SearchSmartly, you can request viewings at any time through the convenience of our smart search platform, and relax while our friendly support team gets you booked in for your viewings. Our team is there to answer any questions you might have, from viewings to contracts, and will check up on how your viewings are going to make sure you have all the support you need.

Ready to move ahead with the next steps in your property search journey? Why not explore other parts of our guide and find out how to search for a property, prepare the relevant documentation and move in.

Categories
Uncategorized

Moving to London (Part I): The Search Process

Moving to London is an exciting prospect, but the task of finding a new place to rent can be daunting. 

Narrowing down where to live within such a large city composed of many neighbourhoods with their own distinct feel and amenities whilst considering your budget, your commute to work or study, and the amount of space that you need can feel like an overwhelming balancing act. 

To help make this process as easy as possible for you, we’ve compiled a four-step guide to finding a property to rent in order to ease any stress related to the process. 

Searching for a property: when to start looking?

It’s important to give yourself enough time for your search, considering that there are different types of properties and processes that you may come across in London. Properties in London are usually advertised 1-2 months before the move-in date. Therefore, we’d recommend that you begin to look 4-6 weeks before you wish to move in.

What to consider before your search

It’s a good idea to consider the main constraints of your search before you begin – this could include the likes of:

Budget: Housing prices vary hugely in London, and at times can be notoriously expensive. Therefore, it’s a good idea to set a monthly rent budget. Many rental properties do not include bills (which can be an extra 25% of your monthly rent cost),  as well as additional charges such as putting down a 5-week deposit. Ensure to leave space for this within your budget.

Location: London is an incredibly diverse city, so your experience may differ widely depending on where you choose to live. When thinking about location, it’s worth bearing in mind your commute, whether that be to work, university or your child’s school.

Space: Consider how much space you want in your property. This includes not only the number of bedrooms and bathrooms but also the internal area of the property in terms of square footage. You can use tools like the SearchSmartly platform to search with criteria like minimum bathrooms and square footage. 

Amenities: How near do you want to be to the tube or bus station? Is green space, health and fitness, a lively neighbourhood, or good local schooling important to you? Considering this before you even begin to search will ensure you don’t live in a neighbourhood lacking your key amenities.

Your financial situation Landlords and agents will ask you to prove that you are a reliable tenant that can pay the rent for the duration of your tenancy. Common financial qualifications include having an annual income that is at least 30x the monthly rent, or if not, having a UK-based guarantor that meets this prerequisite or being able to pay 6 months’ rent upfront. Organising this and setting your budget accordingly before you search will avoid any delays down the line.

Housemates If you’re not looking to live alone, it’s worth considering who you will be living with. Sharing with those who have similar budgets, schedules and lifestyle often makes life easier.

Other dealbreakers A few other things to consider may be whether you want the property to be furnished or unfurnished, and whether you have a pet – not every landlord is willing to accept them!

How to search

Once you’ve identified what’s important to you, it may seem difficult to find a property that ticks all these boxes. Search methods include using search portals (such as SearchSmartly) and contacting estate agents and landlords directly.

SearchSmartly allows you to combine all of the above prerequisites into one search. The website’s commute feature will help you overcome the challenge of pinpointing ideal areas to live in by identifying all the properties located within a certain time of up to two commute locations. You can also identify the amenities that are important to you, be that parks, gyms, restaurants or schools. Additionally, you can filter your results by the number of bedrooms, bathrooms and the internal area (in square footage) of the property. Give it a go here.

Types of Properties

Once you have made a search, you will notice that a few different types of properties may be available:

Private flats/houses: These are self-contained, including kitchens and living rooms. Usually rented through individual landlords, these properties have no bills included in the price (unless stated otherwise). Find an example here in St Johns Wood.

Built to rent (BTR): Built to rent properties do what they say on the tin – they have been built specifically with renters’ needs in mind. These properties often have communal features such as shared social spaces, gyms and a concierge. Here’s an example in Wembley.

Co-living/flatshare: This option allows you to rent a room in a shared property. This option is ideal for those looking to live in a social environment with other housemates. Bills are usually inclusive of utilities and extras.

Overall, the search for a property in London can be greatly simplified with some prior planning. If after all of this, you are struggling to find anything that matches your requirements, a handy tip is that estate agents often have alternative properties that may not be released on the market yet. When using SearchSmartly, let our operations team know if you need alternative properties and we’ll be able to help. Good luck with your property search and enjoy your time in London! 

Ready to move ahead with the next steps in your property search journey? Why not explore other parts of our guide and find out how to search for a property, book a viewing, prepare the relevant documentation and move in.

Categories
Uncategorized

Old House vs. New Build?

When talking about investing in a property, some people are immediately drawn to newly-furnished, modern houses, and some yearn for the charm of old houses. If you are considering investing in a property in London or in the UK, then this is the article for you! This article breaks down the pros and cons for both newer and older homes to help you decide which one is more suitable for your investment.

The benefits of buying a newly built property are quite straightforward – nothing can compare to buying something brand new, being able to customise and decorate the house into your dream home.

  • It is satisfying to live in a newer home, especially if you are a neat freak – being the first to take a shower and sleep in the bedroom. And suppose you are a first-time buyer, with the government’s help-to-buy scheme. In that case, the financial burden on you is much more comfortable, the new-built house is such a perfect blank canvas to start your new life in.
  • Another advantage of new builds is they are a lot more energy efficient than older properties, often having better insulation and double-glazed windows and doors. This saves you a vast amount of money in bills and potentially the need for further improvements to make your home more environmentally friendly. 
  • Most new builds come with a guarantee from the builder company. The ten-year warranty and protection scheme helps reduce maintenance costs and stress, particularly suitable for investors who are thinking of letting out their homes.
  • If you are a young professional, part of a young family or plan to rent out your property to these groups, then new builds are suitable for you as they are specifically designed to fit for modern families. Most new houses have spacious open-plan dining-living-kitchen areas with fewer walls which provides greater accessibility for the occupiers and usually more desirable for families with young children. And an open-plan design allows natural light to flood into the room and make space seem more extensive and comfortable.

New-build sounds just perfect for you, right? However, apart from these great benefits that new builds can offer, there are also some disadvantages you need to consider:

  • Although new builds are designed to conform with the lifestyle of modern families, bedrooms and gardens are reduced in their sizes to accommodate a bigger for kitchen-living spaces. This is because developers believe, due to the change in people’s lifestyle, that younger generations would prefer to go out for fun other than have a sunbath and relax in the garden. 
  • Adjustments in regulation standards put new builds in a disadvantageous position when compared to old houses. The walls of most new homes are thinner: lightweight walls finished with plasterboard, meaning that you might be facing noise issues in the future with thin and hollow walls. Furthermore, the ceiling heights tend to be lower than period houses, so some have complained that they feel space-constrained in these homes because of this.
  • New builds usually cost, on average, 20% more than older properties and some benefits may be lost upon purchase. Its value depreciates on the day you buy the house as it is no longer considered ‘brand new’ and other buyers may choose to buy another new build over a second-hand new home. If you are thinking of holding the home for only a few years, it is essential to consider its future values.

Now, let’s talk about the charm of period houses! People have various opinions about purchasing old homes as an investment: some worry about the quality of these homes that were potentially many years ago, and others about whether there is any room for an increment in the value. In the UK, the market for older homes is enormous compared to newly built houses. For sure, you will reconsider your views on older homes after reading this section.

  • A significant strength of an older home is space. According to BBC: “the average size of a UK home – including both older and new-build properties is 85 sq. m. and has 5.2 rooms” whereas the average size of new homes “is 76 sq. m. and has 4.8 rooms”. As space can be such a scarce resource nowadays, for the same price, an older home is usually much bigger, including both internal and external areas (gardens, garages, etc.)
  • Older homes are a lot more suitable for car owners who live far from a central city. They have ample parking space and driveway.
  • Another charming feature of a period home is the uniqueness – in comparison to all similar-looking new-builds, period homes always bring some individuality,  like the symmetrical look of Georgian style and coloured bricks of Victorian style homes. The mixture of architectural styles in London attracts many people to live in London.
  • When comparing a new-built with an older home, which are both similar in size and location, then the older home has more potential to increase in value in the future.

If you think an older property sounds great to invest in, remember that there are also some drawbacks that you have to be careful with.

  • A common downfall of older homes is the need for renovations. You can always find yourself with some houseworks that might need to be done: cracks on the ceiling, or changing a timber under the floor, or even refurbishing the whole house as the design and decorations are usually old-fashioned. 
  • On top of repair and refurbishment, many old homes are much less environmentally friendly than new-builds; the old heating systems and thinner insulation layers can lead to higher energy bills and carbon emissions. 
  • Costs of renovation are high. For example, changing the central heating system for a 3-bedroom house will cost around £4000. From an investment perspective, although the old homes cost less upon purchase, they usually cost more in repair and maintenance.

There is no obvious winner between new-builds and period properties, it is all down to own personal preferences. It is best to stay open-minded to all options on the market, conduct thorough research and make accurate financial calculations before deciding to place an offer!

Categories
Property Advice

How to submit an offer

How to Submit a Successful Offer on a Rental Property

You’ve invested lots of time in your search, and now you’ve finally found the perfect flat to rent. 

Once you are at this stage, it’s really important to act quickly to maximise your chances of securing the place, particularly when other people may also be interested in the same flat.

What’s the most important information you need to have at your fingertips to get your foot in the door? And how does the whole process work?

SearchSmartly has compiled a useful guide to make sure you’re fully prepared. 

First of all, you’re going to have to formally submit an offer on your chosen property. Your estate agent will provide you with a template form to fill in, but this will include key information about who you are, how long you’re interested in renting the property for, what you are willing to pay for it, and any other critical details such as whether you’d like the property furnished or not. It’s important to get this right to make your offer the most interesting one for the landlord, and avoid making some common mistakes that can result in your offer being rejected immediately.

When you have submitted your offer, you will be asked to pay a holding deposit equivalent to one week’s rent in order for the agent to take the property off the market during your referencing process. This period is when all paperwork and background checks will take place and can typically last for up to three weeks.

Price and Tenancy Dates

It goes without saying that the more you are willing to pay for the rent, the more likely your offer will be accepted! Start by checking if the asking price for your flat is reasonable by comparing similar flats in the area.  Also, ask if any bills (water, electricity or gas) are included in the rent. With this information to hand, if you are willing to pay the asking price then this will maximise your chance of getting your offer accepted. If you feel the asking price is too high based on your research, you can put in an offer below the asking price. We have seen offers at 3-5% below the asking price getting accepted in some cases, but bear in mind that this will only work if there isn’t much interest in the property – perhaps because it’s slightly older, or if there are too few people searching in that particular area. In places where there is lots of demand, particularly in parts of London, the ‘winning’ offer can be above the asking price!

Every property has a date from which it is available to move in. This is typically when the outgoing tenant has vacated the property, and will usually be advertised in the property listing itself. The closer to this date that you can move in, the more attractive your offer will be. This is because your move date will reduce the potential ‘void’ period for the landlord where nobody is paying any rent, and will improve their return. 

‘Void’ periods can impose high costs for landlords, as can the listing fees that they have to pay to agents every time a new tenant moves in. As a result, shorter tenancies are generally less attractive to landlords. Consider offering to sign a longer contract to make your offer more attractive. It is most common for tenancies to last around a year, but you could have a lease of two or three years.

Contract

Make sure you check the contract carefully. There are a number of things to look out for and to negotiate, such as if the property is furnished. Make sure you agree on refurbishment or purchase of additional furnishings in the offer. For example, if you love a flat and are happy with the asking price but want a mattress included with the furnished bedrooms, it is perfectly reasonable to make this a condition within your offer. The same goes with replacing old furniture or fixing any fittings that don’t appear to be working as they should.

Be upfront about what you expect and go into detail about this. You don’t want to discover later down the line that something you wish to have in the contract hasn’t been included when you’ve paid the deposit. 

Payment and Fees

For rental properties, agents will typically require that incoming tenants meet the financial eligibility criteria which is as follows:

  • The tenants earn 30 times the monthly rent, OR
  • The incoming tenants have a UK guarantor that can meet the above requirement, OR
  • Incoming tenants are able to pay 6 months’ rent up front.

The good news is that agents are no longer be able to charge renters any administration fee for tenancies by law, so make sure that this is the case by ensuring that the only payments you make relate to your refundable deposit and the rent that you pay in advance of your move. 

SearchSmartly Top Tip: Make sure you get this information in writing from the beginning so that you have a paper trail of what is agreed. This can be done via email. 

References

Get your references lined up from people who are likely to put in a good word on your behalf. Use people who know you and can attest to your reliability. For example you could use former flatmates or former landlords (where you’ve been a respectable tenant of course). 

You could also obtain a ‘character reference’ from an employer to show you are reliable. 

Make sure you have the documentation for your references ready to go before you put your offer in place, as things can move quickly and you’ll want to make sure there are no unnecessary delays on your end.

Deposit

Make sure you have enough money readily available to put down for the deposit. You’ll be in a great position if you have the money in your account ready to be bank transferred ASAP. The value of this deposit should be no more than the value of 5 weeks worth of rent.

We hope this information will allow you to secure that gorgeous flat you’ve been eyeing up in London and beyond. Good luck!

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.