PROPERTY NOTES: A lettings market update for 2017

The lettings market has got off to a flying start this year at Batcheller Monkhouse in Pulborough, according to their lettings manager Angela Phillips.

“We have been very busy with appraisals and new instructions already this year but it can vary even over a fairly local area,” she explains. “We experienced an upturn here in tenant enquiries starting between Christmas and New Year.”

Batcheller Monkhouse has since let a number of properties, including the unique ‘Chapel House’ featured in our Christmas Selection of Property Notes.

“As a family home, Chapel House attracted a number of enquiries from couples with younger children who were interested in being near a good local school, in this case, William Penn,” said Angela, who handles a wide variety of enquiries from local prospective tenants as well as those relocating to the area, particularly to be near Gatwick.

A new trend among landlords has also been noticeable. “We are speaking to a number of people who have a property which they plan to let out in order to then rent elsewhere. It’s similar to let-to-buy but in this case, they are letting their own house out before renting themselves. It works especially well if they are relocating, perhaps from London, and deciding which area to buy in without committing until they’re sure.”

To advise owners about the options of buying and/or letting, or a combination of both, Angela carries out joint appraisals with her colleague Matthew Penfold, enabling homeowners to then make a fully informed decision.

Angela launched the Pulborough lettings operation at Batcheller Monkhouse three years ago and has built a growing management portfolio over that period.

Services include joint market appraisals with the sales team, and a wide base of expertise to hand including surveyors, estate management and a successful planning team which is holding its next free ‘Planning Surgery’ by appointment on 31January.

In 2017, the Government has expressed an intention to change the regulations about tenancy fees and although timescales and details are uncertain, a consultation is now underway.

“There is very little regulation of the lettings industry so although there are no changes yet, it’s important that people know that the people they are renting or letting through are professional,” said Angela, who is a qualified member of ARLA (the Association of Residential Lettings Agents).

“Batcheller Monkhouse is also a member firm of ARLA but so that people can be confident that they’re dealing with a qualified individual, they should look for the term MARLA (Member of ARLA) on business cards.”

Renting or letting through a reputable agent reduces the risks and ensures that agreements and responsibilities are in line with current legislation. Property owner landlords who decide to carry out the management responsibility themselves also have to keep abreast of changing rules and the need to ensure compliance at every stage.

At Henry Adams Lettings in Horsham, another ARLA registered firm, Richard Town and his team are appointed on a full management basis by the majority of their clients. “We find that professional landlords want to know that they are fully covered for any legislative changes so management brings peace of mind as we keep them advised of any changing responsibilities or updates they should be aware of.”

Last year saw an early flurry of investors rushing to beat the stamp duty levy on buy-to-let properties which came into effect in April.

“It quietened down slightly after the early rush which was then followed by the Referendum, but although it was slightly quieter, we saw a several spikes in activity as new build apartments bought by investors in central Horsham completed and came to the lettings market at the same time.”

The year ended positively with Henry Adams reporting monthly lettings up 100% on December 2015.

“Tenant demand continues to outstrip supply,” added Richard. “If a property is in reasonable condition, in a reasonable area and sensibly priced, it will go pretty quickly. We have some investor landlords buying new homes currently so more are likely to be available in Spring, from one beds through to three bedroom houses, all of which appeal to a wide pool of tenants.

“A good proportion of our tenants are new to the area and may not have a link to Horsham. It’s getting more and more popular with the restaurant culture and with the new cinema approved, it’s got all the things young professionals want and of course it’s also fairly central between London and Brighton with easy access to Gatwick. Once they put down roots, the schools also play a big part in people choosing to stay.

“This year I expect tenant demand to continue quite strongly,” said Richard. “With activity levels as they are at the moment and the wider economy, I can’t see any sign of that slowing down.”