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UK renters snap up properties 30% faster amid flight for green space

Lucy Harley-McKeown
·3-min read
The COVID-19 pandemic has driven a once in a lifetime reassessment of housing needs. Photo: Nathan Stirk/Getty Images
The COVID-19 pandemic has driven a once in a lifetime reassessment of housing needs. Photo: Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

UK renters are driving a more decisive market, as houses for rent are snapped up on average 30% faster than one year ago.

That’s according to new stats from real estate website Zoopla’s quarterly rental market report.

The COVID-19 pandemic has driven a once in a lifetime reassessment of housing needs, with houses average across the UK let nearly a week (6 days) faster than the same time a year ago. The time frame has shortened across all cities.

Meanwhile, the time to let out a flat remains largely unchanged, with these letting out just 2% faster.

In every region of the country a larger proportion of rental flats than houses are having their asking rents reduced in a bid to attract tenants.

Grainne Gilmore, head of research, Zoopla, said of the phenomenon: “The search for space among renters is coming across loud and clear from the data.”

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The average UK-wide rent is now £920 ($1,264) per calendar month, and (excluding London) rents are up +2.3% annually (in the year to December 2020).

This was driven by robust levels of demand for rental property and a lack of supply. Excluding London, demand from renters is up 21% in January 2021, whereas the supply of rental properties is down -11%.

Simultaneously, easing demand in cities, due to changing patterns in working and commuting, leisure and tourism, means rents are falling across key cities of the UK; rents in Edinburgh are down (-1.8%), Greater Manchester (-0.9%) and Greater Birmingham (-0.8%).

A ‘halo effect’ has also emerged in the wider commuter zones of key cities, with rents rising strongly in the wake of increased demand among some renters who are migrating to properties with more space, both indoors and outdoors.

For example, rents in central Birmingham fell by -3.4% in the year to December, but in the surrounding boroughs of Bromsgrove, Sandwell and Wolverhampton, rents rose by an average of 5%.

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London’s position as a global city means current rental trends have been amplified. Demand in London is down 10% year on year in January, resulting from the triple impact of working from home policies, reduced international travel, and a near cessation of tourism.

In addition, Greater London rents have registered the steepest annual fall (-8.3%) since the Global Financial Crisis.

However, the downturn is easing, signalled by the monthly decline in December, which, at -0.4%, was the most modest monthly fall since pre-pandemic. New supply in London is up 30% year on year, primarily driven by more and more short-lets being transitioned into long-lets.

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