What are Renters Looking For?

Following the pandemic last year, there was a re-evaluation of renters’ priorities. Instead of looking for homes close to transport links, restaurants, bars and amenities, people were turning their attention towards properties that enabled them to adapt to the lockdown lifestyle. This included additional space for working from home, outside space by way of a private garden, balcony, terrace or shared garden, being within close proximity to outside space for exercise and a good broadband connection.

To find out what renters were looking for from their homes Zoopla has released the top search terms for those looking at new homes on the portal. The number one search term is Garden followed by Parking and Garage – indicating that people are relying less on public transport and access to their office. The fourth term was Balcony and given that many renters have bought pets to keep them company over lockdown, Pets was also a popular search term as people seek pet-friendly rentals properties.

Aside from the location and outside space available, flooring was another search term – as was rent that included bills and an ensuite bathroom with the property. There was also evidence of demand for homes close to university with Student the 10th most popular search term.

Renters’ top 10 most-searched terms 
1garden
2parking
3garage
4balcony
5pets
6flooring
7bills included
8ensuite
9rural
10student

Rented Garden Ideas

This month we heard the news that we will soon be able to spend time outside in our gardens and parks with friends and family. With that in mind, you might want to give your outside space a revamp. However, when you’re renting a property it can be difficult to make your home exactly how you want it to be without worrying about causing any damage resulting in losing your deposit.

The latest research from Boiler Plan has revealed that Google searches for how to update a rented outdoor space has seen a big leap. Searches for ‘DIY balcony ideas’ have risen by 586%, searches for ‘garden ideas’ have increased by 167%, while ‘gardening in a rented house’ searches have gone up 29%.

With that in mind, here are some great ways to put your personal stamp on your garden without causing any permanent changes – making them perfect for rented homes.

Potted plants and hanging baskets

Some well-placed potted plants can transform your balcony, deck or garden into an oasis full of beautiful flowers and greenery. Invest in pots that aren’t too big so that you can easily take them with you when you move. Hanging baskets can also make any garden look impressive, adding a pop of colour to any doorway or patio. Fill them with plants that are easy to care for.

Home furnishings

Home furnishings outside can help you to create a comfortable, cosy space. A splash of colour can transform a dull area – use rugs, seating with water-proof cushions, stand-alone hammocks and side tables with bright pots.

Grow your own

Over the last 12 months there has been a spike in people wanting to grow their own vegetables and allotments have never been in such high demand. Although your landlord is unlikely to allow you to dig up their garden you could investing in a clever planter. Using vegetable bags and pots you can grow your own food without using  the garden grounds.

Fire pit and lighting

One of the biggest trends as a result of the pandemic is fire pits and fairy lights. A fire pit enables us to enjoy the outdoors whatever the weather, especially on chilly evenings. They are freestanding and perfect for renters as they pose no risk to the garden.  Fairy lights or solar-powered lighting are an affordable way to add some ambience to your garden. Try weaving fairy lights through a garden screen or stringing them across the fence.

Garden screen

Revamp your outside space with a garden screen for a decorative feature and to cover up any unsightly areas or give you privacy from neighbouring gardens or balconies. Again this is something that can go with you when you move on to your next property.

Property Appetite Among Landlords Remains Strong

Despite the LBTT holiday ending at the end of this month here in Scotland, the latest research has shown that appetite for property among landlords is still high.

The research carried out by Foundation Home Loans has shown that landlords have indicated that they will remain active in the rental property market from April onwards when the stamp duty holiday is due to end.

It was predicted that Scotland would follow England and Wales in extending the holiday for another three months, but the Scottish government has confirmed that the LBTT holiday will end as planned, on March 31st.

The research from Foundation Home Loans and data group BVA BDRC revealed that 48% of buy-to-let property owners will remain active in the first quarter of the year but 41% of landlords would buy in the second quarter, 28% in the third quarter and 29% in the final quarter of 2021.

The survey involved questioning nearly 1,000 landlords in December 2020 and January 2021. The research showed that overall, 16% of landlords would buy and additional property this year and only 14% would abandon the purchase if completion didn’t look likely before the end of March.

When asked if the government would extend the LBTT relief in Scotland, 31% believed that the deadline would remain and only 4% were buying property because of the stamp duty holiday. This indicates that landlords have a continued intention to keep purchasing property to let, regardless of the stamp duty holiday being extended which is positive news for the sector.

Residential Property is Still the Investment of Choice

Despite a challenging few years for landlords following tax and regulatory changes, buy-to-let continues to outperform most other asset classes. With poor returns on savings from banks and building societies following historically low interest rates, a large proportion of investors have turned towards residential property to supplement their income. Add to this the backdrop of low borrowing rates on mortgages, high demand from tenants, stable yields and rising house prices over the last year, buy-to-let remains an attractive investment option.

According to UK Housing & Spatial Information Specialist, Dan Cookson, in Scotland in February 2020 there were 325,649 households in the private rented sector – 63% of these were flats and 27% houses. What’s more, 49% of private rented properties are two-bedroom properties with one-bedroom properties making up 24%. The private rented sector is estimated to be worth £46 billion and is therefore an important part of Scotland’s economy with approximately 242,000 registered landlords.

With around 10 million people in rented accommodation, it is no surprise that research from Knowledge Bank has revealed a growing number of new buy-to-let investors. Knowledge Bank provides a large database of mortgage lending criteria, and the latest monthly criteria index shows the terms that brokers are searching for, which gives an indication of mortgage completions in two-or three-months’ time.

This analysis of brokers’ searches in February found that intermediaries are working with a growing number of potential new landlords along with interest from first-time landlords becoming the most-searched term by brokers in February. It also suggests that those who weren’t currently on the housing ladder were looking at buy-to-let as an option due to restrictions around loan to income for residential properties. This reveals that investors, who would normally look to deal in stocks and shares, are turning their attention towards buy-to-let.

Another top search term was ‘Soft footprint at DIP stage’ suggesting that brokers were carrying out searches that would not impact future applications possibly as a result of clients having a low credit score. ‘Furlough’ was also top of the searches along with ‘Maximum age at end of term’ and ‘Self-employed’.

Spring Budget 2021

This week Chancellor Rishi Sunak outlined the Spring Budget. He announced a range of measures that will affect the property industry following a challenging year.

The Furlough scheme has been extended until September 2021, the stamp duty in England and Northern Ireland has been extended to September (with a tapered system brought in from July), and there is a new government-backed mortgage guarantee scheme to help reintroduce low LTV mortgages.

Furlough

This is the most significant announcement for the private rented sector for the short term. This extension of the furlough scheme, combined with the uplift in Universal Credit, will provide additional support for many tenants across Scotland and safeguard the finances of landlords and letting agents by helping to prevent rent arrears. That said, when the furlough scheme comes to an end there could be some redundancies which could affect tenants’ ability to pay their monthly rent.

Private tenants have been the hardest hit by the pandemic – and have found it difficult obtaining emergency housing from local authorities – whereas homeowners have been able to take a 6-month mortgage break which would be added to their loan.

As yet, there have been no plans to offer financial support for those who need to pay off rent debts that have built up as a result of the pandemic, and therefore face the prospect of damaged credit scores and being able to find somewhere to live in the private sector.

Stamp duty

The stamp duty holiday has been extended until July 31st, when a tapered payment system will be introduced until the tax holiday ends in September. This applies to stamp duty in England and Northern Ireland, with the news that Wales will follow suit with LTT. However, in Scotland those in the middle of a property purchase will lose out as Kate Forbes, the Finance Secretary, has stated that LBTT will end as planned. We expect there will be pressure from within the industry for the Scottish government to change its stance on this.

Mortgage guarantee scheme

A new mortgage guarantee scheme aims to bring back low deposit mortgages that have been largely withdrawn by UK lenders since the start of the pandemic. This policy now gives people a chance to buy their own home with just a 5% deposit. The mortgage is available from some of the UK’s largest lenders including Barclays, Santander and Lloyds and can be used for properties up to the value of £600,00. The scheme is open to all buyers, not just first-time buyers, and is not limited to new build homes. It will run from April 2021 to December 31st 2022.