Leeds city centre rents boom as young people head back to where the action is

Rents in Leeds city centre are booming as bright lights attract tenants back to the heart of the action

Average annual Yorkshire rental growth has increased to £655 ,up 8.5% year-on-year with inner city Leeds seeing a 9.6% boom as young people head back now that pandemic restrictions have been lifted, according to Zoopla's quarterly Rental Market Report.

Average UK rents are tracking at almost £1,000pcm , £62 more than at the start of the pandemic, against a backdrop of increased living costs squeezing households

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The UK’s average rental growth has reached a 13 year high, up 8.3% in the final quarter of 2021, meaning households who agree new lets are now having to pay an additional average annual cost of £744, compared to the start of the pandemic in March 2020. This increase means that a single earner can now expect to spend 37% of their gross income on rent, which is up from 34% during most of 2021. However, this now brings the figure broadly back in line with the longer term average of 36% as rental growth rises in line with wage growth.

Rents are rising as tenants return to Leeds city centreRents are rising as tenants return to Leeds city centre
Rents are rising as tenants return to Leeds city centre

Even with the current sharp rise, the overall increase in UK rents over the last five years totals 12% thanks to the decline in rents seen in some areas during the pandemic.

The start of 2022 has seen heightened demand for rental properties, up by 76% compared to the New Year markets between 2018 and 2021. Yet the supply of rental properties recorded in January 2022 in the UK is 39% below levels typically observed at the start of the year. This is creating competition in the market, with the imbalance of supply and demand pushing rents up.

As a result, properties are being snapped up. In London, this means renters are having to move quickly to secure the perfect property with the time to let now averaging a fortnight, down from three weeks in late 2020. This shrinking stock of homes for rent can be attributed to a continued decrease in buy-to-let investment over the last five years.. As rents rise, more renters will be choosing to stay in their properties, limiting stock turnover. With supply squeezed, it’s likely that continued demand will underpin more modest rental growth in the coming months, especially in city centres. However, as the spike in demand falls back - hampered by the increases in household costs - it will reduce pressure on supply, ultimately driving more local competition to attract renters in local markets.

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Pandemic trends saw strong growth in rental demand in wider commuter zones as renters embraced the ‘search for space’, but demand has now recovered across the central districts of all major cities including Birmingham, Edinburgh, Leeds and Manchester in a reversal of recent behaviour. This is largely driven by pent up demand from office workers, students, and international residents and investors who are looking for city centre living.

This is a normalisation of rental behaviour as demand once again rises in more central zones - seen most prominently in inner London with rental growth of 11% compared to the same time last year. But given the steep fall in London rents during the pandemic, this translates to an increase of just £18 per month in rent compared to March 2020.

Gráinne Gilmore, Head of Research, Zoopla, says: “Rents have risen sharply in recent months, amid a backdrop of rising living costs. But it is important to point out that in terms of rental affordability, in most markets rents are still close to the 10-year average. As demand continues to outpace supply, there will be further upward pressure on rents, but affordability considerations will act as a brake on large rises.

In addition, the January peak in rental demand will start to ease in the coming months, putting less severe pressure on supply, which will lead to more local market competition, and more modest rental increases. “The flooding of rental demand back into city centres thanks to office workers, students and international demand returning to cities means the post-pandemic ‘recalibration’ of the rental market is well underway .”

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James Evans, CEO at Douglas & Gordon, comments: “Since the beginning of the year, we have seen a clear trend of people coming back to London and the office. This has contributed to around a 40% increase in new lettings applicants compared to the same month last year. As there is also still a very restricted supply of properties, we’re seeing landlords achieve record prices, a high quality of tenant and almost no void periods. With competition for properties at the level it is, there are 35-40 new applicants for every rental property in London and around four offers received per agreed let, so tenants are having to put themselves in the best position possible to get the properties they want."

Here, James Evans shares his tips for finding a rental property:

*Start your search early! Most rental properties have a 2 month notice period, so new instructions are generally available in 2 months’ time. If you leave it too late, you’ll miss out or will have to find temporary accommodation.

*Register with an estate agent and keep them updated with what you’re looking for – don’t just look online. If an estate agent knows you’re looking, they will call you before a property is launched. Be open to different areas as this will give you much more choice

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*Act fast! Be available to view properties as soon as you hear about them & be ready to put an offer in straightaway Don’t have too many conditions involved in your offer – there are usually multiple offers on one property, so you want to make yourselves the most attractive tenants. Consider the length of tenancy you want, the longer the better in most Landlord’s eyes. Securing a 2 years+ tenancy means more security for you and your Landlord - you know what your rent will be for longer and your Landlord knows their property will be occupied

*Have your money ready to go. Bring your passports along on viewings so your Right to Rent checks can be done there and then

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