Just a few months ago the newspapers were full of stories about the Olympic lettings goldrush.
Homeowners could, it was suggested, rent out their properties for tens of thousands of pounds a week to tourists eager to secure accommodation near to the site.
Recently, though, the tone has changed. Some prospective landlords have found that they are unable to fill their properties, and others have been unable to secure their asking price.
So is there still money to be made in Olympic lettings – and, if so, how can you make the market work for you?
Is it too late?
Some prospective landlords are worried that they have left it too late to find tenants. This feeling has been compounded by a series of stories suggesting that many properties remain unlet.
But in fact, well-priced, properly equipped properties in suitable areas will still be able to attract interest. Many of those who have been unable to let their properties have set the price far too high. There has been a sense that, as Olympic rentals are so in demand, landlords can charge pretty much whatever they like. This has been proven false. But with sensible pricing and flexible terms you still stand a good chance of filling your property.
What are renters looking for?
Speaking to The Telegraph last month, London Village Rentals head Ashley Connell said that national Olympic federations are generally looking for properties suitable for at least six or seven people. But it is not only the competitors’ entourages that are looking for accommodation.
London’s hotels are already full to bursting point, and many tourists are still without anywhere to stay. Owners of smaller properties may therefore find that they are able to fill them with couples or families, rather than groups of officials.
Transport links are of paramount importance here. The properties that will perform best are those within easy reach of the Olympic site – but that doesn’t mean that they have to be in Stratford. There is reportedly strong demand for properties across London and Surrey. Provided that your home is close to overground or underground links, you may well be able to fill it.
Do I need an agent?
A surprising number of new agencies have sprung up, apparently with the sole purpose of helping prospective landlords rent their properties over the Olympic period.
Lettings agents can provide a useful service, particularly if you are a first-time landlord. But there are a few factors that you should consider before you sign. First of all, you should ensure that you understand the costs involved. It is not uncommon for agents to take up to 15 per cent of the rent for short-term lets. There may be additional fees if the agency takes on a management role.
You should also make sure that you do your research before deciding on an agency. Wherever possible seek out personal recommendations from people you trust. The rush for Olympic cash has led to a rash of new, untested agencies and, in an unregulated market, this can present risks for landlords.
What about existing landlords?
Existing landlords in London and beyond are also considering ways that they can make the Olympics work for them. Prices have become hugely inflated in East London, with many landlords citing the Games as a justification for significant rent increases even in long-term lets.
If you have a property in the East End or another affected area, you should think carefully before dramatically hiking the rent. As we have previously discussed, rents in London may have found their peak. It may well be counterproductive to force out reliable tenants in exchange for a few pounds a week. As always, flexibility and sensitivity are key to successful rent negotiations.
On the other hand, landlords should also be alert to the increased risk of sub-letting. If your tenancy agreement precludes sub-letting, you may wish to remind your tenants of this in order to avoid potential problems.
What else do I need to think about?
There are a few basics that Olympic renters are likely to expect. Your property will obviously have to be clean and tidy, to the standard that you would expect from a holiday rental. Remember that many people are choosing properties of this kind because they cannot find hotel rooms and, while they won’t expect concierge service, they will expect the accommodation to be up to scratch.
You should also consider leaving your wifi on for your guests – although you should obviously make sure that you give due consideration to things like security and data limits. You might also put together a ‘guest pack’ giving details of things like transport links, local restaurants, and other attractions.
It is also imperative that you discuss your plans with your insurer and your mortgage provider. You should note that many home insurance policies will not cover you if you rent out your house. You may therefore need to take out dedicated landlord insurance.
Finally, you may need to apply to your local authority for a ‘change of use’ permit. These can cost several hundred pounds, but they are not required in every area. Your local council will be able to advise on whether or not you need one.