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Virtual Viewings and Community Living, How the UK's Rental Market is Changing

Rent Guarantor Jun 08, 2021

As England moves another week towards further easing of coronavirus-related restrictions, recent reports highlight that the way in which the lettings industry operates and tenants engage with it, are changing.

One report shows that the number of tenants signing a new letting agreement after a virtual viewing has risen. Meanwhile, a build-to-rent developer has won approval to create a rental scheme with shared community spaces.

These new practises and ideas have arisen in no small part due to the effects of the pandemic and show that tenants are happy to try new ways of finding their rental home and also, of living in that property. That's a positive for the lettings industry as it shows that forward-thinking agencies who embrace new technology and ways of rental living will gain support from the still growing number of tenants across the country.

Virtual Viewings Gain in Popularity

Virtual property viewings have been around for a while. However, they really took off during the pandemic and even though restrictions are easing, allowing tenants to physically view a property they like, it appears the virtual tour is here to stay.

According to analysis from property data firm TwentyCi, some two-thirds of prospective tenants who viewed a property virtually signed a lettings agreement without a physical visit. This shows that when a rental mover knows where they want to live and what they want, an online tour combined with images and some questions shows them everything they need to know.

Conversely, it also highlights that demand for rental homes remains high and that if all a potential tenant has time for is a virtual viewing, then they will book it in and move forward from there with confidence.

With such positive results from online property viewings in the rental sector, it suggests that this segment of the proptech industry is well placed to expand and continue to provide a tech-driven viewing option for those who live too far for a physical visit or people who struggle to fit everything into their busy schedules. It’s also something that may help reduce the amount of time rental properties are left empty between tenants.

But this isn’t the only change letting agents need to get to grips with.

Co-Living for Lets

Build-to-rent property developer Watkin Jones has recently secured planning for permission for its latest new development – a co-living style rental scheme in Exeter. The scheme will create 133 studio rooms with a wide range of shared facilities including kitchens, lounges, libraries, gyms and even bike storage.

While the plans suggest the firm has carefully considered the effects of the pandemic on single tenants, the approval from the city council is a further endorsement of that view.

“Co-living is increasingly popular, and this scheme is a fantastic example why,” said Alex Pease, Watkin Jones’ chief investment officer. “We are particularly pleased to have had the support of local organisations that recognise the benefits and demand for this scheme.”

By developing a scheme that incorporates shared living from the outset, should it prove successful then it will likely pave the way for more co-living build-to-rent developments around the country, showing its not just suitable for students, but for tenants of all ages.

As the UK’s rental market continues to mature and change, there are an increasing array of options across the lettings industry for every tenant, no matter their needs and preferences. That’s a positive change for the industry as a whole and definitely a welcome development for tenants.

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