Rents hit record high in September

Sam Cordon

October 18, 2013

Average rents across England and Wales rose to £757 per month in August, after a monthly increase of 1.8%. On an annual basis, this leaves rents 2.1% higher than September a year ago.

Rents now stand at levels £13 per month higher than the previous all-time record, set in October 2012 when monthly rents averaged £744 across England and Wales.

Record rents also mirrored faster lettings activity. The number of new tenancies across England and Wales increased by 6.5% compared to August, taking the number of new lettings in September to levels 9.2% above those seen in September 2012.

Nine out of ten regions saw rents rise between August and September. The fastest monthly rise was in the South East, where rents are 3.3% higher than a month ago.

Meanwhile the North West saw a 2.7% monthly rise, closely followed by the West Midlands at 2.6%. The only region to see lower rents in September was the East of England – after a 0.8% monthly drop.

On an annual basis, the East of England was also the only region to see lower rents – down 1.4% since September last year. However, the latest rises take London rents to levels 4.4% higher than a year ago, followed closely by 3.1% in Wales and 2.0% in the West Midlands.

Seven out of ten regions have seen individual all-time record rents. Rents have never been higher in Wales, the West Midlands, East Midlands, North West, Yorkshire and the Humber, London and the South East. Only the North East, East of England, and the South West have ever seen higher rents.

David Brown, commercial director of LSL Property Services, said: “A new peak in tenant demand has driven rents to new heights, well above all previous records.

“Higher rents in almost every region show that, despite government schemes, buying a first home is still a difficult aspiration.

“This is not only down to low salary growth, but also a general shortage of supply – which is the underlying reason why homes are getting more expensive.

“The long term-trend to renting therefore looks unlikely to change significantly in the near future, despite the better availability of finance compared to previous years.”

Gross yields on a typical rental property rose to 5.4% in September, compared to 5.3% in August.

Taking into account capital accumulation and void periods between tenants, total annual returns on an average rental property rose to 7.4% in September, compared to 6.1% in August.

In absolute terms this represents an average return of £12,129, with rental income of £8,164 and capital gain of £3,965.

If rental property prices continue to rise at the same pace as over the last three months, the average buy-to-let investor in England and Wales could expect to make a total annual return of 13.6% over the next 12 months, equivalent to £23,028 per property.

Brown said: “Landlords have benefitted from strong yield growth for some time but with such a reignited purchase market, there’s now more of a ferocious incentive to invest in the private rented sector than ever before.

“We expect rental yields to hit 5.5% by the middle of this decade – which alongside the recent trend for price rises, gives every indication the next twelve months are set to heat up even further.”

Tenant finances experienced a setback in September, with the total amount of late rent across England and Wales rising to £294m – or £30m more than August.

As a proportion, this represents 8.5% of all rent, up from 7.8% in August.

However, on an annual basis tenant arrears have improved, with the total amount of late rent down £13m, and down as a proportion on an annual basis, from 9.1% of all rent in arrears in September 2012.

Brown added: “Household budgets are still under pressure from all angles – inflation is static at around three times wage growth, and the wider economy is still only taking baby steps on the road to a full recovery.

“However, that pressure is starting to ease a little. The latest rent rises are another month of below-inflation increases, and while wages aren’t catching up yet, the gap between wage growth and rent rises seems to be gradually shrinking.

“An annual improvement in tenant arrears demonstrates the underlying healthy trend following the worst of the recession – with the proportion of late rent down from well above 10% a few years ago.

“Critically, the most severe rental arrears have fallen significantly, meaning fewer people might lose their home. Cautious optimism is the order of the day, and certainly, the worst of the storm has passed.”

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