In the week ending 22 August the number of viewings in the lettings market in London and the Home Counties hit a ten-year high, according to research from Knight Frank.
Tom Bill, head of residential research at Knight Frank, said: “Part of the explanation is the unusual seasonal pattern of activity in 2020.
“Students account for almost a quarter of the market and uncertainty around the start of the new academic year meant July was quieter than normal.”
The number of new prospective tenants registering in the week ended 11 July was 26% below the figure last year.
Bill added: “Some students held out until late August before deciding what to do, with many Universities providing the option of online learning until Christmas.”
This late mini-surge, boosted by the recent delivery of exam results in the UK and overseas, partly explains the spike in the viewing figures in late August.
There is little evidence the cause was corporate tenants. Relocation packages are not currently a priority for many companies for both logistical and economic reasons.
Elsewhere, traditional UK-based tenants have been taking advantage of falling rents, with many seeking more outdoor space.
The cause of weaker rental values has been a strong supply of properties as owners opted not to sell during the pandemic, exacerbated by the addition onto the market of many short-term lets.
In the 12 months to July, average rental values in prime central London declined 5.8%, while in prime outer London the decrease was 5.4%. In both cases, it was the largest annual decline registered since the global financial crisis in 2009.