The lettings market has taken a massive turn for the better since early last month, after a subdued 18 months. Prospective tenants have gone from viewing 15 or 20 properties to walking into one and making an offer on the spot. It is partly a reaction to the sales market slowing down.
A prospective tenant calls me this morning to say he knows things are moving quickly locally so he wants to tie up something immediately. He is typical of the client we are seeing — in his late twenties, works in Canary Wharf and was looking to buy.But he is tired of watching prices rise and knows mortgages are taking longer to get, so he wants to rent again. Most of our clients are based in the City, Canary Wharf or work for big accountants in More London, and they don't mess about.
Our clients aged 40-plus are often looking for Monday-to-Friday pads, as at weekends they return to their families in the countryside, or in many cases Paris. A chap phones this morning to tell me he is looking for a two-bedroom flat for about £550 a week where he will spend weekdays. He is currently spending £1,000 a week on a hotel room.
I head to a viewing with a prospective tenant. The current tenant is expecting me, but after several heavy knocks on the door, there is no answer so I let us in with a few loud: “Hellos.” I assume no one is there so I carry on showing the apartment.
Out of nowhere, a woman flies into the corridor. I am shocked and so is she, as she clearly had no idea we were there. The viewing continues with everyone suffering a slight sense of bewilderment, but the flat is sufficiently impressive that the viewer makes an offer, which is accepted.
A Russian client gets in touch. He is a young, self-made billionaire who is renting one of the two huge, impressive penthouses in a newly converted landmark riverside warehouse building in Wapping for £3,500 a week.
He calls me today to tell me he wants the next-door penthouse, too, which is on for the same price. He is trying to encourage some of his friends to come to London, so it seems he wants to rent an extra penthouse in case they decide to drop by.
Pets are a hazard of the job — particularly cats in my case. I have been mauled by several lately. At a valuation this morning, the owner — who isn't there — hasn't told me whether I can let her cat out, so I do my best to keep the creature indoors. As a result, it scratches me to pieces. I am more of a dog lover...
At another valuation this afternoon, I have fun entertaining a lively bulldog while discussing the property market with the owner. I can only imagine that it is due to all the excitement, but the dog suddenly vomits right in front of me. While the owner cleans it up, the dog wants to go on playing but my enthusiasm has waned.
We secure a great new instruction at Three Quays, overlooking the river next to the Tower of London. The views from the massive terraces of the three penthouses are amazing and these properties are likely to rent out for £3,000-£4,000 a week. These prices are as high as it gets in this area. We currently have one English banker who is renting a flat for £3,000 a week while his family home in Wimbledon is being completely refurbished.
Clients at this level can be demanding and certainly expect a high level of personal service. I arrange to meet with the Russian to go through the paperwork for the second penthouse but the last time I did that, he just walked off while I was in mid-sentence and went into a nearby restaurant. I wasn't sure whether to follow him or not, so I just left it. When someone is paying over £300,000 a year for two flats, you just have to run with it.
Simon Deller is a senior negotiator in residential lettings at Cluttons Tower Bridge.