At the Canary Wharf and Docklands office we are letting about 20 per cent of our stock to students from the Asia Pacific region, and this figure is increasing month by month.
This influx of tenants has been predominantly from China, with the London School of Economics alone reporting that it now has more than 500 Chinese students.
Not surprisingly then, my first appointment of the week is with a Chinese family who have flown over to look at a rental property for their youngest child. Though rarely shocked, I am astounded by the number of family members who have turned up. All in all I count 13, which means my colleagues have to rush for extra chairs for the meeting room.
Eventually everyone sits down and we get started on what the tenant (and his family) is looking for. This could take quite a while and I ask a colleague to stand in for my next meeting.
Today I am taking one of our applicants to view a high-end three-bedroom apartment on Hertsmere Road in Canary Wharf.
Having been round quite a few prospective properties with this particular client, I am eager to finalise a deal so I decide to be very positive and animated on the way round.
This particular apartment has a striking but potentially dangerous staircase, so I make sure the applicant’s wife is careful on her way down. However, turning around myself while gesticulating, I realise I haven’t taken my own advice and proceed to fall down the whole flight, landing with a bump on the final step. The embarrassment is more severe than the shock and I quickly get up, announcing that I am fine and happy to continue with the viewing, much to the worry of my applicant.
At the end of the viewing I say goodbye and walk down the road, head in hands and with a slight limp. Later that day they decide to rent the apartment - amazing what works.
It’s moving day for our new Chinese tenants into their chosen penthouse apartment overlooking Canary Wharf, and they are meeting the landlord for the first time to discuss the finer points of the property. As a Cantonese speaker, I am aware that the new tenants are beginning to openly disparage the landlord’s "unique" dress sense.
When the tour is over, the landlord asks me, in the best Cantonese I have ever heard from a Caucasian person: "So what didn’t they like about my trousers?" He seems unaffected by the conversation and we have a laugh over it, but it shows you can never assume that people can’t understand a foreign language, especially in London.
This morning I am working on a number of new instructions from our sales department; a Malaysian investor who has bought 10 properties as buy-to-lets wishes to rent them out.
We have always experienced high demand from international and UK investors looking to buy into this burgeoning property market, and recently this has increased, particularly on new apartments close to Canary Wharf with good security, facilities and high-spec kitchens and bathrooms.
The smaller the better - studios and one-beds are always most in demand. I am sure these properties will rent out within a couple of weeks.
It is approaching the end of the day before I manage to get round to some pressing paperwork. Just as I settle down to it, the door opens and my final viewer of the week enters with a baby, pram and chihuahua. She suggests leaving her baby and the pram in the office while she and the dog do the viewing.
A collective look of horror comes over my colleagues’ faces from every corner of the office and, sensing the tension, the mother changes her mind and decides to take the baby and leave the chihuahua, which sits in the pram, thankfully quiet, until her return. I don’t think dog-sitting is in my contract...
Shih Yu Phang is a lettings associate with Chesterton Humberts in Canary Wharf and Docklands (020 7510 8310).