The accidental landlord: the Government’s Help to Buy schemes are not helping me

Victoria Whitlock blames her dearth of tenants on the Government - and people buying to let to provide a pension

Where have all the tenants gone? It feels like someone has pulled the plug and they have simply drained away. Usually, when I advertise a rental property, I start to get phone enquiries within 48 hours. This time my initial advert didn't lead to one call or even a single email.

After a couple of days, I thought I must have listed the wrong mobile phone number. But I checked and it was correct. Perhaps I'd included the wrong email address? No, that was fine too.

Then I was worried my mobile was faulty — it can be temperamental at times. I called it from my landline. It was working just fine. I checked my emails 50, 100, 1,000 times as the days went by. Still nothing.

After a week I reduced the asking price and I did get a couple of enquiries, but nothing more. After another few days I started to panic and dropped the price again, this time to well below the level I achieved on a similar property in the same area this time last year. That'll do it, I thought, and waited for the phone to ring.

But still it didn't. In just under a month I've had only 10 enquiries by email (not counting all the phone calls from letting agents trying to win the business) and two viewers — not counting the three who didn't show up.

A couple of weeks ago I caved in to pressure from two particularly persistent letting agents and invited them to see the property with a view to them marketing it.

And then I fell for the oldest trick in the book. No, not the one where they grossly overvalue a property to win your business, I'm wise to that one now, but the one where the agent says they've got a viewer already waiting to look at it that very evening.

Then, when you say: "Oh go on then," they drag someone round whose face says: "Why the hell have they brought me here?" This "seriously motivated viewer" spent a nanosecond in the flat. She didn't even bother to stick her head round the bedroom door.

"She loved it!" the agent said afterwards. "She barely saw it," I pointed out. That agent has been marketing the property for a fortnight now and, although he's managed to lure in a few more viewers than I have, he hasn't come close to getting an offer.

The problem seems to be, as I predicted a few months ago — although I hate to say "I told you so", especially to myself — that a lot of the heat has gone out of the rental market, probably due to the Government's Help to Buy scheme, or possibly due to an increase in the number of properties available now that everyone with any spare cash is sinking it into a buy-to-let for their pension.

As if it wasn't bad enough that the property was sitting empty, the second letting agent who I decided not to instruct to market the flat because he's one of the most annoying people I've ever met, started taunting me with daily emails.

"Flat still not let I see," he wrote. "You've lost £XXXX by choosing the other agent instead of me, I could have found you great tenants," etc etc.

Eventually he wore me down and I said he could have a crack at it. Less than 90 seconds after we'd agreed a deal on the phone he sent an email in which he wrote: "Of course, I must point out, the market is slowing down now, it will be hard finding tenants…."

Follow our accidental landlord on Twitter at @VicWhitlock

* Find many more homes to rent at www.homesandproperty.co.uk/lettings.


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