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Would you rent a property without seeing it first in lockdown?

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The idea of renting a property without seeing it first would have seemed nonsensical for many prospective tenants a year ago.

Most would have thought that only by seeing it for themselves could they check what they were signing up for and whether their new home fulfilled their wish list.

But since the beginning of the first lockdown in March, we’ve had to change how we approach things, and that includes – for some people – how to rent a property.

Some are opting to rent without ever having been in the property and we spoke to one for whom it wasn’t an agent’s flashy virtual viewing that swung it, but the existing tenant’s home video. 

Would you rent a flat in this block next to Wembley Stadium in North London without seeing it in person first? See the case study below to find out about a couple who did just that

Would you rent a flat in this block next to Wembley Stadium in North London without seeing it in person first? See the case study below to find out about a couple who did just that

The global pandemic and the temporary closure of the property market meant that moving home was almost impossible – apart from in the most exceptional circumstances.

And even once the property market opened again, the new restrictions in place – such as social distancing – meant things were approached differently, including initial viewings online and a limited number of people at those viewings that did take place in real life.

As a result, although virtual viewings have previously been occasionally raised for propsective tenants and buyers with varying degrees of success, they are now far more heavily promoted – and accepted. 

Virtual viewing: Camilla Churchill rented a property in London without seeing it in person first

Virtual viewing: Camilla Churchill rented a property in London without seeing it in person first

This is particularly the case among tenants and some are choosing to rent a home for the next year or longer, without ever having been in the property.

We spoke to some tenants who only saw their rented property in person when they collected the keys, and found out how approaching a rental in this way had worked out for them.  

Camilla Churchill, 29, rented a place in London’s Greenwich with her boyfriend, having previously lived in a house share.  

She said: ‘My boyfriend and I lived in New Cross with two other friends. When the first lockdown hit we wanted to extend our lease for a few months but our landlord didn’t let us. 

‘We went to two viewings in person but the opportunity for more quickly tapered off and we had to rely on dodgy fisheye lens photos or poor quality videos online.’ 

But she went on to explain: ‘We struck gold with our current flat as after speaking with the agents, the tenants filmed us a video of their own. 

The tenants filmed us a video of their own… they filmed every nook and cranny

‘They filmed every nook and cranny from every angle and explained which furniture would be left for us.’

But did an online viewing provide the information required to lead to a successful rental?

She said: ‘It answered so many questions. The property is even better than it looked in the original listing and we are so glad we took the gamble.’

Renting a new build 

Another  couple we spoke to had moved into a new build one-bedroom flat in north London – again rented without ever visiting the property.

Pictured: Couple Kristin and Oliver rented their flat on the basis of a virtual viewing only

Pictured: Couple Kristin and Oliver rented their flat on the basis of a virtual viewing only

Kristin Tamm, 44, a TV producer and her partner Oliver, 36, a technical engineer, were living in Germany when they signed up to the rental.

They wanted to live and work in London, and made the leap in August 2019. Kristin explained: ‘I initially saw the block of flats on Instagram and then contacted the agent about having a virtual viewing.

‘I saw five different flats at the site on FaceTime, while I was sat in Munich.’

‘I was travelling twice a year to London and decided to make it my permanent home with my boyfriend.’

They paid six-months rent in advance, signing a tenancy agreement for that period and paying a total of £13,000 upfront.

Would she do it again? She doesn’t hesitate in responding with an emphatic ‘yes’. 

Indeed, at the end of their initial six-month contract, they signed up for a further year. They are currently in a one-bed flat and would like to move to a two-bed flat at the same site, so that they have space for friends and family to stay over once covid restrictions allow.

The couple's flat in a development in North London was rented fully furnished

The couple’s flat in a development in North London was rented fully furnished

The flat is in a so-called new Build to Rent block of flats, developed by Quintain. Such Build-to-Rent developments are made for the sole purpose of renting out the flats and none are available to buy.

The appeal of this London Wembley Park development is that tenants pay no deposit to rent a flat there, while utility bills and broadband are included in the monthly rental costs.

Prices range from £1,450 a month for a studio to £3,145 for a three-bed flat. Tenants are allowed pet dogs and cats, for an extra monthly fee, with costs varying from £50 a month for a dog and £30 a month for a cat. 

Kristin added: ‘Everything was set up when we arrived, It was furnished, with pictures on the wall. We were the first to live in the flat and it was clean and tidy. There were no surprises and everything was as we expected.’ 

She said if she could improve anything it would to be more central despite the underground only taking 15 minutes to Baker Street and she would also like to be closer to a large area of open green space – although the development does have a communal roof garden. 

The development in North London has a communal roof garden that tenants can use

The development in North London has a communal roof garden that tenants can use

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Maurice Investments sell London office building for €30.3m (GB)

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Allsop, acting jointly alongside Anton Page, has completed the sale of the freehold of a Grade A workspace in Aldgate, central London, on behalf of Maurice Investments for €30.3m (£26m). Acquired by Meadow Partners, the price is equivalent to approximately €1120 (£960) per ft² and a net initial yield of 5%.

 

Wool + Tailor, 10-12 Alie Street E1, comprises 27,158ft² of Grade A office and ancillary accommodation over nine floors. It is within a three-minute walk of Aldgate station and a 15-minute walk of six further train and underground stations, including Whitechapel which is on the newly opened Elizabeth line, and is multi-let to five tenants. Maurice Investments had initially acquired the building in an off-market deal advised by Allsop, which also went on to conclude a successful leasing campaign alongside Anton Page.

 

Wool + Tailor was redeveloped in 2019 to include two additional floors and a new façade, with BREEAM “very good” and EPC A and B ratings. It features an eco-friendly biodiverse roof, cycle racks to accommodate up to 36 bikes, and a WiredScore Gold certification with fibre optic internet. Wool + Tailor further benefits from outstanding natural light throughout, which is enhanced by floor-to-ceiling heights of up to 3.3 metres, and a 7th floor communal business lounge with dual aspect terraces offering panoramic views of the City and beyond.

 

Matthew Millman, Partner at Allsop, said: “The sale of Wool + Tailor concludes a highly successful business plan for our client where we advised on the off-market acquisition, letting, then disposal of what has become one of the finest buildings in Aldgate. Wool + Tailor satisfies the requirements of the modern investor and occupier for ‘best in class’ office space with strong ESG credentials, excellent connectivity and plentiful nearby cafes, bars and restaurants.”

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AnaCap secures €59m loan for Paris office deal (FR)

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Tristan Capital Partners’ TIPS One “Income Plus” Real Estate Debt Fund has provided senior debt financing to funds advised by AnaCap Financial Partners, to support the €59.25m acquisition of South Station, a freehold office asset located in Massy, in the second ring of Paris. South Station is a high-quality property ideally located in Massy – the largest economic centre in the Southern Paris area – and is adjacent to the town’s main transport stations (RER and TGV). The asset is one of the most attractive buildings in the submarket offering modern A-grade office space with excellent amenities.

 

The sale and partial leaseback acquisition will see the vendor CGG, a geophysics specialist, remain as the majority tenant. Pramena Investment will act as the asset manager for the property.

 

Ashil Sodha, Director, Debt Investment at Tristan Capital Partners, said: “As TIPS One continues to diversify, we are pleased to have closed our first loan in France. We are focused on lending on high-quality assets with the right ESG characteristics and we believe this loan exemplifies this strategy well. We look forward to working alongside AnaCap and Pramena and supporting them in optimising their strategy for this asset.”

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Barratt and David Wilson invest €45.5m in UK resi market

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Harworth Group plc has sold two residential land parcel at its Waverley and Thoresby Vale developments to Barratt and David Wilson Homes, for a total consideration of €45.5m (£39m).

 

At Waverley in South Yorkshire, Harworth has competed a €33.8 (£29m) land sale which will see the delivery of approximately 450 homes, of which over 30% will be affordable. This represents Harworth’s largest-ever serviced residential land sale by number of plots. The new homes will represent Barratt and David Wilson Homes’ fifth phase at the site and will be situated adjacent to both Highwall Park and the Waverley Lake, benefitting from unique water frontage in an area of the development known as Waverley Waterfront. Construction will follow a bespoke design code, devised in partnership between Harworth and Barratt and David Wilson Homes, that complements the existing Waverley development while maximising the amenity value of the area’s waterfront location. The development will include a pedestrianised promenade, further enhancing the site’s placemaking and connectivity.

 

At Thoresby Vale in Nottinghamshire, Harworth has exchanged on the sale of serviced land capable of delivering 174 homes, for €11.6m (£10m). This represents the second phase of the Thoresby Vale development, following the sale of two land parcels at the site to Harron Homes and Barratt and David Wilson Homes in 2019 and 2020 respectively. Alongside the new homes, Barratt and David Wilson Homes will provide a new surface water attenuation pond and a multi-use path and associated landscaping, which will enhance connectivity and link to the site’s planned primary school and local centre, for which site preparation works are currently underway. The sales conclude an active first half for Harworth’s residential developments, during which over 100% of its budgeted residential land sales for the year were completed, exchanged or under offer, and it also launched its first single-family Build to Rent portfolio.

 

Andrew Blackshaw, Chief Operating Officer at Harworth, commented: “Barratt and David Wilson Homes is a trusted and valued partner to Harworth, and we are pleased to be developing our relationship with these two significant land sales. Harworth is particularly well-placed in volatile markets as our serviced land provides housebuilders with a product which is de-risked and ready to build on from day one. The acceleration of both our Waverley and Thoresby Vale sites will see Harworth stepping through its strategy to take advantage of the placemaking and levelling up that these schemes ultimately bring to these communities. In addition, these sales will enhance the maturation of these socially diverse neighbourhoods when delivered alongside our recently launched single family Build to Rent product, Project Spur.”

 

Ed Catchpole, Joint Regional Director for Yorkshire & Central at Harworth, added: “Barratt and David Wilson Homes has a proven track record of high-quality housing delivery at Harworth sites, and these transactions will help to further accelerate the build-out and placemaking at Waverley and Thoresby Vale. Both sites are also set to benefit from additional investment which will see the creation of new Build to Rent homes and local amenities.”

 

Mark Cotes, Managing Director at Barratt and David Wilson Homes North Midlands, said: “We’re thrilled to have secured the land for an extension to our Thoresby Vale development and will look forward to another opportunity to meet the growing demand for housing in Nottinghamshire. Our growing community in Edwinstowe will continue to provide new jobs for local people and we’ll be making further ecological and financial investments as the development progresses.”

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