Five fighting for every city rental

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SHEFFIELD is enjoying a housing rental boom, with current demand so high that some properties are being auctioned off to the highest bidder – and an average of five prospective tenants are competing for the keys.

SHEFFIELD is enjoying a housing rental boom, with current demand so high that some properties are being auctioned off to the highest bidder – and an average of five prospective tenants are competing for the keys.

The number of people looking for rented accommodation has jumped by 15% over the last few months, but new properties are scarce, so they are often snapped up within hours of going on the market.

“It’s quite frightening – something comes up and there will be people fighting over it. We have to have mini auctions for each property,” said Peter Lee, lettings director at Blundells.

“We have about 70 properties at the minute, but 30 will be gone by the end of the week. September is traditionally our busiest time of the year, but the first week in August was our busiest week ever.”

Rental specialist Lewis Wadsworth reports similar demand.

“The market has been busy for two years, but the last few months have been phenomenal,” said MD Christian Hepplewhite. “We thought it had gone quiet, but it’s really picked up again this week.”

And there are hopes that the boom will fuel a resurgence of the property market in general.

Auctioneer Mark Jenkinson & Son is holding its biggest-ever sale next month, with 84 lots up for grabs – a big jump from the previous record of 68.

“It’s daunting, but exciting. There’s a shortage of properties to let, so people are buying to get into the rental sector and meet the demand.

“The buy-to-let market is healthy at the minute so that’s bound to have an effect elsewhere,” said partner Adrian Little.

Demand has been fuelled by a lack of mortgage finance coupled with uncertainty over jobs.

The result is a move towards the European approach, with people renting rather than buying their homes.

“It means they’re not responsible for maintenance and they can just give the keys back and move on in six months’ time,” said Mr Lee, whose company is currently letting an average of 140 properties each month.

The greatest demand is for one-bedroom apartments in the city centre – sought by overseas students and young professionals alike.

“Three or four years ago people were talking about over-supply, but that’s not the case.

“I don’t think we’ve built enough apartments.”

Lewis Wadsworth released a single-bedroom apartment in city-centre Mandale House on Friday and within a day it was let, with another six prospective tenants queueing up to view it.

“We don’t run auctions, but the current demand has led to a rise in rentals of about £25 per month,” said Mr Hepplewhite.

Also popular are two- and three-bedroom terrace houses in suburbs such as Hillsborough, Woodseats, Broomhill, Crookes and Fulwood.

And there has been a noticeable increase in the number of families choosing to rent rather than buy, particularly in areas around well-regarded schools.

This has increased the potential for property development, boosting interest in auctions such as the one being held by Jenkinsons on September 20.

The company has held six auctions this year. “We’ve averaged an 84% sales rate – which is fantastic,” said Mr Little.

“There’s clearly a demand for sensibly priced modernisation and investment opportunities. The market for deceased estate or ex-rented houses that need doing up is also very strong. It’s a good time to buy.”

A property might cost as little as £100,000 in the current market but could be rented out for as much as £550pcm, making a clear profit of around £200 per month.

Two weeks ago, Blundells let a two-bedroom terrace in Crookes at £625pcm – £100 above above the usual rate. It attracted 10 viewings and was snapped up within two days.

The strong demand is good news for tenants too, says Mr Lee: “If a property is well presented we can almost guarantee to let it within two weeks. But that has upped the standard of property and improved the housing stock too.”