It’s tough to find a nice flat in London. The lettings market moves quick, there are loads of websites to check, and let’s face it: not every estate agent you meet has your best interest at heart.
Here are some simple tips that I learned from working as a letting agent and searching for a flat in London myself:
You probably know this already, but nice flats in London go quickly. It’s not unusual for flats to come on the market in the morning, and be taken by the afternoon. This means that you need to be able to view properties quickly, and place a holding deposit within hours.
Most letting agents in London do their last viewings each day at 5.30 p.m. and then finish work at 6 p.m. If you’re going to be working during those hours, try and forewarn your boss that you may need to leave a bit early in the next couple of weeks, or recruit a friend with knowledge of the property market who you trust to check out flats on your behalf.
Don’t Rely On The Internet
Property listing sites like Rightmove and Zoopla are useful for learning the different areas of London and figuring out what types of property you’ll encounter. But a common mistake is to register for property alerts through Rightmove, and then use the site to try and hunt down your dream home.
Sending a message to an agent through Rightmove doesn’t meant that they will remember you and send over properties as they come on the market. Instead, it usually just results in an email buried in a busy estate agent’s inbox.
Don’t rely on Rightmove, call up all of the agents who have recently marketed properties in the area you’re looking. Ask to register with them, and give them your contact details as well as a description of what you’re looking for.
Be Nice To Your Estate Agent
Pretty much every year, there’s a new survey that shows people hate estate agents. You might dislike your agent, but you need them to like you.
When an estate agent has a property come on the market, before putting it online or even in the shop window, they will call up applicants who are looking for properties. If what you’re looking for matches the property, you’ll get a call or an email. Here’s the important bit: If your agent thinks that you’re more reliable, nicer, or in a better position than other people, they will call you first.
Use Your Estate Agent’s Personal Phone Number
Check the email signature when you receive an email from your estate agent to book a viewing. You’ll likely be given a single employee to show you round flats and serve as your point of contact. Where possible, contact them and them alone. As soon as you involve other employees, that will slow things down.
Don’t Be Afraid To Make An Offer
If you’ve found a place that you like, but it’s slightly too expensive, don’t be afraid to ask the agent whether the landlord will consider an offer. The agent will likely know whether it’s worth putting forward an offer or not, so there’s no harm in asking. If you’re in a good position, then the landlord may accept, and you’ll save money.
Avoid Paper Documents
Physical contracts get lost. Sure, it’s nice to have a copy of everything, but do you really need a paper version of your deposit protection certificate? (No). Where possible, try and sign every document digitally, sending your signature over the internet. It’s faster and more reliable — you don’t need to pass forms around for other people to sign this way.
Here’s an example of how fast things can go when you avoid paper documents:
Earlier this month I viewed a flat in London that I really wanted. The viewing was in the evening, and in order to secure the flat, we had to get the offer letter to the agent that night. We filled out the offer form in a pub, snapped a photo of each side, and sent it to the agent on WhatsApp. If we hadn’t done that, we would have lost the flat.
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