Opinion

Why ignoring most important people in London's property market could damage long-term growth

6 min read

11 March 2016

Aidan Rushby, CEO and founder of Movebubble, the property renting app, takes a look at the importance of renters to London and how they are currently being undervalued.

Each year thousands of people move to London to be a part of the buzz, excitement and abundance of opportunities that the UK capital offers and yet their renting experience is not normally one of ease. In our own extensive research, we found that it takes Londoners an average of 60 hours to find a property to rent. 

Renting is often people’s first port of call in London – it offers flexibility and the reality is that a large number can’t afford to buy property. A report last week suggested the popularity of renting will only to continue to rise with 60 per cent of the capital expected to be renting by 2025. With 1.9m renters in London alone holding the keys to a considerable chunk of the city’s economic value, their importance grows yet further. The market has moved considerably more quickly than was expected and as such, renters’ needs unfortunately have been largely forgotten.

Renting as we know it today is a relatively new industry and the idea of mass renting was only really a prospect born in the 1980s, with its popularity growing since. This shift to renting has been reflected in a cultural shift across London. Millennials and young people can enjoy the relative freedom of renting, and socio-economic changes also mean that home owning for many is not a feasible option, specifically due to a lack of houses being built.

Demand for rental property remains strong, which does not encourage innovation on the property and agency side. Property portals don’t feel the need to try and reinvent the wheel as they have such a strong market position with only two main players – the people who suffer as a consequence are the renters. There has been something of a stagnation period in the market with a distinct lack of technology investment and slow tech adoption in the sector for last decade.

Renters are hugely important to London and overlooking them, as the vast majority of the market is at the moment, is not only foolish but detrimental to the long-term growth of the capital. Talented, skilled people are among the renters who help to drive the economy; many do this for the flexibility it gives them as they need to be in striking distance of their work. These people often have a high disposable income or are massive culture drivers, helping to make the city increasing popular in terms of art, music and entertainment.  

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London prides itself on attracting top global talent and long may this continue – one in four searches on our app come from overseas. London needs to be seen as advanced, accessible, transparent and helpful. If you look at the likes of Waze and BlaBla Car, the firms have been successful in putting customers at the heart of everything being done. Collectively, creating a good impression of London is essential and making the renting process as easy and transparent for newcomers to London can reap huge dividends. However, the vast majority of people moving here will be looking to rent a property, which should be far less stressful than it is today.

In the renting market, it is often forgotten that the renter is the customer, and in effect the Landlord/Agent should be delivering a service to the renter. Again, the disorganised marketplace unfortunately leads to barriers being created to the detriment of the renter.

The industry has often been far too focussed on the buying, selling and managing of properties and revenue per transaction which has also resulted in renters being overlooked. At the moment does anyone really understand the renters’ needs? Is there true differentiation between renters’ specific needs and those of a buyer, despite the two having enormously varying requirements?

Everything starts and flows from the renters, be it demand, rent or the property price and it’s critical that their role is rewarded. The time people spend while at work sourcing and organising property viewings, along with the potential days off taken, can have a huge negative impact on the economy. Renters help make London tick and position it as one of the best cities the world to live in – it’s time they stop being ignored, their importance starts being appreciated and their needs are put first.

Following Zoopla’s investment in a handful of proptech startups, Real Business has spoken with founder Alex Chesterman and other rising companies in the sector to discuss what the British property market should prepare for as technology merges with tradition.

Aidan Rushby is CEO and founder of Movebubble.

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