Tenants join the space race

August 2020 Lettings Index

We all want more space.  It’s been widely reported that owner-occupiers have, since lockdown restrictions were eased in May, upsized their homes, but tenants have too.  In most cases this has meant an increase in the number of renters leaving cities and moving to smaller towns or suburbs in search of more space.

In the four months between May and August, 34% of tenants that moved home upsized their living space by adding at least one extra bedroom.  This compares to 25% during the first three months of the year.  

And 25% of moves post-lockdown were from a flat to a house.  This compares to 16% during the pre-pandemic period in the first three months of 2020.

Those tenants upsizing between May and August added an average of 1.4 bedrooms and paid an additional 23% in rent.  In cash terms this equates to an average of £149 per month more.

Our analysis shows that 88% of tenants who moved out of a studio apartment swapped it for a larger home, while 72% traded up from a one-bed property and 25% moved from a two-bed home to a larger space.          

On a regional basis, tenants living in the South East were most likely to trade up.  47% of those based in the South East and who moved post-lockdown added at least one bedroom in their move and spent an additional £266 pcm on average.  The South East was followed by the North West (37% adding at least one bedroom) and then London (where 33% added at least one bedroom.                    

Some 63% of London renters who upsized chose to leave the capital, typically moving into a cheaper location outside of London and therefore spending less.  As a result, London was the only region where the cost to a tenant of upsizing their home was negative (-4%). 

The average London-based tenant looking for more space spent £86 pcm less, despite gaining at least one extra bedroom.  By way of comparison 47% of upsizing tenants from the South East chose to leave the region.

Rental growth

In August the average rent in Great Britain fell 0.5% year-on-year, with falls reported in four of the last five months.  These falls have predominantly been driven by London where the average rental home costs 3.9% less than it did in August 2019.

Rents fell in three of the eight regions in Great Britain.  London (-3.9%), the South East (-0.8%) and East of England (-0.1%) all saw year-on-year rent falls in August.  While the strongest rental growth was seen in the South West (3.6%), Midlands (2.6%), the North (2.5%) and Wales (3.9%) (table 3).

Falling rents in the capital continue to be driven by rising stock levels.  London remains the only region of the country where there are more homes to rent (+34%) than at the same time last year.  Across Great Britain, there were 11% fewer homes available to rent than in August 2019, with Northern regions recording some of the largest falls.  The North East saw the largest decline, with 45% fewer homes to rent than at the same time last year.