The average rental values for existing homes in Prime Central London have been falling for more than two years due to rising supply but the pattern is now due to reverse. There was a large spike in new lettings properties in the middle of 2017, which followed the introduction of the additional rate of stamp duty in April 2016, one of the reasons behind the increase. The other key factor has been a growing number of ‘accidental landlords’, a group of would-be vendors who are waiting for more pricing certainty before they return to the sales market.
The rate of new lettings properties coming onto the market has slowed. In 2017, November was the first month to reflect a decline in the number of new lettings properties placed on the market, with a fall in instructions of 1.2%. There was also greater demand than in 2016. Both factors combined will strengthen rental value growth. From January to November 2017 there was a 19% rise in viewings in comparison to 2016. The number of tenancies agreed also rose by 14% over the same period, whilst on average 17% more new potential tenants registered with PCL agents.
In a world of low returns, the Prime Central London lettings market became a comparatively more attractive asset class in 2017 from an investors view. Currently, the average gross yield in prime central London is 3.2%, higher than the risk-free rate of a 10-year UK government bond, which was yielding approximately 1.2% in mid December. The stretch between the two is high by historic standards; this trend is likely to continue with bottoming out sales values which will boost total returns. There is no immediate likelihood of a rate rise, despite the fact that UK inflation rose to 3.1% in December. Subject to the usual requirements, the Bank of England expects the base rate to be 1% in 2020, which is still low by historical standards.