Andrew Benn, Managing Director of haart Residential Lettings, said: "We are seeing a real culture change in the UK towards letting with more people than ever before prepared to make a lifestyle choice and rent. And this isn’t just restricted to people between the ages of 18-30. We’re finding people well into their 30s and sometimes beyond opting to go down this route, particularly in London and the South East.
"This isn’t to say that they don’t want to buy their own home. It is more that with the continued economic uncertainty, they are delaying that decision, and the associated long-term financial commitment of a mortgage, until there is greater certainty in the country."
The trend towards renting has also increased pressure on the availability of property with some haart lettings branches seeing as many as 10 potential applicants chasing every home. It is also reflected in the increase in enquiries from prospective landlords looking at buy to let as an investment opportunity, particularly with annual yields of between 5-10% per annum achievable in some parts of the country.
However, Benn doesn’t foresee average residential rental prices climbing much higher, particularly given that in some areas, such as London, rents now account for 40% of people’s annual income.
"We are likely to see a rise in prices in 2012 but nothing like the levels we’ve experienced in 2011. We are forecasting relatively modest increases, especially outside of London, as the market settles back down to something akin to normality after an unpredictable few months.
"But it is clear that the days of seeing renting as a short-term fix is over. Today renting is viewed very much as a lifestyle choice with many people making a conscious decision to rent for the medium to long-term, and in some instances for life, as we see on the Continent."
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