Record numbers of new tenants register at UK's largest agent – Countywide

Over 275,000 new tenants registered for private rental accommodation last year with Countrywide branches, a 24% increase on 2010.

The findings follow an extensive survey taken among Countrywide’s network of more than 300 branches to track key market trends among some of the industry’s biggest property brands such as Hamptons International, Bridgfords, Slater Hogg & Howison, Taylors, Dixons and Fulfords.

Nearly 80,000 new tenants registered with Countrywide’s network of more than 300 lettings agents during the third quarter, its busiest, with August generating the highest number of inquiries since Countrywide records began in 2004.

Overall, London saw the biggest spike in inquiries, with a 35% increase in tenant applications recorded over the course of the year.

Properties took an average of 13.6 days to be let, a reduction of 1.2 days on 2010.

While most tenants last year were couples under 35, Countrywide branches noticed a growing trend for families to enter the private rental market.

Countrywide also says in Q4 2011, 53.1% of new landlords were either investing in buy-to-let property for the first time or investors with small portfolios of up to three properties.

Nick Dunning, commercial director at Countrywide, said: “We are in the midst of a rental boom as renting has become the new norm.

“Despite gradual improvements in property levels, it is not enough to satisfy the ever-increasing levels of demand. With a record number of tenants entering the private rental sector, there is a vast shortage of properties available in all areas of UK, which could potentially fuel a steady rise in rent prices throughout 2012.”

Countrywide, which operates the UK’s largest mortgage broker network, also handled a big increase in buy-to-let mortgages.