With mass quarantine in sight, renters put off moving

Flatsharing site SpareRoom reveals a significant drop in people looking to move due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Across the UK there has been a 20 per cent drop in people looking for rooms over the last week.

Despite London being weeks ahead of the curve in terms of the virus, the capital has seen a smaller drop in activity than the rest of the UK, down by 15 per cent.

However, with a possible countrywide lock down around the corner, people with rooms to rent are hurrying to get tenants. SpareRoom has seen a 15 per cent increase in ads from agents and a 12 per cent uplift from landlords, just in the past two days. This is driven, in part, by landlords and homeowners switching from using short-term rental sites like Airbnb as tourism tanks and looking for longer term rents for their rooms. Some are also mentioning concerns over having lots of different people moving in and out.

In the last two weeks 18 per cent of agents have reduced their rents, and 11 per cent of landlords have done the same, with some directly mentioning COVID-19 as the reason for this reduction.

While there is a slowdown in people looking for rooms due to the outbreak, many will have no choice and still need to move. With the rising concern about face to face contact SpareRoom has also seen a real trend over the last week of people moving towards video calls – getting to know each other and having a first view of the property this way.

Matt Hutchinson, SpareRoom Director comments: “Whenever there’s uncertainty people put off making big decisions, like moving house. We saw it during the confusion over Brexit and we’re seeing it in a much more marked way now. In contrast, people with rooms to fill are desperately hoping to get new tenants in before the country goes into lockdown.

Although it’s still early days, we’re also seeing some interesting shifts in behavior on both sides. Following widespread cancellations, we’re seeing both landlords and homeowners moving from short term rents to looking for longer term security.

Tenants are getting creative by using video calls to hold virtual viewings and interviews. The people you live with make a far bigger difference to you than the property itself, and video calls are a great way to get that all important first impression before deciding to go and see a property. It also minimises the need for travel and social contact so it’s a win-win.”