Belfast’s rental market is as strong as ever as people have become more certain about what they want from their home.
The pandemic has changed our lives in so many ways, but one thing that everyone has been forced to do is spend more time at home.
So for those renting, certain aspects of what they want from a property have changed.
Lucy Arthur, Associate Director Sales, Rentals and Property management for Templeton Robinson, said outside space has become an important factor for those renting.
Talking about the price of rental properties since the pandemic, Ms Arthur said there had been a “marginal increase in some properties” in the likes of Stranmillis and Rosetta with a garden, but city centre rental prices have stayed the same.
“Outside space has become an important factor, people realise how important it is because they were stuck at home for so long,” she said.
“Even to have a little balcony or a nice small garden is a big thing.
“Not even necessarily having outside space or a balcony, but even being close to a park or close to Lady Dixon so you can go for a walk, closeness to somewhere you can get out and have your hour of daily exercise when we are in lockdown I think that has become more important to people, especially if you have children.”
Thomas O’Doherty, a partner at Simon Brien Residential, agreed, saying that with people spending more time at home, outdoor space and office space were key things people were asking about.
“It is fair to say that now when people look at properties they will question whether there is an extra bedroom they can get if they are working from home, is there any outside space, a balcony or garden or communal garden,” he said.
“Even if there’s not a second bedroom, if the living room was size you could have a home office without taking over your living room. People are definitely conscious of where they are renting and what they can get to enable them to spend more time at home.”
He added: “I think people are conscious of spending more time in their house or apartment and they are definitely looking to see what is like at home because they are spending more time there.”
Both estate agents said the rental market in Belfast was just as busy, if not busier than before the pandemic.
The return of film companies to the city in recent months has given the sector a boost as they begin production on movies in Northern Ireland.
“We have a few cast and directors wanting bigger properties but also then the apartments as well for 8/9 months let which is probably helping us a bit with demand which is positive they are coming to Belfast and it’s happening at the moment,” said Ms Arthur.
“Generally, from a normal renter, things are just as busy as they were last year.”
One area Ms Arthur identified as slower for the rental market was the city centre, something she attributed to lockdown.
She said rentals in the city centre were very slow in October/November time last year but picked up in December and there was an increase in rentals for a few weeks but it has slowed off again.
She has attributed this to being in lockdown, and said rentals for apartments in the likes of St Anne’s Square, Custom House or Queen’s Square in the city centre rentals are very slow.
Talking about virtual viewings, which became popular during lockdown, both agreed they were “not the norm” for Northern Ireland and didn’t think they would ever replace in person viewings.
Mr O’Doherty said they had their place and were a useful tool but not a replacement for physical viewings, which are conducted under strict Covid guidelines.
And on the price of rental properties across Belfast, Mr O’Doherty – of Simon Brien Residential – said rental levels are similar to last year, and have definitely not gone down.
He said a two bed apartment in the city centre could range from £850-£1,100, and a one bed £700-£800 depending on where they are.
In the liked of Ballyhackamore in the east of the city, rent would be around £700 and on the Lisburn Road between £700-800. He added that for a good quality family home in a good location, the rent could be between £1,000-£2,000.
Mr O’Doherty said generally properties of a good quality are letting after the first viewing and added that they need more stock to rent.
-- to www.belfastlive.co.uk