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Letting in Thame

Thame has been an important Market Town servicing a large rural constituency for hundreds of years.  It has maintained its significance in the last sixty years with an active town council who have permitted relevant and balanced growth whilst maintaining a diverse High Street with plenty of independent traders and ensuring continuity for both the cattle market, and the weekly (Tuesday) traders market.

Together with excellent non-selective schools, and good connectivity to London and Oxford, this has ensured Thame and many of the surrounding villages are highly desirable places to live.

The rental Market in Thame

The rental market in Thame is strong, void periods are well below the South East average (24 days per annum) and tenants tend to stay for longer than the South East average. In recent months, the smaller properties, one and two beds, ideal for young couples starting out living together or saving for their first purchase, have taken a little longer to let than in previous years.  This may be partly as a result of the help to buy scheme which has enabled a larger group access to owning their own property. None-the-less, if the price is right, and the finish is good, there is always a tenant for a rental property in Thame. Village properties are always attractive to young families, perhaps moving from a city and “tasting” rural life before committing to purchase.  Villages like Ickford and Brill where the primary schools are strong are particularly sought after.

Rents are buoyed up in Thame partly by proximity to Oxford and connectivity to London, but also by the attractive nature of the town itself.  Development has been orderly and the character of the town has been retained by a relatively dynamic and active town council.

Tenants in Thame are a diverse demographic.  The two largest private sector employers Field Sales Solutions and CPM (UK) in Thame have relatively transient workforce, and because of the connectivity to Oxford, for many working there with BMW and Oxford University as two of the largest employers there, will choose to live outside the city where they can get more property for their budget.  Professional tenants are the norm for the Thame rental market, and many will own property in another part of the country. For young couples where one is still working in London and one has a job in Oxford, Thame is a logical choice because of the excellent connectivity to both.

Where to start with a buy-to-let

Renting out a property for the first time can be a daunting task.  Therefore, this section information on why Thame and the surrounding area is such a great investment area.  Yields in Thame are around 4%, not dissimilar to neighbouring areas, but the strong demand and low voids as well as capital stability make this an attractive investment area.  There are a number of considerations around compliance that will require attention before making a purchase. Energy efficiency is an increasingly important issue. At the moment, the (minimum) requirement is that the property is “E” rated, but there is no doubt that this will move upwards within the next ten years.  Oxford City Council are already talking about how they can achieve a “C” rating across the Private rented Sector. The property will need certification for Gas Safety (annually) and we would advise a fixed wiring certificate too. Carbon Mon-Oxide and smoke detectors (preferably mains interlinked) are required as is a Legionella risk assessment.  A good agent can advise on all of the above and the cost for compliance is not prohibitive for a property in good order.

For the prospective tenant, the quality of bathroom(s) and kitchens is the most important thing when making decisions on which property to rent, after location. Of course, the general finish of paintwork, flooring and lighting is also important, and increasingly, council tax and running costs re taken into consideration. Access to amenities and transport is important, and off road parking and/or a garage add value to a property.  If the property has a garden, it is best to keep it as “low maintenance” as possible.


Other things to consider when thinking of letting your property.

Apart from yield, location and compliance, it is worth exploring if some initial refurbishment will increase the rent achievable.  A good letting agent in Thame should offer you a visit between exchange and completion to explore this with you in order that you can schedule in necessary trades to effect refurbishment at the point of completion.  Financial advice is important to ensure that the tax implications of Section 24 do not adversely impact on the viability of a buy to let acquisition. Landlord insurance varies considerably in scope and cost, it is worth comparing a number of providers to ensure that the product you purchase is appropriate.  Certain types of property require licensing by the local authority. If you are considering letting to sharers, it is worth seeking advice from your letting agent about whether this would apply to the property you are considering for purchase.  


How to choose the right letting agency in Thame

To make sure you find the best people to act for you on all or parts of the residential lettings process, it is worth spending some time researching your options.  There are a number of strategic questions you can ask letting agencies to help sort the wheat from the chaff. It is well worth establishing if the agent is a member of a professional organisation with defined Code of Conduct and minimum standards.  Property Mark ARLA qualified staff are a pre-requisite for membership of that body. Membership of a redress scheme such as The Property Ombudsman will give further comfort, and you should confirm that your selected agent has mandatory Client Money Protection in place.  It is also a good idea to establish how many properties each Property Manager “looks after” and whether the property manager is local or do they use a centralised call centre. Whilst asking about staff, it is worth establishing average tenure…….. it is frustrating for landlords to have frequent staff changes with instructions on service levels having to be repeated to new employees.

Most letting agents have various levels of service, for which they charge a percentage of rent or a single “up front” fee, or sometimes a combination of both. It is important to establish what other charges will apply; will there be a charge for marketing material, or commissioning an inventory and schedule of condition.  Does the agent charge for periodic property visits, or put a mark-up on invoices from contractors for any management /repairs issues.

Remember, you are the customer…….. is the agent able to offer you the service that you require, or are they trying to fit you into one of their “off the shelf” service packages? If the latter contact College and County.

Writted by Mark Crampton Smith -  Managing director at College and County, 55 North Street, Thame - Eithical lettings in Thame