Independent ownership and 60+ years' experience of letting properties in the Capital are not the only reasons why Benham and Reeves Residential Lettings is now one of the largest central London letting agencies.
Marc von Grundherr, Director, explains why picking up on the finer points of what it means to be 'local' and why it's so important to maintaining client satisfaction.
Q: What constitutes "local knowledge"?
A: Nowadays you can find pretty much everything you want at the click of a mouse. The internet can bring you a local weather report, tell you where the best schools are, find you a good restaurant but it can't really tell you about local pride and concerns, the cultural diversity, how good mobile phone coverage is… I could go on!
With regards to property, because London is comprised of interconnected "villages", pockets of desirability seem to crop up at random. However, a closer look will reveal an underlying reason behind why some streets attract more interest than others. It's our job to uncover these trends and to pass the information on to landlords and prospective tenants.
Our Hampstead and Highgate branches will tell you which of their streets have the best Heathside views and which private schools are breaking national A* records in the league tables.
In the Docklands and City districts, we have the inside track on all the latest luxury property developments including the numerous high-rise towers that are dominating the skyline and the service charges they come with. And Kensington and Chelsea remain the jewel in the Capital's architectural crown with glorious Victoriana and charming Georgian townhouses that remain ever popular with the rental elite and of course, there's culture a plenty.
Q: How important is local knowledge?
A: Attention to detail in this town is an indispensable aspect of our set-up. London is so much more than a purpose-built metropolis. Schools, retail experiences, leisure pursuits and transport links all have their own particular history and advantages. With this in mind, many of our staff live local to our offices, some have even grown up in the areas where they work. They provide valuable advice on the advantages of living in a particular location and are a useful contact for prospective investors or local landlords who own property in a particular corner of London. Things like a flat that backs onto a train track might seem like a great investment but those who have tried it will tell you that the fast train to Birmingham at 5am is not much fun when you are light sleeper.
Q: Where are the up and coming areas in London?
A: As families seek quality more space combined with value for money, previously overlooked areas are now coming to the fore to the East and West of London. Outlying districts such as Ealing and Kew may not be in the Zone 2 magic circle, but their leafy avenues and convenient transport links make them viable lower-cost renting alternatives. Indeed, our lettings branch in Longfield Avenue, Ealing has attracted widespread interest as corporate professionals seek that oh-so-important work/life balance.
Also, Beaufort Park in Hendon NW9 is an imaginative property development that has revitalised north-west London and is exclusively serviced by our lettings branch there. Apart from a Northern line Tube station on the doorstep, not many tenants realise how close to Mill Hill Broadway the development is, providing a fast over-ground train service direct to London's St Pancras station in just 15 minutes. Being local here has been critical to the constant rental of properties at the development and we always have a waiting list for smaller rental apartments.
Q: Are new-builds a good investment?
A: For investors who want high-spec finish, good amenities and location, new developments are just the ticket. Landlords find them an attractive option because security is generally very good and maintenance overheads are lower than with conversion apartments.
The Imperial Wharf riverside development and nearby Chelsea Creek in SW6 are good examples that new build apartments can be as upmarket as possible. Our on-site office at this prestigious development deals mainly with overseas investors who know that because we are on the spot, we will bring them the best possible returns. Premiership footballers, actors and company directors are regular Imperial Wharf tenants.
In Knightsbridge, around 70% of our rental stock is buy-to-let ownership and the quality of accommodation is high. Tenants here are paying high rents and a personalised local service.
Q: Can you help with the legal requirements?
A: Tenancy agreements, references and safety regulations can all add up to be quite a daunting ball of legal string but we have the specialist knowledge needed to unravel all of it. We also specialise in the fine art of property management which is designed to be another load off a landlords mind. Most companies insist professional property management is in place before they will consider a let.
We are founder members of ARLA Propertymark (the Association of Residential Letting Agents), as well as the members of Property Ombudsman for Letting Agents and The Dispute Service and clients often seek out a member of these bodies when they're looking for an agent to let and manage their property in London. All our staff are well versed in this field and attend regular training to keep up to date with legislation affecting the rental property sector.
Q: Do you deal with relocation companies?
A: Yes we do. The fact that the relocation companies who work with us represent some of the most prestigious multi-national corporations on the planet is, for us, a source of immense pride. Their requirements are high but so are our standards. We relish the challenge that comes with helping to find homes for discerning high-flyers!
As lettings is all we do, most relocation companies come to us first when doing a property search and they know that even if we don't have exactly what they are looking for, then we have access to local property through other property partners we work with.
Q: Why do you have international offices?
A: Our offices in China, Hong Kong, India, Malaysia and Singapore are strategic points of contact for the myriad of international investors that are based there. Longevity, reliability and experience are much valued in these parts of the world and landlords find our presence there reassuring, as they get to conduct business in their own time zone and language. Our offices in these locations work closely with our London offices and our property management department to provide a seamless service to our overseas landlords.
Q: Does it matter that you don't sell any properties?
A: In our opinion, not having spilt priorities is a distinct advantage. This enables us to focus entirely on giving the best lettings service by offering unbiased advice that is accurate and dependably up-to-date. It's also our view that when it comes to renting in London, individuals should not be made to feel as if they are a side project. Likewise those wishing to invest deserve our undivided attention. That said, we do keep up to speed with local property values, it's important when a client wants an informed opinion on rental yields in a specific location. Again, this is where having local presence really counts.
To find your nearest lettings branch call us on 020 3813 2676 email us or go to our Contact Us page