Oxfordshire home shortage

7 April 2010, 05:55

There's a big shortage of homes to rent in Oxfordshire for families and young professionals.

One Oxford estate agent's told Heart for every 100 people looking for a new two-, three- or four-bed home to rent in Oxford, there are only seven available.

One of the reasons is because many people who would have got their first foot on the property ladder and become first time buyers are choosing to keep on renting instead.  Many are having trouble getting mortgages.

David Gilson, a lettings negotiator with County and College, told Heart: "Renewals have increased over the last few years as tenants become more aware of the housing shortage and opt to stay put. Building has ground to a halt since the start of the recession as developers struggle to borrow money."

Oxford's letting market is dominated by the academic timetable with the vast majority of property coming available over the summer for both professionals and students. The students are pushing out the professional market, because they're willing to pay more rent than struggling families. One estate agent told Heart they push their prices up to get the most they can out of the more affluent student market.

Frank Webster from Finders Keepers Letting Agents in Oxford says the lack of housing is a widespread problem across Oxfordshire.

On their books at the moment, they have 1,082 people wanting homes to rent across Oxfordshire and only 199 available. He blames the recession, saying fewer people are buying to let and more people are renewing tenancies.

First time buyers who had historically bought their first home in their late 20s or early 30s are still renting as they're finding it harder to get on the property ladder. This means more couples and families are renting for longer resulting in fewer properties for the younger generations who are fresh out of university. By 2020, Mr Webster told us the rental market would have grown to 11% following Europe's trend of renting rather than buying. The typical age now for a first time buyer is 39.

For one group of professional sharers, the search for a new home in Oxford became increasingly frustrating.

Beatrice Smith and two of her friends, all in their twenties and in professional jobs, have been looking to rent a property for two months.  Three times they've viewed a house, gone away to talk it over and by the time they call the letting agent an hour later, it's gone.

"It's cut-throat out there, you have to be quick or you lose the house, especially if it's a good one."

And not all of them are: "We've viewed some hideous ones, with landlords and agents demanding huge sums. We're not students and don't want run-down student homes.

"We want a clean, tidy and professional house for when we come home from work. We started looking in Jericho and there was nothing available, and if it was, it was way out of our price range."