A survey among letting agents on Rightmove has found that on average they are managing 36 enquiries per property and spending nearly six hours managing viewings per property.
The portal says this is the daily reality in the most competitive rental market on record, with quadruple the number of tenants as rental properties available.
Rightmove adds that pressure on the rental market is rising as some would-be buyers pause to see what happens with mortgage rates in the new year.
The number of people enquiring to letting agents to move in the rental market is up by 23 per cent compared to last year, which leaves the total number of people looking to move in either the sales or rental market just one per cent below last year’s levels.
There are signs that mortgage rates and availability are beginning to settle following a turbulent two months, with indications they could drop further next year. The data suggests that this is leading to some aspiring buyers looking at the rental market as a short-term alternative while they wait to see where mortgage rates will go.
First-time buyers have been hardest hit by the jump in mortgage rates, especially those who were already stretching themselves financially.
However, this group of future first-time buyers are likely to find competition for a suitable rental home much fiercer than in the sales market, and choice more limited.
The number of smaller available rental homes (studios, one and two bed properties) is down by four per cent compared with last year, while in the sales market it is up 13 per cent.
A separate Rightmove survey found that four in ten aspiring first-time buyers with plans to get onto the ladder in the next few years already had their total deposit saved, while a further 43 per cent are in the process of saving.
Christian Balshen, Rightmove’s rental expert, says: “It’s extremely frustrating for so many people in the rental market right now, with demand so high. Tenants are trying to secure viewings for properties as soon as they hit Rightmove, and the stock shortage means that agents are dealing with an unmanageable number of enquiries.
“The number of aspiring first-time buyers who have now had to turn to the rental market is exacerbating the situation further. We’re seeing some more properties coming to market, but nowhere enough to meet demand.
“We’re hearing from agents that finding out more information about a tenant earlier is one way they are trying to cope with demand, so we’d recommend to anyone looking right now to give as much info as possible about their position, how quickly they can move, and to get their references ready so they have a better chance of getting the place they want.”
And Rightmove's Tim Bannister adds: “It’s completely understandable why some buyers, particularly some first-time buyers, are waiting for some more financial certainty. Now that there are signs that mortgage rates are settling down, the indicators are that they will stabilise at a higher level than previous buyers had been used to. If someone has their deposit saved and is ready to move, they may find that right now presents a better opportunity than a few weeks ago, particularly with more choice coming onto the market and some sellers pricing more competitively in the lead up to Christmas.”