By Melissa Lawford
Footballers in the Home Counties are having to move into hotels ahead of the new season as the supply of high-end rental homes has dried up.
Alex McLean, head of the sports team at Knight Frank’s relocation services business, said that a lack of pricey properties to rent along the A3 corridor out of south-west London means “a lot of players are ending up in hotels”.
Accommodation budgets of Premiership players, who often opt to rent, especially at the start of their club contracts, often exceed £15,000 a month, said Mr McLean. But the pandemic has shrunk local supply in their favoured towns, which include Oxshott, Esher and Cobham in Surrey.
This means that newly-signed players, such as Thiago Silva and Ben Chilwell who are moving to Chelsea, may find it difficult to rent a property near the club’s training ground in Cobham.
James Dodds of Grosvenor Billinghurst, a Surrey estate agent, said: “I can’t remember a time when there was this much movement in the super high-end rental market.” Footballers in these areas also have to compete with wealthy workers at nearby tech firms.
The post-lockdown property “mini-boom”, driven by Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s stamp duty holiday and a shift to working from home, means that many high-end homeowners are taking the opportunity to sell their homes now while prices are high, and renting until prices fall when the impact of the recession bites. The sales market had been sluggish for several years before the pandemic.
In the three months to August, the number of homes worth more than £5m for sale outside central London doubled compared to the same period in 2019, according to Knight Frank.
Meanwhile, between April and August in the south-west corridor, which includes areas such as Ascot and Cobham, the number of high-end rental properties coming to the market fell by 20pc compared to the same period in 2019. For homes renting for more than £15,000 per month, the number fell by 55pc.
The footballer zone along the A3 is an anomaly: across London and the Home Counties, over the same period, the number of overall rental listings jumped by 28pc year-on-year.
Within the capital, the contrast is even more stark. Camilla Dell, of Black Brick, a buying agency, said landlords who have recently renewed tenancy agreements in London have had to accept 10pc and 20pc rent reductions. “Flats without outside space are faring the worst,” she added.
There is more demand than usual from footballers to rent big homes in this area, and some are moving there because they want more green space after lockdown. “Chelsea has spent a lot of money on new players, but there are also footballers for the London clubs who have decided to move out this way,” said Mr Dodds.
There is new demand for pricey rental homes in this area from footballers at south London clubs such as Crystal Palace and Millwall as well as Chelsea, Fulham and south coast teams such as Bournemouth and Southampton, said Mr Dodds.
The footballers looking to rent now are late to the trend. When the pandemic started, “there was a snap reaction from some very, very wealthy Londoners to rent a Surrey mansion,” said Mr Dodds.
“We had a chap where there wasn’t a figure for a budget, we were trying to negotiate him renting a whole hotel and its cottage in the grounds. The deal was going into a couple of hundred thousand pounds a month,” said Mr Dodds.
But while demand for luxury rentals has spiked, supply has dropped.