When Heather Elliott, 49, and Andy Espley, 58, started renovating their Edwardian family home in Teddington, south-west London, they planned to move out for a year. But with building work uncovering shocking structural problems, it soon became clear the couple and their teenage daughters would be out of their house for considerably longer.
Their rental lease ended last November at a point when they had no idea how long their home would remain a building site. The couple didn’t want to lock themselves into another long-term rental contract, but needed somewhere to live that was close to their girls’ schools.
“The rental market around here is a bit bonkers and we couldn’t find any short lets. It was a 12-month minimum. We thought, what are we going to do?” says Heather. “We needed somewhere for longer than a holiday home but shorter than a rental. We stumbled across Smarter Rent and it sounded exactly what we needed because of the flexibility.”
Smarter Rent offers rental homes on terms which can be extended from a few weeks or months to years as needed. “Our business is designed for anyone who needs somewhere comfortable and convenient with everything set up for them,” explains Smarter Rent founder, Adrian Sutherland. “Maybe you’re having work done on your house, or you’re buying a home but can’t move in yet. You might be coming to the UK for work and are unsure how long you’ll be here. You might stay for a month or a year or more, but you want to be able to extend as you need and stay in a beautiful home with great service and flexibility built in.”
Like anybody undertaking major building work, Heather and Andy were desperate to be home by Christmas. “We initially went for a 20-day rental of a Smarter Rent house in Surbiton because we thought we'd be back in our own house before Christmas. We'd only booked until the 23rd of December,” says Heather. “But we realised too late that it wasn't going to be finished in time. By that point, the Surbiton house had already been let to someone else. But Smarter Rent found us another place in Thames Ditton straight away. We booked it for the whole of January and we’ve just extended it to the end of February.”
Moving house is considered one of the most stressful things you can do, so you’d think moving home three times in under 18 months would have taken a toll. “Using Smarter Rent has made it much less stressful than it could have been. I mean, firstly, not having to live in our house in Teddington while the work was being done, which would have been just hideous and probably impossible,” says Heather. “But it’s also just the ease of signing the contract, getting the keys and moving in. There's no faff and everything's just there waiting for you when you walk in the door. There was even milk in the fridge.”
Most rental homes are unfurnished or partially furnished. But with Smarter Rent, everything is laid on to make a stay as convenient as possible. “You walk into a beautiful house which is fully set up, with bedding, towels and everything you could need in the kitchen. You don't need to do anything except unpack your clothes. Yes, it costs more each month, but the higher cost is worth it for the peace of mind,” says Heather.
Adrian works directly with property owners and investors to offer Smarter Rent. “We aim to give renters exceptional homes they want to live in and maximise returns for owners,” he says. “To do this, we analyse the market to source, refurbish where necessary and market properties. The way we do it ensures occupancy rates of over 95% and on average our owners receive double the money compared to long lets, sometimes more than double.”
Heather and Andy hope to be able to finally move back into their own home in March. But in the meantime, the whole family is enjoying the Smarter Rent experience. “The house is so nice it’s made me think about what I want to do with my own home. I like the colours, the fabrics and the furnishings,” says Heather. “It feels like a home rather than a hotel. And the beds are enormous! I’ve been telling my daughters not to get too used to having an ensuite and luxurious bedding.”
We have over 250 ready-to-go homes just like Heather and Andy's. See them here.