An Olympics rent-a-thon?

Somewhere, about two miles miles to the east of us, a shining new city is being built –swooping curves, boxy boxes, overrated public sculpture: the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

Public reactions to these forthcoming events have already confirmed expectations of Britishness, from mild excitement at the initial announcement to mild annoyance when one thought through the details (transportation … clusterf*ck). A second wave of enthusiasm crested when everyone put their next six months’ rent down for one of the most ridiculous ticketing systems ever developed, but then, of course, the comedown when no one got tickets. (The DLR, in full disclosure, is going to the Greco-Roman wrestling semi-finals. Ironic sports of the world, you have found your home in Hackney!)

What's not to like?

However, this is perhaps subordinate to the more relevant pre-Olympics East End sport: The Triple Your Rental Income Jump. This epic sporting endeavour was launched early last year with reports that anyone along the Overground line could be able to charge £5,000/nanosecond for letting out their cupboard. And so was exposed the greedy, seedy, slightly hairy underbelly of the otherwise implacable, moustachioed hipster.

Well, like so much hype, this was not meant to be. The DLR has been doing some research into the issue, for purely altruistic, informing-the-public reasons, and predictably the wads of money we’re talking about are not thicker than Daley Thompson’s ‘tache. Apparently, according to our sources, supply (e.g. number of Hackneyites hoping to make a quick buck) is far outstripping demand (e.g. people who want to live in your poorly heated, hilariously decorated abode). Keaton’s has already stopped taking on new stock. Original (real) estimates were that would-be-renters could charge six times the going rate for rent during the Olympics, but because of the supply-demand imbalance, and quite probably the impending global economic meltdown, this has been lowered to four times the normal rent. Moreover, whilst it was originally assumed that tourists, especially from the Far East (China, Australia, Japan) would come for up to four weeks, for a long London holiday, most non-corporate bookings are only in the two-week range. (Which seems fair enough to us.) Corporate renters, meanwhile, are mainly looking in Stratford, or have yet to commit.

Does anyone remember Daley Thompson's Decathlon on ZX Spectrum? Ah, many a happy, RSI-inducing afternoon was spent playing that.

So, is it worth it? If you have, say, a two-bedroom house or flat, you could potentially make £1,600/a week, or £3,200 for two weeks. But most letting agencies will take a quarter of that (Keaton’s, for example, take 22% + VAT and Foxton’s 26%), plus a few hundred quid for an administration fee. Then there is the hassle: if you rent the house out for four people, you need two sets of bedding for each bed, two sets of towels for each person, enough crockery and flatware for eight people, etc, etc, and you will need to move all your personal items (including clothes) and food out of the flat for the two weeks. So you are definitely looking at a trip to IKEA, hassle and car hire. You also need to sort out your insurance (potentially with added cost) and probably make sure gas and fire regs and certificates are in place. Anything broken you’ll also have to replace subsequently. In quantifiable terms, let’s say that tallies up to £700. Taken altogether, you’re probably making a grand for your two weeks crashing on someone else’s floor. That’s not peanuts, but it’s also not a huge sum when you think of the work put in to getting everything ready and the inconvenience to you for moving out for two weeks.

It seems worth it only if you can find renters for four weeks — and you work freelance and could decamp somewhere nice rather than trying to squat elsewhere in London. Or, play play last-minute brink(wo/)manship: somewhere out there, someone as disorganised as you is planning a trip to the Olympics. They may also be filthy rich, extremely clean and well mannered. Maybe. Or you could hire just one of your rooms out.

Another alternative is bypassing the major agencies and posting your place on this site yourself, a kind of high-end Gumtree scenario: But let’s face it, competition is already hotting up on the supply side, so the returns are not going to allow you to take that year off after all.

Whatever you do, the DLR wishes you good luck.

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