Countrywide trialling lettings advisers

It comes as the property group acquired Merchant Lettings in Scotland earlier this week – the twelfth purchase Countrywide has made in the lettings market this year.

The Merchant deal will double the size of the company’s lettings business in Scotland “in line with plans for rapid expansion through organic growth and acquisitions”.

Countrywide has also opened 60 new lettings branches across the country.

Nigel Stockton, financial services director at Countrywide, said the move was designed to take advantage of the inevitable growth of the private rented sector.

He said: “As we see the private rental sector grow and Countrywide continues to grow its lettings offering and implement bigger offices particularly in City Centres, we're looking to see whether we now have sufficient volume to experiment with lettings and buy-to-let specialists in our mortgage consultant population.

"I would not be at all surprised if we don’t have a number of dedicated lettings mortgage consultants dealing only in the lettings arena covering landlord portfolio reviews and gaining dedicated expertise from partners like Paragon, BM Solutions and The Mortgage Works et al in 2013.”

And Nick Dunning, group commercial director at Countrywide, said: “It is pleasing that our letting expansion strategy is paying dividends as we recognise that we operate in a different property market now, where renting is the norm, not the exception.

“The growth of our lettings operation will continue to be a major focus for the group, as it is predicted that the rental market will continue to perform strongly with average rents at £750 per month in the UK and over £1,000 per month in London.

“Affordability levels have made private rented sector growth a long-term trend and investment in this sector must be encouraged.”

Dunning said there is now an average of five tenants competing for each available rental property, making investment in the buy-to-let sector “essential”.

He added that Countrywide supported the Labour party’s policy review into the private rented sector and wanted to see regulation which will create a more professional private rental sector, operated by quality agents committed to developing and improving standards of landlords and rental stock across the UK.”