London Cycle Scheme – the Future of Advertising Flats to Rent?

Is sponsorship a good way of advertising Flats for Rent? Barclays have certainly snapped up a bargain, Barclays are only paying £25m towards the £140m cycle scheme which now bears their name, and they get more than just the name ‘Barclays Bikes’ – they also get 100km plus of road painted Barclays blue – and an advert on every bike. Eat your heart out Foxtons Minis, throw away your canvas bags Marsh & Parsons, have your notepad back Douglas & Gordon, Chestertons & Frank Knight!

Of course Barclays are reaping a whirlwind of negative publicity, anti-war activists who have placed large stickers about the conflict in Afghanistan on the back of bikes to highlight Barclays investment in the arms trade. The activists claim 4,000 bikes got stickers & the messages read:


Other demonstrators left stickers on bikes at Hyde Park Corner in protest at Barclays’ sponsorship of the scheme, unhappy about the bank’s record of investing in defence companies.

The Guardian on the bikes

London can now claim the dubious honour of hosting what is surely the largest piece of corporate branding in existence. It’s not just the scale, the mind-blowing square footage, that is shocking about this – it’s the principle. We’re not talking about some supersized billboard here: we’re talking about the mayor selling off the very road beneath our wheels – one of the few parts of a city that counts indisputably as public space. Whether they realise it or not, whether or not they even care, from now on thousands of cyclists are doomed to commute on a giant Barclays ad….There is something, too, in the gibes suggesting this is not just Barclays blue but Tory blue. Neither New Labour nor former mayor Ken Livingstone did anything to prevent the growing privatisation of the city, but it is hard to imagine Livingstone selling off a chunk of the public realm in such brazen fashion.”

The Standard calls for a new name:

The Standard calls for a new name for Boris & The Cycle Scheme

The Standard calls for a new name for Boris & The Cycle Scheme

London is saddled with the lifeless name for its scheme of “Barclays Cycle Hire”. We badly need a nickname for the scheme. I’ve already suggested the Bozza. All other ideas welcome, the wittier the better

Not good publicity – but then there is no such thing as bad advertising. When Foxton’s illegal and fraudulent business practices became the feature of a BBC TV program their business actually increased.

So Pimlico Flats need to get our company bike covered in slogans, and have George repaint Winchester St. pavement. That will get the tenants renting our flats.

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London Flats & Studios to Rent from Pimlico Flats – July/August



During July and August Pimlico Flats have a number of Studios becoming available. They are listed on our Available Page (see Menu Left), advertised on this Blog (see Advertising Panel Right) and of course advertised in the Property Portals through our account with Upad (see advert left). We have several of each type of property – 2 Bedroom Flats, 1 bedroom Flats, and Studios. Prices vary depending upon the property, the Studios from £1000 – £1250 pcm, the Flats from £1300 pcm. If a tenant has said that they wish to rent a flat and has left a holding deposit, we mark the listings as “Under Offer” pending taking references, and preparing the rental agreement. Once this process is complete the listing will be marked “Let” and left for a period.

Walk In Shower

Walk In Shower

These photos are for one of our new Studios – 75 Flat 12 which is available to rent for £1250 pcm from 1st August 2010.

Studio Kitchen

Studio Kitchen

Studio Kitchen

Studio Kitchen

Fitted Washer Drier

Fitted Washer Drier

Fitted Fridge

Fitted Fridge

Bathroom & Storage

Bathroom & Storage

Twin Headed Flood Shower

Twin Headed Flood Shower

Flat Renting – Know Who You Paid Rent to!

We do a regular series of blogs on scams operating in the property world, and a common scam that has hit the news again today is where the “Landlord” or “Agent” renting a property doesn’t actually own the property or have a right to rent it out. Most commonly this seems to be an existing tenant moving on, and trying to make some extra money before returning to their home country rather than professional scam artists, but in the latest news item professional scammers broke into an empty house, and proceeded to rent it out to unsuspecting tenants who have now lost well over £7000 between them.

We lost savings for our baby in flat-letting scam

The scammers broke into the Victorian house in West Hampstead, after advertising flats on the Gumtree website, and proceeded to rent out flats in the house to three groups including one couple, Daniel Simpson and his girlfriend Cristina Monachello (pictured), who are expecting their first baby and who lost their £2,500 life savings in the trick. A group of four women paid the conmen £2,240 and a couple from New Zealand paid £2,400. Meanwhile the genuine owner of the property is living in France blissfully unaware that his house is being used as part of a fraud.

What can you do to protect yourself when trying to rent a flat? Well certainly take time to read through our series of articles on renting scams.

For this particular scam your first line of defence is to recognise a scammers fingerprints as it were. They don’t have a place where they can be traced to, and don’t tie up with other people. They also don’t want to invest much money because very few people will actually fall for their deceit so they rely on the same statistics that power spam – large numbers which land the occasional big reward. Free adverts on Gumtree, Craigslist and other sites cost nothing, a free Hotmail eMail account can be set up in seconds. Also note that scammers may well reply to a “Wanted” Ad. that you yourself have placed. All this contrasts with when you are dealing with a reputable Landlord or Agent – they will behave in a fairly predictable way. They may be cautious (Landlords get scammed too!), but become familiar with what is normal, & what is abnormal. If things are not proceeding in a normal way your alarm should be ringing. So don’t just communicate with a Landlord at the rental property – expect to contact them at their office or home.

Remember that it is a legal requirement for a Landlord to give a tenant an address where they may be contacted. This may be an Agent, or their own office, but failing that it should be their home address.

If you are unhappy with your initial investigations, or wish to proceed cautiously there are simple cheap checks that you can commission. Land Registry will provide details of the registered owner of the property online for a fee of £4, it’s cheap, instant, and should resolve any doubts that you have. If the person renting the property to you isn’t the owner they should know who the owner is, and have a good explanation as to why they aren’t the owner.

If you want to go further than just establishing the ownership of the property then for £24.95 you can use Rentchecks (a leading provider of data & intelligence to the property rental industry) to check the suitability of your prospective landlord before entering into an agreement. The check confirms that a prospective landlord is the legitimate owner of the property being let, and will also confirm that mortgage payments are being met.

Landlord Authenticity Certificate

I’d just like to leave you with the thought that the most telling sign of a scam is one that people choose to ignore out of desperation or greed. Because you aren’t actually going to get anything for your money scammers can make the flats advertised  unrealistically cheap and rely on people’s greed to overcome their caution. Scam Flats are always cheaper than genuine ones.

If a flat seems too good to be true, the most likely explanation is that it IS too good to be true.

Zoopla eBay and Gumtree Combine to Let London Flat Rentals for Lettings Agents and Estate Agents

Image representing Zoopla as depicted in Crunc...

Image via CrunchBase

Advanced news  (they haven’t published the Press Release yet) but Zoopla are due to announce a tie up with eBay and Gumtree which will see property adverts listed on Zoopla being listed on eBay and Gumtree as well. Zoopla are announcing this as an exclusive marketing partnership with two of the UK’s largest websites, and it certainly is a coup and attraction to Lettings Agents, however private landlords are already offered advertising on Gumtree as part of their advertising package with Upad. Zoopla claim that the new deal means that agents listing on now have the opportunity of being seen by over 73% of all UK website users monthly, a far higher figure than any other portal. The new partnerships involve brand new, dedicated ‘agent listing’ channels on both the eBay and Gumtree websites. In the case of the eBay channel, this will include all the latest ‘for sale’ and ‘to let’ listings and in the case of Gumtree only the latest ‘for sale’.

On Gumtree the Zoopla listings are anonymous, but on eBay they appear through a Zoopla “Shop” which lists the properties in the “Classifieds” section.

I am sure this is a smart move by Zoopla in trying to displace the older established Rightmove as the premier Property Portal. eBay does of course own Gumtree, and I suspect that this deal was enabled by Doug Monro, a former managing director at Gumtree, who was recruited as Zoopla’s chief operating officer exactly 2 years ago. However the change isn’t currently of great significance because Gumtree is a site people go to to find properties to rent, but not buy, and Zoopla are only feeding sales to Gumtree not lettings. The situation at eBay is even less significant, but has greater potential. Few people currently look at eBay’s classifieds section for anything, let alone property! eBay would have to halt the steady decline of their website, and make their search facility much more property friendly for the listings in eBay’s classifieds to be of significance. However were that situation to change, and eBay are still the top ecommerce website on the internet, then Zoopla would be the only company offering feeds onto the eBay website.

How does this affect you?

If you are an Estate Agent or Lettings Agent

You get a much better deal feeding your properties through Zoopla

If you are a Private Landord

It makes no difference to you, Upad still offers you the complete advertising service of all portals (including Gumtree) – but as eBay never really advertised lettings Upad hasn’t listed on eBay before. If you choose a letting agent to represent you,  it won’t affect you at all because even if the letting agent feeds their property through Zoopla, they aren’t putting their rental feeds onto Gumtree.

If you are a Tenant

Searching for a flat is difficult as a tenant. The fewer places you have to look, the easier it will be. eBay has never been a place to look for flats to rent, so the availability of rental flats on eBay makes little difference. The new arrangements doesn’t cover rental listings on Gumtree, so it doesn’t really make a lot of difference to your search. You still have to search portals and Gumtree separately to know that you have covered the market.

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It’s Pull not Push, Marketing not Sales, 3rd Millenium not 2nd

Twitter FollowFriday

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

As it’s Follow Friday I thought that I would talk about Twitter – I’ve been on Twitter for a couple of years and we rent most of our flats due to twitter. I discovered fairly early on that Twitter doesn’t work as an advertising medium, and that the people with a small number of high quality followers are much more influential than those with large numbers of followers acquired by automated and indiscriminate means. Almost since the beginning I have been an advocate of quality, not quantity, and if you don’t want to follow my story jump to the Conclusion.

Twitter and Facebook

My Twitter account is a business account – rightly or wrongly I restrict Facebook to family and personal friends and the swapping of personal news, photos & events. I did syndicate my Tweets onto my Facebook account for a short while, but my friends didn’t appreciate business type tweets invading their Facebook timeline just as I block Farmville et. al. from mine, so I rapidly disconnected the 2 accounts. If you are one of my Facebook friends who sends their twitter feed through to their Facebook Status, then I am afraid you are wasting your time, you are blocked, and further you are losing the opportunity to connect with me on a second level. I urge you to disconnect your Twitter feed from Facebook, you can always do what I do – use Tweetdeck for Facebook as well as Twitter, and when a Tweet is appropriate for Facebook send it to both sites at once.

Twitter and Advertising

Perhaps I should explain what I mean by the apparently conflicting comments that I successfully use Twitter for business, but that it is useless as an advertising medium. I’ve nearly always been personal on Twitter even though it is a successful business tool for me, but in the early days I used to use twitter to advertise the vacant flats that we had, just as classified ad sites used to feed their ads onto twitter. This was a resounding #fail and anyone still using Twitter in this way is crippling their Social Networking effectiveness for zero benefit. I do occasionally mention vacancies, but Twitter is just a window into me and my business. A prospective tenant peers in through this window, and if they like what they see they will go & find out whether we have vacancies. It’s pull, not push, marketing not sales, 3rd Millenium not 2nd.

Can you have Too Many Followers?

Can you have Too Many Followers? – if you wish to leverage your internet presence, then yes!

I just stated that you can’t sell to people on twitter by broadcasting to them – the reason for this and the beauty of twitter for it’s users over other media is that the listener controls what they listen to. The only way followers will actually read what you tweet is if they know enough about you to recognise that you are worth listening to – and that means some form of engagement, which probably means that you have to listen to them on twitter also. The simple equation which most people and twitter applications miss is that your reach is related not to the people who follow you, but on the number of people that you successfully follow.

How do I successfully Follow?

How do I successfully Follow? A very easy question to answer – you read what your followers tweet. If you aren’t reading them you shouldn’t be following them! I use Tweetdeck to separate my follows into groups, the most important 2 being:

  • Friends
  • Follow Friday

Most of my follows are not on either list, more of that later.


Believe it or not I need to explain who Friends are – they are people I know and like, but I’m not interested in their Twitterfeed. I think it’s very important to avoid the concept that follows on twitter are people that you like, and vica versa. These are people I love very much, but don’t want to read their feed all the time.

Follow Friday

Follow Friday is a list that I maintain solely to recommend to others on Friday (today!). I read the all tweets of these people (when I have connected to twitter – one of the most powerful twitter tools is the OFF button!) and these are the people that I recommend to you to follow. The list is continually revised – if people for their own reasons start repeating their tweets excessively or change their behaviour in some other detrimental way I drop them off the list, there is one person who has been removed & reinstated 4 times! Here is the list that I recommend for Follow Friday that you can subscribe to, but if you are only looking at it to see if you are on it then you are missing the point!


Before yesterday I used to follow 1300 people – this wasn’t the result of blind auto-follows, I have always tried to be selective about about who I followed, however I decided that following 1300 people and giving them a reasonable amount of attention would take up more time than I can afford. Yesterday I discovered a tool that I thoroughly recommend and used it to unfollow 650 people. It was an intensely manual process taking me 2 hours, so I wish that Twitter rules could be relaxed to allow it to be automated, but nevertheless I am pleased with the result. No doubt I made a mistake, and if anyone reading this was unfollowed please contact me and I will refollow. The point is that the people that I needed to unfollow will either automatically unfollow back, or not notice. Both are fine with me, as both types are exactly the sort of person I was trying to unfollow! If you notice, then I am very happy to correct my mistake.


Sorry – that has been more of a rant than I had intended when I started. I hope that you read it through, and got something from it. The main two lessons would be:

  • Here is the list that I recommend for Follow Friday that you can subscribe to
  • Here is a tool that I thoroughly recommend to unfollow people who you shouldn’t really be following
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Finding a Flatshare through Facebook & Gumtree

Pimlico Flats recently had a tenant whose joint tenant wanted to move on. The tenant who wanted to stay very successfully found a reliable and well recommended flatshare from amongst her contact by using Facebook. As it worked so well I asked her to share her story:

By L. an existing tenant of Pimlico Flats.

When my flat-mate decided to leave our lovely Pimlico flat to be closer to her office (and to help out a friend who had a spare room which needed to be filled), I must admit I was slightly panicked. The rent for our flat was extremely reasonable (as well as being excellent value for money), but not so low that I could even imagine paying for it all myself; we also still had a good seven months left on our lease. I wondered how I was going to explain to my landlord that I couldn’t afford the rent on my own and, as all my friends in London were already sorted for accommodation themselves, that I didn’t know anyone else who could take on my flat-mate’s share of the rent. I resigned myself to an uncomfortable conversation with my landlord and a horrible period of flat-hunting far away from the area of London I had come to love and call home.

Luckily for me, my departing flat-mate had a very clever idea for finding someone to take her room. “Why don’t we just make a group on Facebook?” It turned out to be a brilliant idea; the flat photographs well, Pimlico has excellent transportation links and a real sense of community, and the rent is very reasonable for the rather ample amount of space on offer. We made our advertisement a ‘group’ rather than placing an ad in Facebook’s Marketplace; this allowed our friends to invite their friends to the group and also allowed for a wall and a discussion board where prospective flat-mates could ask questions. To cover all our bases, we also set up an advertisement on Gumtree. Then, we waited.

Within a day of both ads going live I had 30 emails from potential flat-mates who had seen the Gumtree advertisement and wanted to see the flat. I responded to them as they came in with my responses ranging from ‘No, the room is a single room so you AND your boyfriend won’t both be able to fit’ (don’t people read the advert before replying?) to ‘No I won’t send you a picture of myself so you can get a better idea of who you’d be sharing with’ (rather creepy, if you ask me).

Our Facebook group had only garnered a mild amount of interest (as in 3 replies) but the quality of them was far superior to the misspelled and slightly off-putting responses which had resulted from the Gumtree ad. Most helpfully Facebook allowed me to see who I had in common with the potential flat-mates contacting me. When V. got in touch about 3 days after I set up the Facebook group to say that she needed to move into a flat asap, I could immediately see that we shared a friend in common from Scotland and a little bit about her. I felt much more comfortable inviting her round to see the flat knowing a bit about her and that we knew someone in common (who I could ask for an informal reference) than I had with any of the more anonymous Gumtree respondents.

So, obviously, I would recommend using Facebook to find new flat-mates if you find yourself in a situation similar to mine. The usual caveats apply however; people can sometimes turn out to be not who they seem (no matter how many friends you have in common!) but if you apply a bit of common sense and caution, you will go a long way to keeping yourself safe.

Starting a Facebook group is simple:

  1. Go to your profile page and click on the section of the side-bar labelled ‘Groups’.
  2. At the top of the next page you will see a button called ‘+Create a Group’. When you click on it, it will take you to a page where you can fill in your group name, a description of the group and contact details.
  3. I recommend titling your group something like ‘____ room(s) available in lovely (Pimlico/SW1) flat £____/month’. The more information you can include in your title, the likelier people will be to invite their friends to it. After you’ve created your group, you can invite your friends to it; don’t limit the people you invite to only those living in the city where your flat is located; you never know how many friends of friends may be living in your town and looking for somewhere to live.
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October 2016


1 Bed Studio Flat £1300 pcm

2 Bed Flat £2500 pcm

Short stays £150/Night
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