Once you get beyond the practicalities and legislation, the key to being a successful landlord is to find and keep good tenants. If you can achieve this your tenancy should, in theory, be a lot more manageable and enable you to focus on the strategy of your portfolio – plus allow for stress free tenancy agreements and to minimise lengthy void periods! However, there’s a lot of competition out there, so your properties really do need to look their best if you are to grab people’s attention…
The post-Covid tenant wish list
Without a doubt, Covid-19 has changed what tenants are looking for. So much so that if you can’t provide anything on their wish list, you may find it quite difficult to find somebody to live there. Things they’re looking for now include some form of outdoor space (balcony, terrace, garden), modern interiors, study or somewhere they can turn into a home office, pet friendly accommodation, room for outdoor entertaining, fast broadband and good phone signal. Properties that can offer most of these features will attract tenants quickly – not to mention the best rental prices.
First impressions really do count…! Any property you rent out needs to look aesthetically pleasing in photographs as well as for viewings if you are to attract tenants quickly and for the long-term. You should also attract tenants who take pride in maintaining their own homes if they are drawn to yours because of its positive appearance. Some things to think about:
Kerb appeal – the front of your rental property needs to be clean and tidy. If it’s a house, ensure you or your tenants clear up litter, put bins, toys and tools away, pull out weeds in paths, mow the front lawn, sweep the steps and dead head flowers/plants. If it’s a communal area ie a flat, for the sake of thirty minutes of your time it might be worth just giving the area around the front door, hallways and front of the building a quick once over. Also consider giving the front door a lick of paint.
Good tenants will also be looking at how well you look after your properties inside. Whether you have tenants in residence or not, check what state the property is in terms of wear and tear. What do your walls look like? A fresh lick of paint is a really cost effective way of hugely enhancing a space. Also look out for mouldy areas or places that need re-grouting – you’ll need to sort that out. Are there any minor repairs that need fixing? If it is furnished, check to see if any furniture needs replacing, and so on. If you have a dated kitchen or bathroom and can’t renovate yet, a lot of small businesses offer up some great solutions – vinyl wraps for baths or tiles and alternative kitchen cupboard handles and knobs for example. A well painted cupboard with some new handles can really increase kitchen appeal no end. Paint has moved on so much in the last five years, especially with the DIY revolution – YouTube and Instagram can offer you a wealth of inspiration and instructional videos. Also think about replacing carpets and walls in garish colours – a neutral palette is always best.
Don’t forget outdoor space too. For example, mow the lawn, remove dead plants and flowers, jet wash patios if you need to and ensure any furniture is neatly placed. If the outdoor furniture is yours and looking a little dated, replace it.
Clean, clean, clean
Does your property smell fresh and clean? Ask your tenants in residence to clean the house and tidy away their things for photographs and before each viewing. If your previous tenant has only just left, then usually they would have arranged for a deep clean as per the tenancy agreement. If not, get a good clean team to come through. Don’t forget to wash the carpets and curtains too.
Also, always open the windows at least an hour before any viewing to air your property out. Especially after the year we have had with Covid-19, having a space feel clean and airy will make a huge difference to prospective tenants.
Make it homely
A few small details on viewings can transform how a space feels. Hopefully your current tenants have created a nice homely feel, but if the property is empty try and do this yourself. Don’t spend hours setting the stage for an Instagram photoshoot, but a little nod to a lifestyle can make a real difference. Some nice cushions or quality rugs, a cafetiere or coffee machine in the kitchen sets a tone over a tin of Nescafé and a chipped mug. You don’t need to provide these things (specify clearly if not included), but they can help soften a neutral empty space.
Keeping good tenants
Like all good businesses, the key to success is relationships. In the world of tenancies these are with your suppliers, i.e. tradespeople and your customers, i.e. tenants. In short, to keep good tenants, you need to be good to them. A positive open line of communication between both parties should then allow for a harmonious relationship and a stress-free tenancy agreement for all.
For example, subject to the contract you have in place, generally speaking the overall property maintenance (keeping it safe and habitable) sits with you the landlord, while the day to day running’s (keeping it clean and tidy) lies with the tenant. Tenants want to feel like they can come to their landlord with any issues they may have. If you can build up that level of trust with them by listening and cooperating, then you’re more likely to keep them for the long-term.
To achieve this, especially if you have a large portfolio, you will need a local team on the ground who can help with quick fixes and small problems. Ensure that you have a great little black book of tradespeople who you can call on in an emergency or time of need. A problem that isn’t dealt with quickly and properly often develops into a costly fix. Alternatively, a letting agent can manage all of this for you through their Property Management service. Or, perhaps a tenant may tell you that they’re financially struggling. It’s important to listen, understand their situation and find a way to help them resolve it rather than threatening eviction – this should always be a last resort. Allowing pets is another way of securing good tenants – after all, pet owners are generally considerate towards their rental home because they know how hard it is to find pet friendly accommodation.
Often the rental community is just that, a community. People chat, and word will spread that you are a good, approachable, problem solving landlord. One’s reputation always precedes them and word of mouth is the strongest endorsement you could ask for.
There is endless information and actions one can take in trying to secure the right tenants for you, but be realistic, look critically at what target market your property can best serve and then set yourself up from there.
To put it simply;
- Present the property well
- Ensure it is clean, tidy and stink free
- Allow pets (there are many benefits for doing so)
- Remember it is going to be someone’s home in terms of décor and condition
- Stand out from the rental crowd, a little bit
- If something needs replacing, it’s worth doing – it will pay off in the long run. Run a careful budget and you should always have a pot to dip into when needed
- Be nice. Be approachable. Be responsive. Be proactive
- Your reputation will then never let you down
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