If I had one piece of advice for new landlords it would be this;
“Put yourself in the shoes of your tenant”
Often when I meet a landlord for the first time they ask me if there is anything they should do to the property prior to marketing. Sometimes, I get the impression that they ask this because they feel it is a question which should be asked, but when they hear my reply it is not always what they wanted to hear.
I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, after all if I was that landlord and I asked a letting agent to come and give me their opinion on the marketing of the property, what I would really like to hear is;
“Yes Mr. Landlord your property is absolutely perfect and in my professional opinion you will get whatever the going rent is (plus a bit more by way of showing confidence in his ability to let my property) and it will likely to be let to the first person who calls us up. In short, there is nothing you need to do to prepare the property and it is fine just as it is.”
Okay, I’m over egging it a bit but essentially, if we’re honest with ourselves as a landlord this is what we would probably want to hear.
However, some of the most important things you can do prior to marketing a property for let are not the sort of glibly quoted decorating tips which you might be familiar with if you watch the daytime property programs. In comparison to get real value often requires some deeper thinking.
The sort of things I’m talking about is a less about the colour of the carpets or the paint on the walls and more about taking an overall view as to who your property currently appeals to and who it could be tailored to best appeal to.
What I mean by this is your property may rent straight off to a young family but you might be better served by renting it to a professional couple. The accommodation needn’t be that different, a two bedroom house would suit either but the fixtures and other items provided as standard by the landlord might be very different.
But why, I hear you ask, if we take the example above might you want your property to be let to a professional couple rather than a family? Well, for a start a couple are less likely to contribute the same level of wear and tear as a family with a number of small children running around scuffing the carpets, marking the walls and doing all the other things that children will do.
In case you’re wondering, I’m not anti-children- in fact I am the very proud dad of a one year old little boy – this is why I know the havoc that little ones can cause!
Back to the property; If you bear with me on the assumption that we have a property which could equally well be rented to a family or a professional couple, what changes might we make in an effort to make the property more appealing to that young couple and if we’re lucky bring us in a higher rent?
Well some of the changes may be things such as items of furniture which we provided. If the property is being rented furnished, rather than just stopping at the bare essentials of a sofa, bed, TV cabinet etc, why not go just a little bit further and add a few luxuries which your tenants will really appreciate? These items need not be expensive but will make all the difference in the eyes of your tenants.
For example, in the kitchen why not provide a wine rack? Either the sort that sits inside a kitchen unit or if there isn’t the space, one which simply sits on top of the work surface. For a real touch of class and as a gesture which will certainly get your tenancy off to a roaring start, why not put a few bottles of wine on the rack ready for the start of the tenancy? You may think I’m bonkers but the cost of a wine rack (which can be reused) plus the cost of three bottles of really nice wine should set you back no more than £50.00. Now put yourself in the shoes of your tenants – would this not absolutely wow you? And if combined with a few luxury upgrades of other such household objects like a kettle, toaster and bread bin might just persuade your tenants to part with a little more of their hard earned cash?
If you took a property which at the start was ’standard rental fare’ and elevated its status to something just a little bit special you could easily increase your annual rent by a few hundred quid or even more plus you would get to benefit from a property which more than likely would be better looked after by your tenants and require less maintenance and suffer less wear and tear over the coming years. This isn’t just theory, I have practiced this and proven it to be true both on properties which I own and those of my landlord clients.
Admittedly, this sort of approach is seldom adopted by the type of landlord who is simply after making a quick buck but is more suited to the experienced property investor who values long-term capital appreciation, is concerned about protecting the value of his assets and who understands the inherent value of tenants who stay longer.
Given that I’m writing this from my position as a letting agent, you may wonder why I’m encouraging longer tenancies and less churning of our property stock? Well the reason is simple. In the same way as it makes good financial sense for a landlord to keep his property occupied and avoid void periods, it makes good business sense for a letting agent to keep their landlords happy. My take on it is that happy tenants = happy landlords which equates to better business all-round.
Author note: Daniel Sperber is the owner of IQ Property specialist letting agents in Moseley, South Birmingham. He is also the author of the Moseley Property Blog and a regular contributor to property related articles and comment both across social media and the printed press.