If you’ve done your marketing well, started forward planning early enough, plus taken advice from your local property management agency you’d hope your property would never be empty for long. But - if you do find your property vacant in this increasingly crowded rental market - put the time to good use in order to find a tenant quickly and to ensure minimising the risk of future ‘voids’.
During the time your property is empty take the opportunity to do all those jobs that it’s harder to do while the property is occupied – you may even be able to increase your property’s potential for benefitting from capital growth too!
Wayne Mearns Proprietor of Belvoir Southend-on-Sea says, “Check out your decoration, carpets and curtains as these things can transform the darkest of rooms and give it a warmer and modern feel. Observe front and rear gardens too, making the most of the season with hanging baskets or just a neat tidy garden.”
Proprietor of Belvoir Peterborough and Corby Terry Lucking adds, “Even though the number of renters is up year after year the competition to get renters to apply for a property is becoming a real challenge for many landlords and agents - in particular for those where the house is located in an area where there already is a lot of rental choice. This used to be centred around new-build developments but, with the ever increasing amount of new landlords letting as they are unable to sell their homes, many areas are now affected.
“The more experienced landlords know that when the market is over-supplied with lots of choice for prospective renters they have to do things differently. You should consider redecorating the property inside and outside, clearing the gutters of weeds, making the house look more attractive by replacing dated window dressings with modern tasteful materials and exchanging ugly pendant light fittings for attractive energy-saving fittings.”
“Presentation is the key,” agrees Rick Flay Proprietor of Belvoir Sheffield and Chesterfield. “Ensure the property is spotlessly clean and, when needed, freshen up the paint. A lot of landlords won’t do this unless they are able to get monies from the previous tenants on departure, i.e. from deposits. However, landlords need to remember that over time there will be fair wear and tear and that it is their responsibility to maximise their investment.”
Savvy landlords think long-term too. Jobs done between tenants will prevent further decay during a tenancy when access may be limited - they may even prolong the shelf-life of the property. Minor on-going maintenance is definitely better for your property – and your wallet – than full-scale repairs because problems have been left.
Among other on-going maintenance “review loft insulation and pipe lagging,” advises Wayne. “This will avoid costly repairs going into the winter and minimise the risk of having a tenant with no heating. It will help make for a better rated Energy Performance Certificate too.”
And, don’t forget, empty properties lend themselves to the best marketing photographs so make sure you take this opportunity to have photographs taken for future marketing campaigns. As a guide, the best marketing campaigns start three-months before the end of the previous tenancy or as soon as notice is given if the tenant is renting on a month-by-month basis.
If you have the capital available and don’t think you’re going to find another tenant quickly, a lull between tenants may also be a good time to invest in your property. Add value with extra facilities, such as a conservatory, decking or an extra bedroom – update old-fashioned bathrooms and kitchens too. Not only will this help to attract a wider spectrum of potential tenants but it could also help the property benefit from capital growth on selling.
Of course, for most landlords the main aim during a period of ‘void’ is to let the property as quickly as possible. Step up your marketing campaign, perhaps using local newspapers and notice-boards, seek advice from your local letting agent and offer potential tenants special packages or concessions. For example, “offer decorative features as an add on,” says Wayne. “If you’re planning to redecorate anyway why don’t you offer prospective tenants a choice of wallpapers during the viewing so that they have the chance to make it their own home.”
And, one of the quickest and easiest ways to broaden your property’s appeal to tenants is to re-consider the monthly rental return you’re hoping to achieve.
“Many landlords decline offers made by viewers, preferring to wait weeks before someone pays the asking price,” says Terry. “Why not ask the viewer if they will move in within five working days of the application. You can carry out a rent review in month five to be effective from the start of month six subject to setting up a six-month fixed term. Surely six months at a rent lowered by £50pcm is better than having another full month of void.
“Also, if you are going to lower the advertised rental price think about how search engines group prices together,” continues Terry. “This is often overlooked and rarely understood by landlords. Dropping from say £650 to £625 may not produce any more results. The price will need to go down to £600 or lower to ensure the property becomes visible in more search results.”
Most importantly, Terry suggests that all landlords should be honest with themselves and take an objective look at their property alongside others that are available.
“Many novice and new-to-the-market landlords believe the rent less management fees must cover their mortgage, including the cost of capital repayments. Often this is not practical,” he says. “Instead, check the local market rents to see what similar properties are being advertised for. Look at the marketing photos and honestly ask yourself is mine more attractive? And - if it isn’t – ask yourself what can I do to make it look better?”
Faced with a period of ‘void’? Take the opportunity between tenants to do the following...
Spotlessly clean the property
Freshen up paintwork
Consider changing the decoration, carpets and curtains
Review loft insulation and pipe lagging
Take new marketing photos for future marketing campaigns
Clear the gutters of weeds
Replace dated window dressings with modern materials
Replace ugly pendant light fittings with energy-saving attractive fittings
Make the gardens looks presentable and make the most of the season
Install modern appliances in the kitchen
* Take advice about your property from a professional property management agent, such as Belvoir. To find your nearest Belvoir office, visit their website at http://www.belvoirlettings.com/