DBPR asked top London property lettings experts from Aylesford International, Milton Stone and Lurot Brand to share their top tips for preparing your property for a longterm letting.
Catherine Cockcroft, Director, Aylesford International
Instruct a good agent! I would always recommend an ARLA registered agent, who is well versed in the landlord’s responsibilities and who can help ensure that all the relevant checks are done, prior to renting the property. An important point is that all the landlord and the tenant’s money is protected through ARLA’s client money protection scheme.
- Make sure your property is immaculately presented and clean (including windows and carpets) prior to marketing, for viewings
- If furnished, make up beds, with bed spreads, cushions etc.
- Accessorize bathrooms, with soaps/diffusers, white towels etc. (the White Company are a good source)
- Test all appliances to ensure everything is in working order prior to the start of the tenancy.
- Ensure that the property is professionally managed and that whomever takes on this responsibility responds quickly and endeavours to rectify every problem as quickly as possible. This is most important in the first month, when often most of the problems occur. It is also the time when the landlord and tenant relationship forms and often sets the tone for the rest of the tenancy, (which can be for a few years).
- Make sure references are taken out on the prospective tenant. If the tenant has been in the UK for a couple of years, a credit reference check is important and often a separate bank reference can provide more information. Otherwise, get UK based guarantors, or advance rent payments. It is very important that if these references do not ring true, it is likely that there could be a problem, so these are extremely important and unless you are happy with the references that the tenant provides, do not proceed.
- There is also a requirement to check the original passport and associated visas of any occupant over 18 who will be living in the property (in their presence), to ensure that they have a right to live in the UK
Catherine O’Hagan, Head of Rentals, Milton Stone
As a landlord your intention will be to attract the best possible tenant and rental income at the earliest possible opportunity.
In order to attract a good tenant the property must be immaculately presented, well refurbished decorated and maintained. Décor, furnishings and appliances should be commensurate with asking rental. Current safety regulations should be met.
If your property is a flat in a converted house/building (as many in prime central London are) encourage your fellow leaseholders/freeholders to improve the common parts if necessary – first impressions count – there is far less joy in living in a beautiful flat if the entrance/communal parts/staircase on the way to it are not smart, clean and tidy.
- Do not let junk-mail collect behind the front door of your property – if the property is vacant remove mail on a regular basis.
- In cold weather leave some heating on low – a freezing cold empty property is not pleasant to view.
- Use a good agent (preferably ARLA licenced) who knows the area and can guide you on current market forces.
- Once an offer is received, be realistic – sometimes a slightly lower rent for an early start date can save you money in the long run.
- Once an offer is agreed ensure that adequate satisfactory references are taken up on the tenant/s (a good agent will normally do this for you).
Ensure that you (or your agent if applicable) use a suitable Tenancy Agreement – in the event of any disputes the terms of the Tenancy Agreement will be vital. Also ensure that you or your agent are aware of the terms of any head lease with matters applicable to the tenant (for example, bicycles must not be left in the communal areas) – and that the tenant is informed (preferably by way of adding special terms to the Tenancy Agreement).
Permissions to Let should be investigated and applied for in good time. In some central London mansion blocks you may need to show Tenant references in order to obtain permission to let – be well prepared.
If you are managing the tenancy yourself – ensure that any repairs and maintenance issues are attended to as promptly as possible. Always acknowledge receipt of a complaint/report in respect of a maintenance issue and explain to the tenant how you intend to deal with the matter/the sort of timescale involved. If you employ a managing agent, they should do this for you. (NB some corporate tenants insist on a local managing agent)
When the initial term is coming to an end, if you are happy with the tenant – and the tenant wishes to renew/extend – be realistic with rent increases, rather than lose a good tenant and suffer a void period. If you use an agent, they should guide you as they will be in tune with market forces at the time.
Lynsey Schipper, Head of Lettings, Lurot Brand
- Everything possible to ensure your property is ‘best in class’. Presentation is absolutely vital in a stock heavy lettings market. Tenants really do have choice now so make sure you’re yours stands out from the crowd for the right reasons.
- Create a consistent, ideally contemporary, style throughout. The image of the property will help sell a lifestyle to help tenants imagine themselves physically living in the property.
- Think about your investment long term. Yields are currently low against capital values, this will however correct itself in due course. Provided you invest in the ‘best in class’, there is no better mid- long term investment than PCL rental property. If in doubt, ask a trusted agent with both a sales and lettings department.
- Consider contributing to your agents marketing costs. An upscale property shoot including a full lighting rig for example can make all the difference to achievable images, the two dimensional version of your home is now the most important.
- Ensure you have excellent lighting throughout – good lighting does not mean lots of lighting, it means you are highlighting any lost dark corners and emphasising the space.
- Chase the market downwards. A good agent will give you straight forward advice to enhance your asset, so follow it. Continually reducing the price rather than spending on presentation can result in poor quality tenants.
- Be overly optimistic with what is currently achievable rent wise. The best approach in the current market is to look at what you are competing with and ask a market realistic rent with the emphasis on the quality of the tenant.
- Be stubborn. Just because your property let last time at £X, without the hassle of redecoration / removing or installing furniture, does not mean it will today. Vacancy levels have never been higher so landlords are having to work harder to attract the right tenants. On this market holding out for your price will achieve you a long void or a dodgy tenant. If you do find a good tenant to overpay they will leave at their first break clause.
- Overexpose your property. Instructing lots of agents from the outset will not necessarily reduce the risk of a void period or reduction in achievable rent. Stick to one or two agents you trust to give you measured considered advice based on experience, rather than giving you the hard sell.