Published: 01/03/2022There’s a book by Simon Sinek called Find Your Why, and it's all about identifying your reason for having a business: why do you do what you do?
The same question can be applied to your rental property: why would a tenant choose your buy-to-let instead of another one? Why would they pay you more rent? And why would they stay beyond their initial contract?
Asking yourself these questions helps you appreciate everything that's already great about your rental property, and to seek out areas for improvement. It's an integral part of owning a successful buy-to-let, both when it’s empty and while it’s occupied.
It's also why we carry out interim inspections – not just to identify repairs, but also to ensure our landlords' lettings portfolios keep up with the local market and ahead of government legislation.
So let's look at how you can review the rentability of your own buy-to-lets to keep them performing at their peak and pulling in the crowds.
IS YOUR TARGET MARKET CLEAR?
Every business has an ideal customer, but the most successful ones are those that correctly identify their perfect client and make a real connection. If you think of any brands you have an affinity for – perhaps Apple for technology; Waitrose for groceries; John Lewis for home furnishings – there’s almost certainly something very specific that draws you to them.
The lettings market is no different, and is made up of several target audiences:
Take a moment to review the local market.
IS ANYTHING LOOKING TIRED?
When you think about checking into a hotel room, do you want to be reminded of the previous guests? They’re literally the last people you want to think about when you jump in the shower, and it’s exactly the same for tenants.
Empty rooms show up every flaw, but not everything that looks dishevelled needs replacing. In fact, there are plenty of superficial jobs that require minimal expense but make an enormous difference to the overall impression.
Among the many removable signs of wear and tear from previous tenancies are:
- painting out scuffs on walls and woodwork (including the front door)
- dissolving limescale on taps, showers and wastes
- removing mould on grout and sealant
- steam-cleaning carpets
- washing curtains and re-aligning blinds
- fixing wobbly handles and hooks
- weeding gardens and jet-washing balconies and pathways
DOES EVERYTHING IMPORTANT WORK?
Your tenant's first few hours and days in your buy-to-let form the foundations of your relationship. Little niggles make big impressions, and moving into a property with a fiddly door lock or heating that doesn’t work is simply not a good way to start things off.
Ultimately, anything that’s broken will need fixing at some point. Nothing improves or repairs itself, so delaying is simply holding off the inevitable while risking a showdown.
Use the following checklist to give your buy-to-let an eagle-eyed audit. Once you’re done, you can be absolutely certain that everything works as well as you think it does.
- Boiler or hot water tank
- Washing machine
- Oven, hob & extractor
- Doorbell or entryphone
- Locks & keys
- Electrical sockets
- Light switches
- Radiators and heaters
- Shower and taps
- Gutters, downpipes & drains
IS IT TIME FOR UPGRADES?
The lettings market has become far more sophisticated in recent years and renting a home is now a long-term lifestyle choice for many people. There was a time when tenants demanded far less than buyers, but that has changed considerably nowadays.
The good news is that people are willing to pay higher rents for better homes, so treat every departure of a tenant as an opportunity to make an upgrade, even if it’s a tiny one.
- The cheapest appliances are often hopelessly unreliable and equally unpopular among our contractors. You’ll thank yourself in the long run by choosing respected mid-range brands like Neff, AEG, Bosch and Siemens: they’re a hit on viewings and they’ll give you and your tenants years of service.
- We still occasionally encounter mixer taps with leaky shower hoses, unpredictable water pressure and fluctuating temperatures. These should be consigned to the past and replaced with a modern, thermostatically controlled shower fitting.
- Rising fuel bills are a massive conversation right now, and tenants are scrutinising running costs like never before. Look for gaps in your buy-to-let's energy-efficiency, then plug them.
- Replace any unsalvageable carpets or peeling laminates with engineered wood floors.
IS YOUR MARKETING MAGIC?
Once your buy-to-let is looking all ship-shape and pristine, it’s a shame if all that hard work goes to waste with poor-quality promotion.
When choosing a letting agent, run a spot check on how they work. To ensure you get the best result, it's essential for the marketing of your property to include:
- up to date photos that reflect what tenants will see today, rather than ones your letting agent took a few years ago when you first met;
- multiple images that show off the best angles of the rooms and highlight close-up details and features;
- an enthusiastic and evocative description that sells the finer points of your property along with the highpoints of the neighbourhood to attract your target audience;
- inclusion on major property portals to ensure you capture a wide range of potential tenants;
- an active social media presence where the agent shows a knowledge of using the platform to promote their listings;
- a pricing strategy that’s designed to get you the best possible rent without losing enquiries through overvaluing or guesswork.
What’s next for you?
Conducting a regular review of your buy-to-let for its presentation and place in the market will keep your investment looking great and in high demand among your ideal tenants.
Keeping our landlords’ rental homes current and competitive is our top priority, and we’d love to show you how we can do the same for you.
Tring office: 01442 820420
Berkhamsted office: 01442 863000