According to the English Housing Association’s Annual Report 2012-13, the private rental sector is now the second largest tenure in England.
As more and more people move into rented accommodation and, as mortgages start to slip out of reach for many, privately rented houses may start to become a long term solution for tenants, as opposed to a temporary measure before buying a house.
If this is the case, tenants will be looking for somewhere to call home, and may become choosier about where they lay down their roots.
With this in mind, the way your property is presented will be more important than ever.
So, whether you’ve years of lettings experience or you’re taking your first steps into the world of rentals, here are our top 5 simple tips to help attract those valuable long-term tenants.
Remember to keep in mind the rental value for your property and the area it’s in when deciding on your budget for renovations or decorating.
1. Help them make their mark
While it’s tempting to decorate to your own personal tastes, long-term tenants will want to make your house their home. Therefore, a blank canvas to work with can be attractive to many potential tenants, so neutral colours are a good idea. This includes walls, flooring and curtains (if provided).
Giving your tenant more freedom to change the way their surroundings look can be daunting, with nightmare visions of inexperienced DIY enthusiasts taking hammers and drills to your freshly plastered walls. But it doesn’t need to be this way.
Why not consider erecting your own picture hooks around the property, putting up easy to remove (and store) curtains and including enough storage and shelving that the temptation of flouting the tenancy agreement, to personalise the space, is minimised?
By having these simple solutions in place beforehand, tenants can hang their pictures with ease, put their own curtains up (if they want to) and display their own ornaments as soon as they move in. If they feel more at home, as opposed to feeling like they’re living in someone else’s space, they’re more likely to stay. They’re also more likely to have a sense of pride in their home and look after it for you.
2. Make it easy to live in
It’s one thing to make a house look nice, but is it comfortable to live in day to day? Simple things can make or break a tenant’s rental experience and prevent them from staying in the property long-term.
Make sure you’ve fully assessed what it’s like to live in your property. What’s the temperature like? Would it benefit from thicker carpets for added warmth or wooden floors to keep it cool?
What’s the lighting like, at night, in the bedrooms? A poorly placed street lamp or neighbour’s security light can mean a horrible night’s sleep. Consider putting up some good quality blackout blinds, or letting the tenants provide their own.
On the subject of lighting, putting up your own security light can give peace of mind to tenants, especially families or people living on their own.
3. Creature comforts
Think about accepting pets. Before you completely dismiss this part of the article, consider how many people could be renting in the future, and how many of these people will be struggling to find a place to keep their beloved animals.
We’re not suggesting you allow a zoo-full of creatures into your property, but think about allowing one or two well behaved animals. You could even ask to visit the prospective tenant in their current home to meet their pets and decide if you’re happy for them to move in. Look for things like scratch marks on the walls and chewed-up furniture.
If you’re still worried, consider adding a clause to the tenancy agreement that asks pet owners to pay for a professional, specialist deep clean when they leave.
By allowing pets, you could open yourself up to a much wider market and take on some fantastic tenants that, because they have a cat, wouldn’t otherwise be able to find somewhere to rent.
4. Come up with the goods
Many new tenants won’t own any white goods, and may not be able to afford all new ones, so the option to rent somewhere with a fridge, dishwasher and washing machine included will be very tempting. They needn’t be expensive, but opting for the best you can afford, with good energy ratings, could be the cherry on the cake when it comes to your already attractive property.
If you do this, make sure to explain to potential tenants how the appliances you’ll provide will help them save on their utility bills.
When buying your white goods, consider taking out an extended warranty to ensure your investment lasts as long as possible without any big bills in the case of a fault.
5. Go easy on the garden
A yard or garden is a very attractive proposition for a tenant, but the task of maintaining it may be daunting for many. Keep it simple if possible, with low-maintenance plants and borders and, if there’s a lawn, consider providing a cheap lawnmower for them to use.
Instructions on garden-care may be greatly appreciated by tenants, knowing how to tend to the outdoor space can save worry (especially in the summer months) when it comes to gardening and will ensure your hard-work stays looking pristine for their enjoyment.
If your tenants are particularly green-fingered, you could benefit from giving them some freedom in the outdoor areas, within reason. Ask that they keep you updated as to their gardening plans and they could end up leaving behind something beautiful, that’s not cost you a penny.