Redecorating & Finding New Tenants In-Between Tenancies

The last two weeks have been hell. Literally, a complete bollock-ache. But it usually always is during the period in-between tenancies, when landlords have to prepare a new and presentable case to entice the incoming replacements. The circle of life.

I’d say dealing with rogue tenants is the most stressful aspect of being a landlord, and in second place is the period in-between tenancies. Often it can be a piece of cake, a seamless exchange of the baton, but mostly, it’s one of the most tedious, time-consuming and frustrating periods of the landlord cycle. And that’s because you have deal with all that staging and prepping, which usually involves cleaning up the cocktail of shit the previous tenants left behind.

Generally, my tenants stay between 3-4 years, and after that much good living, the residue of fair wear and tear shows its mark, usually in the form of skid-marks smeared on the walls and across the carpets. Of course, it depends on what type of tenants you have, but even the good ones will leave behind their decaying odour in some shape or form. There’s usually ALWAYS cleaning to be done, whether it be scraping greasy shit out of extractor fans and behind the cooker or disposing of tacky garden ornaments left behind.

I usually have to completely repaint every room, or at least the key living areas (e.g. bedrooms, living room and kitchen) in-between tenancies, and that can be such a time-absorbing asshole, especially if you’re doing it yourself, and doing it properly (which I always do, or at least try to).

To add insult to injury, the property I’ve just turned around required more than a lick of paint. Not because the previous tenants caused a riot, but because it was time; certain features of the property were outdated and they needed addressing if I intended on attracting suitable replacements. Operative word being “suitable”- I didn’t want to find replacements that were more than happy to roam around like diseased rats in squalor. Not that I was offering squalor, but you know what I mean.

Most landlords, in fact, most of you reading this, will have 1 or 2 properties, and you won’t have the budget available to employ people to completely manage the overhaul. Hiring people to paint and decorate an entire house isn’t cheap, so it rarely makes financial sense to venture down that path even if the funds are available. Usually, the only feasible option is to put your life on hold and throw yourself through the grinder, by enduring the soul-destroying monotonous labour of redecorating and cleaning through thick layers of greasy cheese-and-onion grime (which usually make you realise how disgusting your tenants truly were).

As soon as my tenants gave me notice, my stomach sunk and slipped out of my ass like an oversized dildo, because I knew that particular property needed a substantial amount of cosmetic attention, which was temporarily going to suck the life out of me. I started feeling anxious about the prospect weeks before they were due to vacate because I knew my body was about to be torn between redecorating a 2 bedroom property while living my regular life, which was already suffering from insufficient time availability.

In short, I’ve been worked to the bone, and to say that I’m relieved it’s over would be an all-time understatement. The whole experience was every bit as terrible as I had imagined. I’m pretty certain I lapsed into various stages of chronic sleep deprivation. Not only was I working longer hours than I’d care to remember, and making a horrendous amounts of car journeys, but also my mental condition was reduced to slosh when dealing with labourers and trademen that didn’t have an ounze of intelligence between them. It was painful.

I’m probably dragging back excruciating memories for those that have been through the trials and tribulations of what I’m talking about (and I’d love to hear your story, but not yet, this is my time), while the newer landlords have yet to experience it. I’ve been through the process a few dozens times, of redecorating and painfully polishing up tenant’s shit in-between tenancies while simultaneously trying to find new tenants, and I generally go through the same ordeal and thought-process every time. It doesn’t seem to get easier, it’s always such a drag. That’s the best way to describe it, a complete and utter drag, because it literally disrupts life.

I’m going to briefly go over the thoughts and decisions I made during my experience, because perhaps my driveling mumblings will prove to be useful to someone. But for a more detailed article on how to decorate for a BTL, you may want to go to my Decorating/Renovation Tips For Buy-To-Let Properties & Landlords post.

Do you need to redecorate in-between tenancies?

We don’t have to redecorate. It’s a choice we make.

But the odds are, if you have tenants vacating after 3-4 years, you will probably need to do make some cosmetic improvements to remove the battle scars of living. Well, that is, if you want the best chances of attracting decent tenants. I know some landlords don’t bother, they just re-let immediately because they simply can. But they’re idiots. Let’s face it, it’s the cheap and easy option, so it’s desirable. But still, it’s the preferred method for idiots. Avoid it.

Failing to meet certain standards is a terrible game plan, whether it be out of laziness, cheapness or any other inexcusable justification. If you’re serving a plate of shit, you’re going to attract pigs. I’m a firm believer in getting rewarded for the value you provide, and over the years, that’s proved to be a valid principle. Besides, you don’t want to be a dogshit landlord. You should value your tenants and recognise their worth, and the best way to do that is by providing a clean and safe living environment.

Contrary to popular belief, being a landlord isn’t a one-off investment. It’s literally a money-pitt; you have to keep hemorrhaging money like a cocaine addict. It’s a continuous investment, and a large part of it is about investing in people (your tenants).

From my experience, if you’re letting an average property, all you need to focus on is ensuring it’s clean and safe. You don’t need to spend a tonne, or equip the property with all the latest gadgets and fittings. They won’t add any real value. If you look around your property and think, “this looks a bit dull and grotty”, then you should probably be addressing the issues that’s causing the gloom.

Assessing what work needs to be done

Minutes after the final property inspection and after my tenant left the premises, I assessed all aspects of the property and took notes on what needed attention. There was no messing around or time wasting, because the countdown had begun; every vacant day is costing me money and subsequently jeopardizing the financing of my unsavory addictions.

As said, in this case, I knew a lot of work needed to be done. Here is an actual copy of the notes I took:

Landlord Refurb Wishlist

If you read through it, there’s quite a lot to do, and there’s some notably expensive items on the list. For example, a new free standing cooker, new carpets, and new windows. You’ll also notice that I wrote down cost estimates, which totalled to £3,370 (I skipped a few of the smaller/miscellaneous tasks). I definitely didn’t have that kind of budget, and realistically, I’d need a £400-£500 contingency buffer because shit always overflows, so I’m looking at approximately £4,000 just to replenish a property. That’s a whole lot of cheese!

My advise is to write down EVERYTHING that needs addressing, even if you don’t have the budget for it. Make the list a hybrid between a wishlist and a realistic set of to-do’s. However, don’t just throw on pointless tasks that won’t add any value, or tasks that don’t really need to be addressed. You don’t want to do more than you need to (this should correlate with what type of property you have, and what type of tenant you’re trying to attract).

After tenants move in
I just want to quickly mention…

If there are lengthy tasks that can be done after your tenants move in, all the better. Of course, this will need to be discussed with your tenants and negotiated.

I once had tenants move in under the condition that I replaced the kitchen with in 3 months. That was cool by me, because the kitchen needed replacing, and it’s obviously more cost-effective refurbing with an occupied property. So if you have the opportunity to be in that position, take advantage.

Calculating what makes financial sense

Decorating doesn’t need to be expensive. In fact, it can be dead cheap, especially if you’re going to be doing most of the heavy lifting. Needless to say, it can also be nose-bleedingly expensive, depending on what needs attention and the options you take.

In my case, it started to look like a semi-expensive turnaround. However, I was always expecting that, but it was clear that I needed to make some compromises because I didn’t have the budget to address all the issues I listed, at least not at the prices I estimated. My next step was to analyse the to-do’s and group the items accordingly, between what “needed” to be done, what I could do myself (i.e. to keep costs down), and what I needed professional/outside help for.

Here is a list of my thoughts/compromises/money saving decisions I made:

  • Carpets: the carpets looked like they had been religiously smeared in rhino shit. They were the original magnolia carpets that came with the property when I purchased it. They couldn’t be saved, not even with professional help and a Rug Doctor, so they had to go. This was one of the more expensive items on the list, but it wasn’t optional. Similarly, a new cooker, reviving the windows and changing the kitchen tiles.

    There are going to be some items on the list that can’t be avoided. Those need to be identified and thought of as essential. If you can (and if you need to), trim the fat, and whittle the list down to only what’s essential.

    I opted for a mid-tone brown to compliment the “Matt Mocha” Dulux paint because they tend to be durable and resist the signs of wear and tear.

    Buy to let Carpet

  • Kitchen floor: another essential item. It wasn’t in particular poor condition, but it needed changing in order to revive the lifeless corpse of a kitchen.

    I was contemplating using tiles, but the cost would have massively escalated, so I opted for vinyl. But I actually find vinyl extremely practical for BTLs, and they look pretty decent, so it didn’t seem like a massive trade off.

    Some times cheaper alternatives make the most sense.

  • Freestanding cooker: the current one was on its last legs, it had been reduced to a rusty monstrosity after years of good service. Now it’s just embarrassing though.

    Like the carpet, It came with the property, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s older than I am. I’m actually surprised it lasted so long. I didn’t even contemplate trying to resurrect it, despite the wonderful work professional oven/cooker cleaners can do these days. From the moment I saw it, I knew it was destined to be launched onto a scrapheap, where the rats can fill their bellies on the congealed grease that was alarmingly left inside it.

    I spent quite some time surfing around for cookers, trying to salvage a decent one for a bargain price. I didn’t want to buy a cheap piece of shit that was going to breakdown on me after a year, but at the same time I didn’t want to break the bank. Turns out, the good one’s aren’t that cheap.

    After hours of searching, I came across a website called All your appliances. They sell appliances with slight physical defects, which means they are able to offer appealing deals. I found a stainless steel Beko cooker that currently retails for £550, which had a few small scratches on the oven door handle. I snatched it for £350. It arrived next day free delivery; well packaged, with instruction book and 1 year warranty. The tenant won’t even notice the defects, I barely did.

    Beko Cooker

    Moral of the story? Always shop around and make compromises that make financial and practical sense.

  • Cooker extractor hood: the prospect of mold growing scares the shit out of me, so extractor fans are essential, especially in notoriously prone areas like kitchens and bathrooms.

    There was an extractor already in place, but it was a very cheap, flimsy, plastic model, which couldn’t have cost more than a Happy Meal. It definitely wouldn’t have sat right with the new stainless steel cooker I ordered. Needless to say, it was saturated in grease and parasites, and unfastening it from the wall brackets was an experience I never wish to repeat. For some reason tenants detest keeping extractor fans grease free.

    I fell upon some luck with this one. My parents had recently refurbed their kitchen, and my mum informed me that she had kept their former Hotpoint stainless steel extractor hood in storage. Still in excellent condition and works perfectly. I snatched that puppy up and moon-walked out of there!

    The point is, it’s always worth asking around for items; you never know what delights you’ll fall into.

  • Kitchen tiles: there’s an area above the kitchen worktop that’s tiled, approx 4 square meters. I got away with not replacing them last time by shamelessly using tile paint. It was a great solution back then, and I would highly recommend trying it if you’re on a tight budget. The pot of paint cost £20, and it saved me from replacing the tiles. It didn’t look amazing, but I never expected it to. However, it served its purpose and made the kitchen look clean. But that was a temporary solution, like using clingfilm as a condom. This time I needed to replace the tiles.

    Admittedly, rather daringly, I tried something I’ve never attempted before. Yes, I thought I’d try tiling myself because I had the audacity to assume it’s not particularly difficult.

    I didn’t really do it to save money, although that was an added bonus, which some lucky lady from the local strip joint will benefit from. I did it more out of curiosity and just to learn a new skill. I started off by watching a few tutorials on YouTube (yeah, seriously!) and then progressed by clinging onto a builder friend of mine, harassing him for tips.

    Long story short, I went to Top’s Tiles Discount Store (they sell tiles that are out of production) and purchased the tiles I needed (and some extra) for £35, and bought some grout, adhesive, couple of spreaders (is that what they’re called?) and a tile cutting tool, all of which set me back £50.

    I intentionally purchased some rustic looking brick tiles which have a rough texture, so they didn’t needed to be aligned perfectly, which means they’d be forgiving to my amateur touch. In fact, the imperfect finish added to the effect (I’m not just saying that to make myself feel better). It took 2 days, and yeah, it was done. £85 all in.

    Brick Tiles

    I’m not suggesting for people to do this, but there’s a lot to say about learning new skills and “just doing it”

  • Painting the walls/skirting & architraves: admittedly, these weren’t in terrible condition, and I probably could have got away with leaving them untouched. However, if I were the tenant viewing the property, I would have been bothered by them, because they still looked noticeably gloomy and used.

    Taking into consideration the cost of painting the property (approx £150, for all the paint and tools), it seemed like something I should do, as opposed to something I needed to do. I know from experience how much difference a freshly painted house can make; it adds so much value. Visually, it just brings a room alive, and can have a massive impact on how quickly tenants are acquired.

    Due to the dramatic impact freshly painted rooms can have, it’s one of the few exceptions to the rule, whereby I would just do it, even if it’s not entirely essential.

    I’ve painted many 2 bedroom houses in the past, and it usually takes me the best part of a weekend.

  • Windows: the most expensive item on the list, and something I could have really done without replacing. While they are double-glazed, they unfortunately came with wooden frames in piss-poor condition. The paint was flaking off like it had caught a disease, and much of the wood was also starting to chip away. In my mind, they noticeably hindered the aesthetic value of the property. I would’t say they were deal-breakers, but they were approaching that region.

    As a compromise, I ended up getting a ‘labourer friend’ to sand down all the frames and repaint them. What a difference that made; the touch-up dramatically improved the appearance of the property. That cost me £250, which is a massive difference between the estimated £1600 to replace them.

    I want to highlight two key points here:

    • Paid help: ultimately, I could have saved myself £250 by sanding down the windows and painting them myself. It wasn’t a particularly skilled job. However, it was labour intensive, and took 2 days of grafting.

      I’m not workshy, but I do value my time, and I already had so much to get through, so I reached out for help. I talk more about time management below, but I just want to emphasise that it’s crucial to value your time, and it’s often cheaper to get help than allow the days to pass by.

    • Compromising: replacing the windows would have been the ideal scenario, but I knew my budget needed to be spread across more crucial areas. However, I also knew I couldn’t leave them in the condition they were in, but with a little TLC, I was hopeful they could be given a new lease of life, so I had to make the compromise. I’ve essentially delayed the project for a couple of years, and I think that was a good solution.

    (sorry, it’s difficult to tell the difference from these pictures)

    Before:
    Windows Before

    After:
    Windows After

  • Replacing the kitchen: although not specified in my to-do list, I did initially have premature thoughts about replacing the entire kitchen because it looked dated and generally unappealing. But after further inspection, it didn’t make any sense to go ahead with that idea; I realised I was just getting carried away.

    The kitchen units are actually in good condition, they’re just not the most desirable of colours, which dragged the entire room down. But I figured if I replaced everything else around the units, such as the tiles, vinyl, wall colour, cooker and extractor hood, the kitchen could transform itself, and escape from being the hideously, overweight, greasy older sister. And it actually did.

    Before digging deep and replacing everything, use due diligence, and determine whether or not anything is worth saving. If so, assess whether they’re worth working around. It’s so easy and tempting to start from scratch on a blank canvas. While that can often be the easiest and cheapest solution, that’s definitely not always the case.

    BTL Landlord Kitchen

    By no means do I consider that the best or most modern kitchen on the rental market. However, it’s fitting for the property, but most importantly, it’s clean and safe.

I guess the key for me was to identify what improvements needed to be made (i.e. which improvements my new tenants would value the most) and making suitable compromises to keep costs down, which wouldn’t necessary have a detrimental effect. I made quite a few compromises and ended up saving a lot of money.

Your efforts will burn in flames

Through my college years, I was a part-time waiter so I could fund the lifestyle of the average teenager, which included cheap alcohol and fireworks. The usual stuff. One of the most tedious aspects of being a waiter was the repetitiveness; I was literally going around in circles. I would prepare a table, watch pretentious assholes make a mess, and then reset the table for new assholes to make a similar mess again. Truly tedious and brain-numbing.

That’s usually how it works with decorating BTL’s. You’re rarely ever going to walk back into a property in the same condition you left it in, and that’s something all landlords should accept and consider when pumping money/energy into refurbing.

That’s why I always focus on making a property clean and safe, and nothing more. Forget the bells and whistles, they’ll end up crippling you. It’s a trap many new landlords fall into- they want to make everything perfect and act like they’re decorating their own home.

Time management

Needless to say, time is of the essence.

From the moment your tenant vacates, you’re losing money. You’re a sinking ship.

You need to turn your property around as quickly as possible and find tenants at the same time (if you haven’t done so already). This proportionally adds to the stress and why this entire deal is plain and simple bullshit.

It really is all about timing, and there isn’t a set schedule for everyone, because it largely depends on the circumstances. However, I want to discuss a few areas which particularly stuck out to me…

Organisation

The following is sickeningly cliche, I physically want to throw up just for saying it. But…

Organisation is key.

From the moment I formed my to-do list, I went home feeling anxious and worried about the coming weeks, but I managed to make a plan. I thought about what I needed to do, how much it would cost, and who I’d need help from.

  • Schedule events logically: ordering each task was crucial for me. For example, I needed to paint the walls and skirting/architrave before the carpets were fitted (I needed to bear this in mind when ordering the carpets), I needed a gas engineer to remove the old cooker before I could fit the new kitchen flooring, I needed to fit the new tiles in the kitchen before painting the walls etc. Every task needed to be placed in its logical position.

    Plan this shit out, it will save a lot of time. Also, it’s psychologically more fruitful and productive to follow an organised to-do list.

  • Book labourers/tradesmen: if you know you’re going to need assistance from labourers/tradesmen, book them during the very early stages, refrain from calling them as and when you need them. If you’re calling upon anyone that’s worth a damn, they’ll be busy. Waiting around for open slots can be a real production killer (I’m sure there’s a horrific sexual innuendo in there somewhere.).
  • Act quickly: don’t waste time, seriously. It’s easy to let days slip by without realising how much money is truly being lost. Most of the work for an average in-between tenancy turnaround should take between 3-10 days.

Just do it

On a few occasions my production levels started grinding as I became overwhelmed with how much work I had to get through. I literally wasted hours walking back and forth, just thinking about the tasks that needed to be tackled instead of just doing them.

The thought of applying gloss to the skirting boards and architraves through the entire house made me want to neck a bottle of turpentine. I was procrastinating like crazy; I was texting stupid people I didn’t even like just to delay the inevitable. I genuinely just couldn’t be arsed. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t tempted to throw money at the problem by getting extra bodies through the door and consequently piss my profits away. If you’re ever in a similar place, fight that urge!

After sparring with myself, I eventually broke down my mental barriers and started applying paint. I finished it all in just under two days, and it really wasn’t as bad as I had made it out to be. It actually felt therapeutic, because painting skirting is generally a delicate process. The thing is, starting was the hardest part; once I got going it was a case of knocking down the dominoes.

Unfortunately, unlike decorating our own homes, we don’t have the luxury of being able to waste time on procrastination.

Just do what needs to be done and then go back home to your average life.

Value your time

Don’t try and do everything yourself if it’s going to take twice as long to complete, because you’re potentially losing money by slowing down the turnaround period. It might just be cheaper to shove £20 in Paddy’s back-pocket for extra assistance. Also, be realistic, don’t try and do something just to save money when you know perfectly well you can’t do it, whether it be due to time restrictions and/or saving money.

Value your health

If the last 2 weeks has taught me anything, it’s reconfirmed how emotionally and physically stressful turning around a property in-between tenancies can be, especially when you’re under a strict deadline and losing money by the day, not to mention, while juggling other life commitments. It’s easy to see how the process can have a detrimental effect on one’s health.

While I’ve highlighted how this period can be difficult, and how it’s important to keep costs down, it’s not worth killing yourself over. You know your body, you know what you’re capable of. Fortunately, I’m young, ripped-to-shit, and able to bench press your body weight on a bad day, so I was able to take the heat and push my limits.

Do what you can. Push yourself, but don’t kill yourself.

Finding tenants

This can be tricky.

Do you…

  • 1) Find tenants before your old tenants vacate, knowing full well the property needs work.
  • 2) Find tenants as soon as your old tenants vacate, knowing full well the property needs work.
  • 3) Find tenants half way through the turnaround so it’s in a semi-reasonable state
  • 4) Find tenants when the work is complete, even though this is the least productive and slowest approach

Personally, I always opt for option 3, and there’s a few reasons for that (although, the other approaches also have their merits):

  • It’s easier to tell when the property will be complete half-way through the refurb, and that’s useful to bear in mind when marketing your property and finding tenants.
  • It shows the prospect tenants you are improving the property, which they typically like to see. They will also get s glimpse of the direction you’re heading in. That’s particularly important because if a prospective tenant agrees to letting your property before they see any evidence of work, they may change their mind after they see the finished article, and you’ll be way behind schedule in that case.
  • It’s the middle ground between being super efficient (which would be option 1) and being super slow (which would be option 4).
  • You’re more likely to attract better tenants when trying to find tenants during option 3 than option 1. Like I said, if you’re serving a plate of shit, you’re going to attract pigs

While I’m on the subject, I may as well point you in the direction of the how to find a tenant guide.

I actually fell into a stroke of massive luck with this particular property. I had full intentions of starting my tenant finding campaign half-way through the refurb, but I actually found tenants the 2nd day after my previous tenants vacated. It didn’t cost me a penny either, although I had to sleep with someone hideous to seal the deal. Joking. But I would have made the sacrifice. Whatever it takes.

The neighbour actually approached me, informing me that he knows of a very sensible couple that are looking for a 2 bedroom house. So I gave him my number to pass on. An hour later, the prospective tenant got in touch. I explained the property was in the process of going through an overhaul, he was understanding, and so we arranged a viewing.

He viewed the property the next day, and he was sold there and then. I did all the usual tenant checks, which came back positive. They moved in a few days ago, and so a new chapter in our humble lives begins…

It’s worth noting, asking the neighbours if they know anyone that could be interested is always a great way to find tenants. Try it.

In conclusion, it took me 10 days to complete all the work and get new tenants in, and I ended up spending just under £2,000. I have a few more grey hairs than before, I’ve had substantially less sex than usual (due to time restraints, tiredness and stress), I’m in dire need of a manicure, and the entire ordeal was generally horrific, but it’s something that needed to be done, and I’m totally relieved it’s over.

So, what’s your experience been like in-between tenancies? Do you dread it as much as I do? Can you relate to what I’ve said, or am I just being an overreacting, quivering little pussy? Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had some smooth and stress free transactions, this just weren’t one of them.

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28 Comments- Join The Conversation...

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Andy 15th September, 2014 @ 16:17

Think your about right in what you say, all this work on changeover and stress points to working hard to keep good tenants happy, keep rents reasonable, do repairs quickly, have a good relationship etc. However, whatever you do, 90% of tenants will still move on as this is part of the natural tenant cycle.

We have just completed a two day turnaround where tenants moved out and left the house in a poor condition. Hole in ceiling caused by tenant who then papered over hole!, iron burn mark in carpet, paintwork repainted bright orange, sink cracked etc. Roped in wife, daughter & her boyfriend plus contractors and worked long hours to repair and redecorate whole house. New tenants needed to move in so we made an agreement to do some works post move in, in a month or so we will install a new bathroom and new front door plus replace some broken garden slabs. All a pain, i thought the tenants who left were good so it has taught me yet more lessons about being a landlord.

A couple of pointers on refurbs.... I now always put vinyl flooring in kitchen and bathroom as tile grout often becomes stained and tiles crack where vinyl can be taken up and changed after circa 3 years. We paint gloss using quick drying gloss so we can get the job done quickly. We always use special kitchen and bathroom paints as these last longer and clean easier. We always put a good underlay down but then only basic carpets, the underlay will last 10 years but whatever i spend on carpet tenants always seem to burn, mark, stain, rip, etc etc. We always clean carpets before a new tenant moves in. I now resist the temptation to do too much, the house should be clean, smart,neutral, functional, safe and have certification as required but anymore is waste. A refurb should do as much as is required to attract the type of tenant you desire in a particular property.

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The Landlord Avatar
The Landlord 15th September, 2014 @ 16:38

Hi Andy,

You definitely realise how good/bad your tenants truly are after they vacate! Their habits become apparent at that point.

Sounds like you went through what I did, but in a shorter period. Hopefully you're feeling as relieved as I am now it's over. I managed to rope my parents into helping out, which was a massive help! My mum practically cleaned the place top to bottom afterwards, and that saved me so much time.

Post move in refurb agreements are always the best way of doing it! Saves so much money!

Agree with all your refurb tips, most of which I actually cover in my Renovation Tips For Buy-To-Let post. Although, I saw the "quick drying gloss" option, but I opted for the "One coat gloss" choice. I distinctly remember standing in the isle of Homebase battling between the two. I initially picked up the quick dry because I wanted it to dry before the carpet was being fitted, but at the same time, I couldn't bare the thought of double-coating! Where are the quick dry, one coat solutions?

"I now resist the temptation to do too much, the house should be clean, smart,neutral, functional, safe and have certification as required but anymore is waste. A refurb should do as much as is required to attract the type of tenant you desire in a particular property."

100% agreed!

Thanks for your comment, extremely useful and practical for those in a similar position!

2
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Katy 15th September, 2014 @ 19:53

I am at the in between stage at the moment. The tenants moved out on 5 August after 7 years. It's a listed cottage - not a typical buy to let but I didn't buy to let at the time. No redecoration had been done since at least 2002 except for 2 rooms. Apart from the shower I haven't had to replace the bathroom or the kitchen. Luckily the previous owner did the property up to a high standard so her kitchen units don't look dated and more importantly are in good condition and good quality. The kitchen floor tiles are in great condition and they look good quality. I'm amazed that the carpets are really not that bad and I don't need to replace them - beige and cream. There are stains on the carpet (wretched tenants) but I will just note them on the inventory.

I have been bitten by tenants and agents in the last 7 years. I took my eye of the ball and have found all sorts of problems, like the tenant trying to write off broken glass as wear and tear. I think landlords are making a rod for their own back by relying too much on contractors and agents. I agree that with redecorating it is better to do it yourself. I've had too many horror stories - one painter even painted around my kitchen clock leaving the original colour behind it!

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Sam 16th September, 2014 @ 08:18

Haven't you been a busy boy!

Great article with great tips. Thanks for sharing.

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Nige 16th September, 2014 @ 08:35

Yep refurbishing can become a nightmare !!
Like many new landlords I used to refurb to a very good standard. One I would personally like to live in. Then back came the property looking like it had been involved in the Beirut war. I laughed at the post about the kitchen clock. I inspected a property and asked where the missing cupboard was. ''There wasn't one'' was the reply. Then why is the rest of the kitchen magnolia and there is a big blue patch !!!
The sheer additional costs of updating a property can soon eat the profit. I took a property back recently and updated it myself. It was given a refurb 4 years ago after a tenant abused it for 10 years so it really needed it. 4 years later it needed a good going over including new windows/doors and that set me back £8000. I was on an exit plan and I wondered if I would have saved time an effort by selling ''as is'' as opposed to refurbishing it. Rough calculations on both scenarios prove to be about the same but I would have saved a lot of effort.
One ''new'' factor which is affecting refurb is the policy of charging council tax to the landlord on empty properties. It might be cheaper to get friendly help in to save time and get it back on the sale/rent market faster.
To be honest I am glad that I am of an age that I am instigating an exit plan and selling the properties off. Exit plans are often ignored by landlords and I made a mistake of not selling a few in 2007 at the peak and buying back in the dip. Fortunately the market has recovered but due to circumstances I had to sell one for £89k 2 years ago and now it is worth £120k plus I would have gained £10k net in rent. No use crying over spilt milk but its worth keeping an eye on the overall picture of your portfolio and market trends especially with the roller coaster ride of rents versus house values.

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emma6 16th September, 2014 @ 09:47

Regarding replacement appliances. B&Q have a website that lists ends of lines and damaged ex-display white goods at STUPID prices. Bargains galore.

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Ken 16th September, 2014 @ 10:08

I've just been through this and it was exhausting but satisfying to get the place looking really good.

It took about a week. I have designed the place to be hard wearing and easy to keep in an 'as new' condition - no carpets to get grubby (sanded floors with loads of tough lacquer when first done), tough but nice looking cloudy-pattern vinyl in the kitchen, emulsion on the walls and eggshell paintwork to not show bumps in the surface.

What I've found is that washing is often enough. marks on walls are usually something ON the surface which can be removed with lots of warm water, a touch of washing up liquid and a big sponge. Window get very grubby especially at the bottoms of frames by the glass but a misting spray with soapy warm water and, crucially a suitable paint brush for getting in corners, lifts it and the big sponge takes it off. Dry with kitchen towel and it, usually, looks like just painted .... clean and fresh anyway.

I know the paint names so just give another coat. This helps build up the paint thickness so it can be rubbed to clean later without going through to the paper or plaster.

I gave a lot of thought to the design and colour scheme and really like the flat so restoring after tenants have left is a bit like working on a classic car - there's pleasure to offset the hard work.

New people have moved in. They checked out fine but are youngish and a bit wild-child - the previous ones were doctors - and work from home on internet-related work. ??????. I'll be happy when three weeks rent have rolled in.

I found them through a local agent who seem good people so that worked out ok. I did my own inventory, which didn't in practice involve much, and took a long video of the place; wide shots and close-ups. I did the agreement myself as well. I want to start establishing a direct, friendly relationship as soon as possible. Did the deposit scheme myself for the first time and got my head around that ....... so gradually I'm learning how to do it all myself.

Next time I think I could probably find someone via Gumtree ..... I found the section where people are looking for flats and so some choosing is possible.

That's it for now ..... !

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Ken 16th September, 2014 @ 10:21

ooops .... three months rent, I meant .....

Otherwise I do try to enthuse over the flat and try to get them to appreciate it, and so transfer some of my care for it onto the tenants ..... so they actually WANT to look after it ...... and I make clear to them I want them to be happy and will do what I can for them. Why not? I do try to avoid any mutual suspicion or anxieties both ways. I don't want to be worrying about what might be happening, damage being done etc so try to manage the personal relationship for everyone's benefit. I might come a cropper but that seems a positive approach.

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emma 16th September, 2014 @ 11:11

I have this "joy" most times a tenant vacates.
However, I must gloat, that the last one that moved out decorated the place top to bottom (week before leaving), had a professional cleaner in and left the garden and garage spotless! I didn't have to lift a finger. Excellent !

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jaykay 16th September, 2014 @ 11:44

Very good advice as I will have all this when my tenant is finally evicted. Be wary of Gumtree, it is easy to be deceived.

I have had some good advice since. Ask to meet the prospective tenant at their current address. You will see how they live. Also check as many previous landlords as you can get out of them. Other references can be fiddled easily. NEVER not take a deposit. If they haven't got it, they can't afford the rent.

Be very wary as the eviction process is a minefield and very slow.

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chris 17th September, 2014 @ 02:15

Hi emma6, which is the website you refer to? I have no idea about it!!!!

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David 17th September, 2014 @ 11:46

@Landlord another excellent article, few points.

I find that if you decorate and CLEAN to a very high standard the tenants will do more to keep it that way, especially women or a couple.

One source for cheap white goods is the British Heart Foundation charity shops, you can get furnishings there too if you plan to let furnished.

Get a carpet with Scotchguard to protect from spills or pay to have it put on and include a clause to have to the tenant steam clean the carpets every 12 months.

You are right about asking around for tenants, ironically a friend of mine is looking right now. He told me pays 3 months rent upfront, more if he can get a break on the rent. No landlord he is not a drug dealer, he has a bad credit record after a messy divorce. He works a lot in the USA so is hardly ever here which in my mind makes him an ideal tenant, but he says that there is no ideal place for tenants to advertise or find landlords who want to deal direct. He tried Gumtree but found poor response.

If you have read my replies on here you will know that I think that agents are a useless drain on the planet. Not a great fan of online agents either to be honest.

The fact is that living in a place does bring down the look of a place, look at your own home. I lived in a place for 10 years and the landlord never decorated it, when I moved out I spent two weeks cleaning the place, but it still needed major decoration.

I think that people forget that in buy to let, rent is not a profit centre, sure it is great to get rent above the mortgage but the real return on investment is selling. Why do you think all the Russians, Arabs and Chinese keep their places empty! No bad tenants, no redecoration and no hassle, but property values will increase in the long term and it is safer than a bank if you are loaded as only €100k is protected.

I think you have to value your own time higher, I value my time at £250 an hour, same as my lawyer and what I can get. I find local tradesmen and ask for a trade rate, tell them you have several properties and are looking for someone reliable and you will recommend them to others.

That feeling you get of not having to tape back the carpets and paint the skirting boards is wonderful!

I prefer tiles, good quality tiles last forever and even with the odd crack there is no need to replace, just add it to the inventory. Also grouting cleaner brings them up like new.

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The Landlord Avatar
The Landlord 17th September, 2014 @ 12:38

@katy
"one painter even painted around my kitchen clock leaving the original colour behind it!"

haha, that's hilarious! A true professional at work.

Either way, sounds like your property has good quality, durable fittings! That's always the best approach.

@Sam
Thanks Sammy :)

@Nige
Haha, the missing cupboard story/blue patch story, I think it's up there with painting around the clock.

Good point about the council tax. Fortunately, I got full exemption from my local authority.

I was also actually contemplating whether to sell this particular property "as is", because it really would have been easier than refurbing. I know what you're saying about valuing the effort/energy exerted though. But I resisted either way.

@emma6
As Chris also asked, what website? Is it the main B&Q website, in the clearance section, or do they have a completely separate website for ex-display goods?

@Ken
Sounds like you did one hell of a job, and it's good to hear your entire strategy was based around durability and longevity! I've always said that's the best approach.

Ahh yeah, great tip about washing the walls. Saves a hell of a lot of time! In a previous refurb, I actually didn't paint the hallway or upstairs landing because all they needed was a wipedown. Warm water and sugar soap took away most of the scuffs, and the walls were left looking great.

I always keep leftover paint-tins in the loft, so I remember which brand/colours I used. Again, saves a heap of time, because it means I'll only ever have to apply one-coat next time.

Sounds like you're cutting a lot of costs by taking on a lot of the work. Good to hear. In regards to the deposit, I hope you gave the tenants the 'Prescribed Information' after protecting it :)

@emma!!!!!!!!!
I almost killed myself during this turnaround, and you approach me with that story. You essentially just stuck a knife in my back with that fairytale of yours!

@jaykay
Glad you got rid of your rogue tenant. Always a massive relief. How long did it take?

Gumtree is great for generating cheap enquiries, but it's hive for scammers. Definitely need to be careful and go through all the essential referencing protocols.

@David
Great tips.

I'm always torn between tiles and vinyl. I like tiles because they're so robust and hard-wearing, and they look nice. But still think they're a pain if they crack. The beauty about vinyl is that you can just lift it off and replace, and it's relatively cheap to do.

haha you know what, painting the skirting and not having to worry about the carpet really was "wonderful"

In regards to your friend, he does sound like a good tenant. However, if he's away for more than 30 days at a time and the property remains empty, it can be risky, because it makes most landlord building insurance policies void. Just something to consider.

Thanks all for the comments so far, it's all been good stuff!

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Nige 17th September, 2014 @ 13:11

@Landlord
How did you get council tax exemption ? My daughter refurbed/rebuilt a cottage for her own use and for her and her now husband to move into.Roof was collapsing. Walls had newspaper under wallpaper to cover cracks. No bathroom. No kitchen, no heating and so on. It was basically totally uninhabitable and on a main street location so you would think the council would be glad of someone doing it up. Nope . Full council tax from day 1 as it was empty.

Interesting comments here but I agree that many ''landlord/owners'' would rather pay the council tax than suffer damage to their properties. I know the feeling !!
I did a house up for sale so it was far better than letting standard. Circumstances changed so I let it to a very nice tenant who was being thrown out of last house because landlord was increasing rent well over her abilities. All very much OK with deposits , inspections, references, credit checks etc. etc. Then during one of my inspections carried out by a professional third party a raft of problems had suddenly surfaced.
The tenant had been diagnosed with cancer.
I popped round to find:
Panels removed from old air heating cupboard, bathroom completely wrecked with shower hose, bath panel, cistern cover broken, sink hanging off wall. Whereas there are no admissions by any party it would appear that whilst tenant was in hospital her brat children held parties. Holes in some walls , carpets all stained and damaged etc. In the circumstances I carried out basic repairs to everything free of charge.
2 days later environmental health contact me saying the house is no longer fit to live in due to water leaking from pipes. No it wasnt. It was water running down back of bath because her brats had removed all the bath seal and also allowing the shower to spay onto the floor despite a new shower screen.. Luckily the property had been fully inspected by the local council prior to letting and EH backed off. Then her father decides to redecorate the property when she has a long hospital visit. Dark blue walls everywhere. No permission given so in effect this is a third party damaging my property which borderlines on criminal damage.
Anyone fancy my chances in front of a judge faced with a poor lady (genuine not made up) who has cancer being evicted because I want to sell next April as this is part of my pension.?? I feel an insurance claim coming on !!!

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The Landlord Avatar
The Landlord 17th September, 2014 @ 17:25

@Nige

I simply went onto the local council's website and filled out a tax exemption application form. Under reason for exemption, I ticked the box that indicated the property was empty and unfurnished. There is also another box which asks if the property is inhabitable and going under major refurbishment. Either option probably would have been suitable for your daughter.

I'm surprised she couldn't get an exemption, or at least a discount. It's pretty standard. Might be worth checking the council's website to double check what their policy is on exemptions.

Jesus, I have no idea where you stand regarding your situation. But that's awful. I'm not sure if it would be classed as 3rd party damage, or your poor tenant's responsibility (since they are family members, and I'm assuming they had permission from her).

Out of curiosity, why did the local council do a pre inspection? Was it under the licensing scheme?

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Nige 17th September, 2014 @ 19:37

@ Landlord
There used to be a raft of exemptions. We didn;t pay CT on a property once under exemptions for a/ refurbishment unoccupied.
My daughter then occupied it as a student for 3 years so in total we got 4 years free.
Things have tightened up considerably since with unoccupied properties here attracting one and a half times council tax after 2 years empty. Much of these changes depend on the councils under ''localisation'' where they can set their own policies.

Yep a problem with my tenant and really its not her fault !! Yep she is responsible ultimately but the simple fact is that it was only let on a 6 months let but plans changed on disposal of properties. All paperwork is in order and she has been in for 17 months and had the periodic letter.
But the fact remains that it will be disposed of in the next tax year (my health is waning !!!) so an initial warning notice has been given that either a section 21 or section 8 notice will be sent in due time for her to make arrangements. I really don't want to put pressure on but I also don't think that I should have to foot the bill for her brats behaviour and I do have a clause in my insurance that may cover this. It should cover redecoration as this was done without her permission (and without ours) by somebody not on the tenancy agreement and is technically criminal damage . About the same rule would apply if I redecorated a neighbours house whilst they were on holiday without their permission. Hopefully they will see the error of their ways and their rollers and paint brushes will be dipped back in magnolia but its going to take a lot of coats to cover dark blue.

As for the council inspecting. This is a bonded scheme run locally and as a member of EMLAS/DASH and the NLA the council check suitable properties for some tenants. Sadly as I said the lady checked out AOK until she became unwell.

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andrewa 19th September, 2014 @ 17:05

Something I find usefull is to decorate all our properties with the same colour and type of paint, what takes the time is the detailing so if you are using a roller full of "egyptian sand" over a previous coat of the same colour you don't need to use a small brush at the edges as the difference between old and new paint is almost impossible to see.
So too is the necessity to paint every 4 years or so, look at it this way you only have to paint 5 times or so before the mortgage is paid off and when there are no more bond payments paying someone else to do the refurb isn't a problem.
With the number of properties we have I have become very good at painting,wiring,gas,poo and pressure plumbing as well as carpentry........all part of the fun!
(Oh and because I started doing this 15 years ago I don't HAVE to go to work anymore unless I want to, waking up at the crack of noon is such a drag!)

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David 19th September, 2014 @ 18:20

@Nige

You are probably OK with section 8, ground 2 as long as the mortgage is old.

She will be able to get the highest priority housing, it happened to a friend of mind after a Grade 4 non hodgkin's lymphoma diagnosis.

Ground 2 - This ground is used by a mortgage wishing to gain vacant possession in order to exercise a power of sale. Notice will need to have been given to the tenant. The mortgage must have been taken out before the tenancy began and the the tenant warned about this contingency within the tenancy agreement.

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Nige 19th September, 2014 @ 20:45

@andrewa

Yep I'm a jack of all trades but as you get older the thrill of repairing your investment wanes compared with wishing to get my own home up to a reasonable standard . Cleaning somebody elses mess/damage is hardly as satisfying as new carpets and fresh paint in your own house.

@david
I have never ever had a buy to let mortgage on my portfolio !! Nobody would lend me a penny so I remortgaged my own house to the hilt which was very very risky at the time. With a couple of buy/refurbish/rent and sell I paid my mortgage off fairly quickly . Many landlords do not turn over property to take advantage of CGT exemptions . When 2 persons own a property that exemption can be worth a years net rental.

As said I have not pressurised said tenant but the simple fact is that due to divorce settlement (landlords are in a terrible position if divorce happens) my x got the pensions and I got the property. Forward planning is great until you get the crash after 2007 and it has taken a toll on my retirement fund (ie sell em). Now retired at 65 with my own health and energy waning I don't relish clearing up the damage her brats caused as the property was in very saleable condition when she moved in. Contact is good with the local council and they are playing ball regarding this case so fingers crossed. I do have other grounds for section 8 like persistently late with the rent which to be honest I have allowed and not clamped down hard on.

Just out of interest I wonder if any landlord has taken a tenant to court for damage which reduces the value of the property as opposed to the cost of repairs ?
For example : the property was valued for sale at time of letting at £100k but if it had to be sold at end of tenancy would only realise £80k. I had one in a similar situation where I returned it to the market price by hard graft but it would have realised £25k less should I have sold it ''as is''even though the repairs were a fraction of this. This could be poignant in situations regarding probate.

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boboff 20th September, 2014 @ 12:00

I read your article and thought how we must be kindred spirits or something.

Only I am too lazy to Blog anything.

I agree completely with the need for this approach.

I take it very simply though, and paint everything white. Always top quality trade paint, if it's wood it's glossed, if its wall its Brilliant White Emulsion. Same at home. Makes "touching up" easy. Bit like a pissed fat bird. Its also really quick and cutting in is easy.

I use allot of "cork" to seal round door frames, window frames, edges everywhere, that makes such a difference.

White Tiles I put up now in Porches, and anywhere which is single story and not that well insulated, as the tiles mean Damp and mold never form, which mean next time you don't have to paint it either. ( I get that it should form, but it doesn't I don't know why)

I always now also buy 11mm underlay, and then carpet, as you can then replace the carpet and not the underlay. This means second time around you get the feel of a £2000 carpet fit for £750.

I don't ever provide any white goods, again if they cant afford a deposit and a cooker etc then they cant move in!

I make a point that when they move in they can "mauve" it up, but when they move out it has to go back to white (This clause has yet to be tested as I only started this 3 years ago, and haven't had a change since then)

Presently I am on the phone to Wickes trying to sort out a delivery of board and batten for a new shop front sign. The sign is being made old school in 8 be 4, I ordered the wood old school, 2440mm x 1220mm, that was not in stock, but they had another type of new 2400x1200, Emma, lovely as she was, referred to both sizes as 2.4... when I pointed out the fact they were different sizes she was not really that intrigued as to this anomaly, anyway, sorted now and the more expensive replacement that I found on line, which they do stock, they did not charge me any extra for.... a saving of some £12... Sorry I bored myself half way through that little story......

Oh and the procrastination thing, I get that, however you could try this on for size. When someone asks you what your hobbies are, rather than the usual "Dogging, Swinging and Rimming" you could try "DIY & Decorating" that way you will both impress your perspective MIL, and when it comes to the next refurb, you will actually be setting time aside for your Hobby. Mentally you will look forward to it, it will be less of a drag. Also posting before and after pictures as you go along on facebook, gives you instant feedback for a job well done, and motivates you to get on with the next job..... or do a blog.....

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chris 20th September, 2014 @ 12:32

dogging, swinging and rimming???!!!

Wowzers that sounds such fun - exhausting though. Maybe you could combine that with your other passion of dealing with Emma at Wickes - she sounds accommodating. I digress from the thread though perhaps...

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Benji 21st September, 2014 @ 09:58

@Boboff,

"I use allot of "cork" to seal round door frames"

Cork? Cork?? Round door frames???

Just when I thought I'd learnt something new from this tedious blog, I realise what you really mean is "caulk".

You really are a kindred spirit with 'The Landlord'- He's an illiterate dumb fuck too.

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boboff 21st September, 2014 @ 10:27

@Benji

Haven't you got vile comments to leave on you tube?

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The Landlord Avatar
The Landlord 21st September, 2014 @ 11:28

So tedious, and scorned by my illiteracy, yet he's been hanging around and commenting since 2010 (literally!) :S

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andrewa 21st September, 2014 @ 12:34

@Benji
If you don't like it you don't have to read it. Me, every now and then I find out something I knew not, previously. It's what makes searching for diamonds in sewage so much fun (the knowledge that there ARE diamonds amongst all the sh!t helps tremendously)

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emma 6th April, 2015 @ 22:56

Reading through though I do feel sorry that you've had repairs to do, is that not the nature of the job.
You drive a car, eventually it needs work.
You appear to want to reap financial benefit with no input, maybe you are the turd sir.
Wear and tear as you say post 4 years will need work but thats the landlords chosen job/career so stop banging on and do something else but remember as you say its these'turd' Tennant's that are making you 'filthy' rich. Let's hope your filthy riches make you happy, eugh people.

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andrewa 9th April, 2015 @ 20:23

@ Emma
I don't think the landlord is complaining about "servicing the car" every 5000 miles, he is complaining because he rented the car to someone who drove the sh!t out of it so badly it needed to be serviced after 1000 miles! Brakes and tyres and clutch completely worn out for example?

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Kate 10th May, 2016 @ 21:42

Don't even own the flat yet... but learning sooo much!!!
The guide for beginners has become my bible.
I'm currently plotting and scheming the decor to be utterly tenant proof for 20 years so it's tiles all the way and Freecycle/Gumtree are a godsend for quality items.
Studio flat in nice part of town.....hoping I've thought of everything.....xxx

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