Why Isn’t My Property Renting? I’ll Tell You Why!

Being stuck with an uncommunicative douchebag tenant that’s fallen deep into arrears is probably the most frustrating and terrifying scenario for a landlord. It’s truly gut-wrenching.

But what about second place? I’d say that being pinned down with a property that won’t shift for months on end is a strong contender. I’ve personally never been in that situation, but I know many landlords that have, and the root cause is almost *always* the same.

Most landlords and experts will instinctively say it’s because of one or more of the following reasons:

  • Price – the asking price isn’t competitive.
  • Supply – there’s an oversupply of properties in the local area.
  • Photography – poor photography being used to advertise.
  • Rightmove/Zoopla – property isn’t being marketed on the two biggest UK portals.
  • Condition – poor decor, unsavoury odours, general uncleanliness, and cheap and ghastly fittings.

If you are struggling to rent your property, I’d strongly encourage you to investigate each of those areas. However, while they are the most common contributing factors to prolonged vacancies, they’re often not the makeup of the actual cause.

The real reason many landlords struggle to rent their property is often a lot more difficult to resolve, because it’s psychological, and it’s based on ingrained standards. We all have standards, and some are notably lower and higher than others. But the problem is, our standards are based on our own experiences and perception, so it isn’t easy to reason or negotiate with.

The reality is, many landlords put properties onto the market after running a quality assurance assessment based on their own standards, which often doesn’t align with the expectation of the market. It’s easy for me to tell someone their standards are piss-poor, but it’s difficult to convince them I’m telling the truth when their reality is telling them something completely different.

It’s no one’s fault, really. But it’s still a problem that should be recognised.

I remember 5 or so years ago, when I had a couple of school teachers for tenants. They were a pleasant enough couple, but filthy as fuck. The whole place was just cluttered with crap, and they had crammed each room with oversized furniture. Lord only knows how they manoeuvred around the place. On a sidenote, is it just me, or are teachers notoriously messy?

Anyways, when they vacated, the hubby said to me, “The Mrs has been cleaning the place thoroughly for days. She’s got OCD, she’s obsessed with cleaning, it’s spotless. You won’t have to do a thing.”

When I conducted the final inspection it quickly became apparent that their definition of cleanliness was total bullshit. There was dust and cobwebs in plain sight, literally everywhere. The cooker was also smothered in congealed jizz. Either they were severely visually impaired, or their standards were lower than a tramp living under a bridge… and every other person that considers copious amounts of dust inadequate.

In any case, I evacuated them from the premises as quickly as possible (without making physical contact, of course) and called in a professional cleaning company immediately.

Test Case: The property that won’t rent

It must be noted that I’ve been umm’ing and errr’ing for the past 30 minutes on whether or not to use a real example, because it could be it’s directly offensive to someone that probably doesn’t deserve the heat.

But screw it, I’ve decided to bite the bullet, because landlords stuck in this rut can learn from this, even if it’s a bitter pill to swallow. My only hope is that the chap I’m using as an example doesn’t cross paths with this blog post, and if he does, I hope he doesn’t take it entirely the wrong way!

Today I stumbled across a thread on the PropertyTribes forums, where a landlord has been struggling to let his 2 bedroom flat since July. Considering it’s September now, that’s one hell of a long stretch- his pockets must be bleeding.

This is what the landlord said about his property:

It was renting for £975pm. The mortgage, service charge and management fees came to nearly £750pm. It has been vacant since July. I have dropped the rent to £895 but have only have an offer of £800.

I have aranged to meet my agents on Friday.

I am trying to decide what to do with it.

He then shared a link to his rental property on Rightmove, which you can view here.

Bit dingy, ain’t it?

Without trying to sound like a condescending, snobby dick-face… if the landlord is not understanding *why* his property isn’t being swept off the market (which clearly is the case), it indicates to me that his standards aren’t particularly high, or at least, inline with the market’s expectation.

The property is glaringly out-dated, from the grubby bathroom to the lackluster carpets, so the initial £975PCM asking price is scary. Even the revised £895PCM price is a little awkward. But the issue is, he’s not seeing what I’m seeing, otherwise he wouldn’t have created the forum thread in the first place, and contemplating “what to do”

Right? Right.

It would be another discussion if he just openly confessed, “I know the property looks dated, but I just don’t have the money to invest.”, or something along those lines.

The landlord also mentions the following, “The best thing about the flat IMO is its size – it has 50% more floorspace than the flats on the lower floors. Some of that is wasted on a very large bathroom. That is not mentioned in the description.”

To me, that’s another indication that he’s missing the obvious and living in cuckooland; the poor schmuck is under the impression that if he informs people that there’s more square footage of that crap he’ll encourage enquiries! *sigh*

His comment implies he’s not actually getting the enquiries, let alone the viewings, which means protective tenants aren’t liking what they’re seeing from his advert! It’s a proven fact that photos usually do the majority of the leg work when generating enquires, but if your centre-piece is a gloomy kitchen and bathroom from the 90’s… there’s very little gravitation pull, and highlighting more of ‘it’ is just suicide!

It’s not a terrible property by any means, and it’s arguably better than a lot of crap other landlords serve… but is it actually worth £975PCM in its current condition? Bitch, please!

Most people will say, “The problem is the condition of the property, specifically the out-dated kitchen and bathroom (two key areas which notoriously sell properties).”

But that’s not the real problem, is it? The real problem is that the landlord perceives the condition of the property to be acceptable and essentially worth the £975PCM price-tag. And that’s my point; it’s a mindset issue, based on ingrained standards. He’s seeing one thing, and I’m seeing something completely different.

So, so, so many landlords have this issue. I’ve seen genuinely good landlords, who aren’t tight-fisted at all, and have their tenants best interest at heart, that struggle to let their property simply because they’re being guided by their own standards, which is often lower than required.

On a sidenote, I think the letting agent he’s using is providing an embarrassingly poor service, but that’s another issue altogether.

Comparing the market

I did a quick search on Rightmove for 2 bedroom properties with in close proximity and similar price range, and the first result that landed on my radar was this 2 bedroom apartment, £900PCM.

When comparing the two properties, I know which I’d rather snap up. There’s an obvious difference in quality, not to mention photography (which has been proven to make all the difference).

I don’t know the Reading area, so I don’t know if one property is situated in a more premium location than the other. But it’s irrelevant, because I’d be willing to move a little further afield from my desired location if it meant living in a significantly better conditioned property, and I think that’s a general consensus among most folk.

If your property isn’t renting after doing the basic/common checks…

I strongly encourage you to consider that your standards might be lower than the current markets’, even if that’s a kick in the nuts. Like I said, it is a tough pill to swallow. I’m not saying you need to offer high-end properties, I’m saying the price-tag needs to reflect what you’re offering. So if you’re offering a plate of steaming shit, you should be asking for the going rate for said plate of shit!

I would say “check out the competition for a reality check”, but that’s unlikely to work if it’s an issue of misaligned standards. Even if a landlord independently scopes out the competition, he probably won’t recognise the difference in standards, or at least, the gaping holes in their own proposition. That’s the problem.

To clarify, I’m not trying to shit on anyone’s standards here. People should live how they want to live, and I have no qualms with that. But this isn’t about how YOU live, this is about how your tenants live, and it’s about maximising your profits by providing tenants with actual value (i.e. not your perceived value). If you fail to provide, a few outcomes will most likely occur:

  • Excessive vacant periods.
  • You’ll eventually be forced to significantly lower your rent after you’ve wasted time ‘testing the market’.
  • You’ll get dog shit tenants with equally low standards (trust me, you don’t want that).
  • You’ll find tenants that won’t stick around for long because they’ll eventually cotton onto the fact their money can go further. Bear in mind, a high tenant turnover rate can be equally as expensive as long vacant periods, if not more.

It’s also worth noting three other points:

  • The landlord may have made more money if he accepted the £800 offer (of course, it depends on the date he received the offer, and how long it eventually takes to find tenants). This goes back to another big mistake landlords often make: prolonging the vacant period to hold out for ‘top-end’ prices (especially when you don’t have a comparatively top-end product).
  • Generally speaking, if a property isn’t receiving serious offers with in a week or so (especially in today’s booming rental market), it’s safe to assume there’s a glitch somewhere! If there isn’t a serious offer in 3 months, that usually means there’s a fundamental issue with the property, which goes way beyond correcting the basics.
  • It’s common for some landlords to have the complete opposite problem, where standards are so elevated that overspending occurs! But in this instance, you’re unlikely to struggle to occupy your property! In any case, understanding your market is crucial.

In conclusion, don’t be ruled or clouded by your own standards… especially if they’re out of sync with the market!

So why do YOU think the property is struggling? Thoughts & comments all welcome, as usual xo

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24 Comments- Join The Conversation...

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Lisa 8th September, 2017 @ 11:20

I have the opposite problem! My own standards are too high so I often spend a lot making my properties upmarket. That said, I've never struggled to get tenants and I've never had problem tenants so I guess I'm doing something right!

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The Landlord Avatar
The Landlord 8th September, 2017 @ 11:34

@Lisa
Ahh good point. I've thrown that point into my blog post!

I'm with you; I'd rather have excessively high standards, because that generally attracts better quality tenants, hence desirable long-term tenants!

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RobinL 8th September, 2017 @ 13:50

Slightly off the main topic of the article.....what strikes me most about the property is the sheer crapness of the rightmove listing. When stalking other rightmove listings in my area, it seems to be a particular issue with rental listings. It's really not much of an effort to add a bit of description. One of the key advantages of using an online agent (at least the ones I've used) is almost total control of the listing. I probably add too much detail, but why not - if it takes 5-10 minutes to add a bit more detail why not do it? If the rooms are big, say so. Include a floor plan. Stress the good things the property has.
For example, one of my properties is a 2 bed flat that actually has 2 double bedrooms - I make a point of stressing this to differentiate it from the many flats and houses with one bedroom and one cupboard (sorry bedroom).

My last property I rented was on the market for 1 day. I had 3 inquiries withing 1/2 a day and the first person to view it (the same day) took it. Now, this was a combination of an OK flat (it's not fantastic but it has good location and is freshly decorated, large etc) and price (I deliberately put it on the market to be cheaper than similar, but perhaps slightly smarter looking, properties). My flat was on the market for £625 but I did notice other 2 bed flats (sorry executive flats - oh yes I'm a top executive check out my 2 bed flat in Swindon!), that looked great but were on the market for over £900. One is still on the market (4 months later) and several were reduced.

So - back to the main focus on the article. It seems to me a lot of agents and landlords don't look at the detail of the rightmove listing (which may be that the detail is not provided!) - they just see 2 bed flat - asking price £895, therefore, my 2 bed flat (that perhaps is not the same specification) should rent for £895. Therefore they stick it on the market for £950 and it sits there unrented. As landlords we need to be realistic and also fair to our prospective tenants. It's also a simple economic argument - if it sits on the market for 3 months, that 3 months lost rent. Even if you achieve your speculative asking rent, it'll take a while to recoup 3 months lost rent.

Deep breath, rant over.

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The Landlord Avatar
The Landlord 8th September, 2017 @ 13:59

@RobinL
Totally agreed, and I actually noticed the same thing regarding the crappy listing!

That's why I said the high-street agent he's using is providing a terrible service- how/why did such an advert go live? It just screams lack of effort! It even seems like the photos were taken on an old camera phone. Why would anyone pay for that kind of service?

But generally, I think tenants can look past crappy listings as long as the photos and actual property look decent. But in this case, every aspect of the proposition seems to be failing, at least in my opinion!

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RobinL 8th September, 2017 @ 14:33

Yes - I noticed you noticed the crapness of the listing. Having sold a property last year and had 2 agents not manage to put a floor plan on the listing (despite much nagging), I'm guessing it is in a lot of cases lazy (and when it takes 10 mins to to do v lazy) agents. I reckon 75% of the rental listing I look at are rubbish - I can't work out the layout, and in quite a lot of cases only have 1-2 photos.

I agree, in good (for landlords) market, tenants look past the advert. But I've seen listings with no photos. I've seen listings with one photo of the outside of a block of flats. How is this selling the property?

Yes - I agree every aspect of this prospect is failing. But there are many many examples similar to this on the market. Many with no detail, no photos, and overpriced. You might as well just list, "a flat, guess the number of bedrooms, guess the size and layout, decor - who knows, rent - £50 more than other similarly craply listed properties. I know rental properties are in demand, so I can't be arsed to do a proper advert".

Sorry - the rubbishness of listings for rental properties really annoys me - it spoils my market research!!

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Benji 8th September, 2017 @ 14:40

It has now gone let agreed for £850.
Personally, I'd upgrade bathroom and kitchen, fit quality lighting, new curtains/blinds, re paint and re carpet and bang it on at a grand plus.
Charging below market average is for mugs.

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The Landlord Avatar
The Landlord 8th September, 2017 @ 14:47

@Benji
Haha, so basically, re-do the entire property!

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John Kennedy 8th September, 2017 @ 14:56

There is a big difference between not getting any viewers and not getting any applications.
I've had properties that got lots of views but no bites. I started doing the viewings myself and was able to quickly work out what was putting people off. Now I do all my own viewings.

I also had a property that got virtually no viewings. Finally realised that the agent was diverting inquiries from it to more lucrative houses (for them). Agent dumped.

One last point - I am in Northern Ireland. Rightmove and Zoopla are no use at all here. Different things work in different areas.

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RobinL 8th September, 2017 @ 15:04

Benji - I agree- charging below market value is for mugs. Getting it about right = no voids. It's always a balance of what the market wants. For some properties a smart kitchen and bathroom may add £200 pcm. For other properties renters will live with a below par kitchen etc if the price/location etc is attractive.

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RobinL 8th September, 2017 @ 15:08

John, yes - I agree that doing your own viewings is the way to go for a number of reasons. The Landlord blogs very nicely on this.

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martyn 8th September, 2017 @ 15:24

I am of the school of make it better than everyone else. My 1 bed was up for £475 which is quite expensive for its location, I had 8 potential tenants view it on the open day and could have rented to each and everyone and incurred a bit of a price war, in the end I had the pick of the bunch. The properties can never be too nice.

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Benji 8th September, 2017 @ 15:34

Came across this beauty whilst checking out comparable properties in the area;

http://www.rightmove.co.uk/property-to-rent/property-58080436.html

£862 per month for a shiny new build 15sqM flat.

If that is an indication of the governments much lauded corporate build to rent sector then I'm not too concerned about the competition.

15sqM FFS, I've got bigger bedrooms!

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The Landlord Avatar
The Landlord 8th September, 2017 @ 15:38

@Benji
That can't be right! £862 for "purpose built student accommodation"?

That looks like my halls of residence from Uni, which was in central London! I think I was paying £65 per week!

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The Landlord Avatar
The Landlord 8th September, 2017 @ 15:39

@martyn
That's the way to do it! You generally attract better quality tenants that way!

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Meg 8th September, 2017 @ 18:09

I notice no-one has mentioned having to pay full council tax for empty properties. My tenant left without me knowing and i found out after hed been gone for 6 weeks( he was receiving housing benefit but it's paid a month in arrears) and owing £2500 in rent and I spent 4 weeks decorating and fitting new bathroom and kitchen before New tenant moved in. I had to pay 3 months council tax plus water rates and has and electric standing charges.

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Kira 8th September, 2017 @ 18:14

'Can't Pay we'll Take It Away' TV series, totally sums up the true state of wealth-divide in the UK far more precisely than massaged government statistics. 'Better Quality' tenants that are perhaps in good-salaried employment do not necessarily turn out to be ideal rent-payers whatsoever when you consider that a vast many are likely to be (temporary project managers, whose employment stability varies just as chaotically as those on zero-hours contracts. Conversely, those whose incomes well exceed the 'unlimited' pay packet can afford to buy their own home/rent Penthouse suites are in the minority. There is a serious lack of knowledge amongst landlords who appear to believe that 'a fair days pay' exists in all spheres of working life, yet this is absolute nonsense - Just 40% of the British population are better off than the 60% that are largely comprised of pensioners; temporary workers, casual labourers and the unemployed. The Scale of Economic Inequality in the UK is never researched in any depth by letting agents, let alone property investors whose blind ambition to conquer the developed world will meet with civil-unrest just around the next decade of the 21st century.

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The Landlord Avatar
The Landlord 8th September, 2017 @ 18:29

@Meg
Council Tax exemption is dependent on individual boroughs, there isn't a national policy. Some councils still provide complete/partial exemption. Also, I don't think you're liable to pay your tenant's council tax arrears. You probably should have only paid 4 weeks worth, during the time you were decorating. I'd look into that if I were you; sounds like you got swindled!

Similarly, assuming the utilities were registered under your tenant's name (which they should have been), you're not liable to pay for his/her debt.

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andrewa 8th September, 2017 @ 19:57

Here is a saying for all you fellow landlords " there is nothing wrong with a rental property that price won't fix". My personal preference(due to the insane difficulty of ridding oneself of a problem tenant (I live in South Africa) is to come in at the same standard as most other properties in the area but 10-25% lower rental. That way the phone rings off the hook with applicants some of whom are willing to jump through the hoops of our credit and reference checks. I do agree with the landlord about good descriptions and photos as they are a great help.

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Benji 8th September, 2017 @ 20:43

"My personal preference is to come in at the same standard as most other properties in the area but 10-25% lower rental."

Thanks andrewa!
For every mug charging 10-25% lower rental than market average, someone must be charging 10-25% higher- and its me!
No problems at all attracting applicants with stringent credit checks. If anything it helps sorting out the dross.
If you are getting problem tenants, maybe you need a rethink.

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Meg 9th September, 2017 @ 06:27

Thank you, I have challenged it but just go back and forth with the same replies.
Northumberland County Council have charged me 150% council tax for 2 years for my late father's empty property when sales fell through 4 times!

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andrewa 9th September, 2017 @ 09:18

I suppose it's horses for courses Benji :)
I am retired for 15 years since my 40's thanks to property and after one very bad experience involving a stainless steel winchester riot gun that escalated to lawyers I now extremely thoroughly vet my tenants. Where I live if you have 40 applicants perhaps 3 can pass the vetting process. Having said that in the last 20 years the only voids I have experienced are voluntary where I have repainted or upgraded the property. I also have two sets of tenants that are coming up for their ninth annual lease renewal's. Remember, Bears get fat, pigs get slaughtered. In my tax band I would only receive half of the additional rental, I have already received an "elegant sufficiency" so to be honest the extra income just is not worth the effort and voids.

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David 11th September, 2017 @ 06:38

@Landlord

You are absolutely right of course as is the comment about the drab listing, there is no "sizzle" but for me that is not the main problem.

There is a reason this crappy flat has more floorspace...

....THERE IS NO BLOODY HEADROOM It is a flat for dwarfs!!

The first thing I noticed was no kitchen cupboards, not one, so that means bending down all the bloody time.

A quick visit to the bathroom shows it has two sinks and a bidet, but the taps of the bath are at the wrong end. I know it has a separate shower but you hardly notice that (no photo) and because it is by the bathroom door you can't put a bath mat there. Now you have two sinks, great for a young couple you might think, but at that rent they will both have to be working full time, yet they can't shower at the same time. Of course they can't shower anyway because that sloping ceiling means they can't put a shower guard or curtain.

The bedrooms have zero storage and those sloping ceilings mean you will not be able to put in a decent wardrobe. Might have been an idea to build some in.

When it comes to floorspace, any Landlord and agent should know it is ceiling space that matters, excluding slopes. The 2nd bedroom demonstrates this well, about 50% of so called floor space lost.

Then we have the heating, expensive and ineffective electric heaters, some might say "not so bad" but this is a flat built into the eaves. It will be bloody freezing in Winter.

I lived in such a property many moons ago, it had storage heater and I still had to put two more in myself, but could do nothing about the freezing bathroom except get in and out as quickly as possible.

The curtains show the mindset of the Landlord, awful colour, does not match carpet, thin, an afterthought, not fit for purpose. Shit I could do better off freecycle!

The carpet with those rings would look lovely, IN A CARE HOME!!

Doesn't anybody read Sarah Beeny on decor, the simple plain colour throughout, nothing to object to.

If I had been the Landlord/Agent on this I would have shown the lower price and said it was the discounted price for a 3 year let but offer the higher rent for 6m or 1yr contracts. That way they think they are getting a bargain.

The pictures are also a huge mistake, has this agent not heard of a selfie stick (they sell then in poundworld), if the worse feature is the sloping ceilings you need to take the photos from the highest point, to give the illusion of height. You also put all the lights on so it does not look so dull (bring a 100w bulb for the purpose and use flash. You take additional pictures from the window looking in, when I look at that living room I can't see where I would put a sofa and guessing that corner is the TV point I do not think the ceiling is high enough for a modern 49" smart TV (selling at ALDI for £320 this week).

My advice to the Landlord of this property would be to sell it and not buy an attic conversion flat again in the future.

I would not bother investing in it, leave that to the next poor soul that buys it!

BTW it says "let agreed", there is always some idiot as they say but I expect it will be a short let or is to an Eastern European who is thinking they do not need height for a 10 lads on a sublet with mattresses on the floor and two sinks in bathroom means less congestions in bathroom!

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The Landlord Avatar
The Landlord 11th September, 2017 @ 10:54

@David
Haha, you really dissected the crap out the property/advert!

I really didn't look into the advert/property as thoroughly as you did- the surface of the entire proposition was enough to repel me, I didn't need to to dig any deeper.

I did laugh at the bath taps and shower hose being at the wrong end! I didn't notice that. How impractical.

Obviously I did notice the poor and lazy decor; everything you pointed out, from the carpets to the curtains! I can't help but feel it's a magnet for poor quality tenants, with equally as poor taste.

I'm not sure if the property is officially off the market, but according to Benji (comment #6), an offer of £850 was accepted. Bear in mind, the property was available from July and the initial asking price was £975PCM!

It's a baffling situation!

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David 12th September, 2017 @ 06:50

@Landlord

To be honest I just thought about it as if I was going to move in as a tenant.

You clearly have way more experience and can instantly reject a property as quickly as Warren Buffett does a bad balance sheet.

I think you are right that it will lead to crappy tenants.

Big lesson for me was the lack of ceiling space in investment property, it is one thing putting up with that as a tenant, you can always leave, but as an investor it is always going to hamper your achievable rent.

I heard that the Game of Thrones production team have rented it for Peter Dinklage to use for UK location filming over the next year!

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