Lockdown #2 update: You can still let/rent a home, buy/sell your home, and move home during the lockdown in England starting on Tuesday 5 January 2021 (unlike the first lockdown in March 2020). But you must follow Covid safety guidance.
When Landlords Can’t Find Replacement Tenants!
When a landlord struggles to find replacement tenants there’s almost always a rational reason for it – and it’s usually due to one or more of five basic key reasons.
So if you’re a landlord in that situation, and you’re scratching your ass while wondering WHY… I invite you to run through the following checklist… with an open mind!
I say with an “open mind” because there are people in this world that won’t believe they’ve got it wrong, even though the evidence is staring them square in the face. We’ve all been there.
Bottom line, if your property ain’t shifting, something ain’t right, and you’re losing money every day your property remains vacant.
The odds are it’s because of one of the following reasons:
- Price – your asking price isn’t realistic or competitive.
- Oversupply – 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 & Presentation – poor decor, unsavoury odours, general uncleanliness, and cheap and ghastly fittings.
All pretty straightforward, and I’d argue that’s all common sense stuff. You probably scanned through the list and also thought that’s such basic information, why are you wasting my time with nursery rhymes?
Yup, I get it.
However, I’ve seen it too many times, when landlords say they “know” the key principles, and they swear blind it’s been covered – even though they haven’t!
Greed can be cancerous, and sadly not uncommon in this world.
The mistake many landlords make is that they set the asking price based on their own expectations, and not what the market demands.
Yeah, don’t do that.
ALWAYS use the price set by the current market, and not your own stupid perception. There are various ways of reliably determining how much rent you should charge – a good starting point is finding similar properties on Rightmove and Zoopla to see how much others are charging, and also asking local agents for a valuation.
Remember, it’s often ALWAYS more profitable to slightly lower your price so you find tenants quickly as opposed to aiming high, and potentially waiting for a mug to over the odds.
I always slightly under price my properties to minimise vacant periods, because I find it dramatically increases interest.
This is a tough one to resolve.
If there’s an oversupply of properties, by definition there isn’t enough demand. You can’t just magically conjure up demand.
However, in this day and age where every Tom, Dick & Harry is being priced out of the housing market and consequently have no other choice but to rent, oversupply isn’t an issue for most landlords. The problem in today’s climate is UNDER supply.
Sure, oversupply might be a genuine issue in remote villages in the Scottish highlands. But if that’s your situation, then you skipped chapter one on “don’t buy properties in dumb areas” in the ‘Landlording for dummies’ book.
In the unlikely event that oversupply is the cause, then your only option is to peacock and stand out from the competition! Here are a couple of tactics that work:
- Lower price – Most tenants search for properties online, on portals like Rightmove and Zoopla, and they set the sort order from “lowest to highest price”
So one reliable tactic to gain more eyeballs is to strategically lower your price so you appear near the top of the search results in a stacked division. In some cases, lowering your asking price by as little as £25pcm will do the trick. Check your local Rightmove listings to determine./
- Provide white goods – providing a fridge-freezer and washing machine are pretty standard in BTLs, even in unfurnished properties. However, funny enough, at first I NEVER used to provide any white goods (besides from a built-in oven). But after a few years in the game, I realised that most tenants expect and require white goods, because buying their own was an added expense they couldn’t justify. So I was effectively putting people off.
These days I always provide white goods, and while it’s based on anecdotal evidence, it feels like it’s been less of a struggle to find new tenants since.
So if you aren’t providing limited or no white goods at all, you could also be deterring prospective tenants, because they’re having to consider the extra costs of buying their own white goods.
I’ve found that white goods are actually a good investment, because not only do they increase interest, but they can also be reused for tenancies to come, especially with good warranties.
- Include utility bills – if you can calculate how much the monthly utility bills (e.g. water, electricity, council tax and phone line) approximately cost, you could add it onto the monthly rent and disclose that bills are included in your marketing campaign.
I’ve found that it’s a great incentive for tenants because they’re able to budget their entire month, and the idea of being hassle free of bills is undeniably attractive. The key here is to get the best product rates on the market, so you can keep costs to a minimum.
Although, I would proceed with caution with this one, because tenants can easily take the piss and rack up huge bills, so you may need to put safeguards in place (e.g. provide a capped utility allowance).
The fact that landlords get this wrong is so tragically mind-boggling. It’s so basic, yet it’s a frequent recurring disaster.
I’m always left god-smacked whenever I dance through Rightmove/Zoopla (or any other property portal) and see properties with unsightly photography; blurry, lop-sided, poor composition, and hazed by inadequate lighting. You can’t but wonder if the camera was attached to a sedated monkey.
Pictures are arguably the single most important aspect of marketing and generating leads, so it needs to be done properly.
I know it’s tempting to whip out your snazzy new iPhone and snap away, while self-appointing yourself as a competent photographer. However, the end result is usually dog shit, even if you don’t see it!
Wide angle lenses, good lighting and a good sense of composition is key, and they’re concepts usually lost on the average Joe.
How are your pictures?
Actually, that’s probably not the right question to ask, because you’re probably under the impression that your photos are perfectly fine, hence why you’re using them.
News flash: if you’re experiencing a major drought in enquiries, then there’s a good chance it’s related to your bottom of the barrel pictures.
My advice is to invest in a set of professional property photos if you haven’t done so already. They’re pretty inexpensive (approx £80), and bear in mind that you can reuse them over and over again for each and every marketing campaign (assuming the condition/presentation of the property doesn’t drastically change).
Oh man, this one is so simple.
If your property isn’t listed on Rightmove and Zoopla (but especially Rightmove), then you’re running your tenant-finding campaign on an empty tank! You’re also an idiot. Probably. I’m sorry.
In order to maximise the chances of finding tenants as quickly as humanly possible, your property needs to be on the two biggest UK property portals.
I don’t have the stats in front of me right now (and I’m currently too comfortable to look them up), but between the two of them, they attract an insane amount of prospective tenants scouring their stock of properties. You get my point, right?
MAKE SURE YOUR PROPERTY IS ON BOTH RIGHTMOVE AND ZOOPLA, AND ANY OTHER PORTAL YOU CAN!
If you’re unsure of how to go about it, using an online letting agent should be your first port of call.
Condition & Presentation
This point is a bit tricky to bring home, because it’s the point which demands an open mind the most.
If this is where you’re tripping up, you’re going to need to accept a harsh reality if you want to resolve your problem. If you’re not receiving any enquiries or you’re burning through plenty of viewings and failing to convert…
The reality: your standards might be drastically lower than your target audiences.
I’ve put that as nicely as I possibly can.
People simply have different standards – high and low – especially when it comes to hygiene and cleanliness. Ever walked into someone’s house and wondered “how the fuck do people live like this?”
I do all the time, and the hosts literally seem oblivious to the fact they live in my unsterilised hell.
Condition and presentation is like art, it’s subjective to people, even though it really shouldn’t be a subjective issue in the context of rental properties.
Clean should be clean, and presentable should be presentable.
But it’s not. The thousands of pictures of the properties for rent I’ve seen on Rightmove attest to that.
Covering the issue of cleanliness and presentation is a topic all by itself, so I could be here forever and a day just scratching the surface.
Oh look, I’ve already covered it, in my redecorating and finding new tenants guide.
But in the meantime, here are the some of the key principles of presentation when it comes to BTL, which you should definitely be aware of, or avoid like the plague, depending on what the context of the point is:
- If you currently have messy/unclean tenants (if that’s the case, you should be aware of it through regular inspections, or at least the final inspection), then I would personally hold out until for the picture-taking (if you need to take new ones) and viewings until after they vacate!
I know the ideal scenario is to have tenants lined up before the current one’s roll out, but in this situation, I would wait, otherwise you may find yourself burning through your enquiries and opportunities and wasting them if the prospects are subjected to a dump-site.
Declutter the entire property. Literally, remove anything unnecessary, even if you think it adds a “special touch” The odds are it doesn’t.
Anything personal you garnish the property with, the bigger chance there is of scaring the punters away. Plus, clutter occupies space and may make the property appear smaller than it is.
Rugs, pictures, ornaments, shelves, cupboards, tables, pens and other random crap, junk from the garden etc. Strip back everything and remove it all (unless it’s a furnished property, in that case just leave the essentials, none of the tat).
The walls and carpets/flooring should be neutral coloured. This is pretty self-explanatory, but failing to comply with this basic concept seems to be one of the biggest mistakes landlords make.
I don’t know why landlord after landlord can’t get it into their heads: NEUTRAL ALWAYS WINS (creams, whites, light browns etc)! YOUR QUIRKY AND PERSONAL ROSE RED COLOUR SCHEME IS GROSS! Take that shit down ASAP.
When looking for tenants, your objective should be to appeal to the masses, and the best way to do that is to remain neutral. Plus, neutral colours generally look cleaner and give the perception of more space.
Thoroughly clean the house. Every room. Properly.
Pay special attention to the kitchen and bathroom(s), because those rooms pack a lot of punch when it comes to winning over the crowd.
If you don’t have the time or good judgement, then I highly recommend investing in professional end of tenancy cleaning services.
Remove any unsavoury odours, too. Bad smells are a massive turn off.
Remove anything that screams cheap and tacky!
Anything that’s hanging on for it’s dear life, yank off.
Anything that doesn’t match the tone of the property, remove.
Anything that stands out, like cheap and garish curtains, unfasten!
FYI, cheap and hideous looking curtains are usually the culprit here! Landlords can’t be bothered to take them down, so the eyesore remains hanging to haunt everyone.
Curtains alone may not seem terribly destructive, and you may think I’m overreacting. But it’s a combination of those small disasters that make the unpleasant difference.
So there you have it! All five key points – that commonly hinder the process of finding replacement tenants – discussed.
You could just read that list and smugly believe that your property doesn’t fall short on any of them – even if it does. And there lies the crux of the problem – the undeniable ignorance.
Consider the possibility that you might just be a little too dirty or tasteless for your market.
The issue of pricing ties strongly into this whole issue, because if you’re charging the same amount as other properties in much better condition, you’re technically overcharging. Go back to the “Price” section.
None of the above
ARE YOU SURE? ARE YOU 100% SURE?
You are? Well shhhhiiiittt. The problem might just be you, particularly if you’re taking the viewings. Tough pill to swallow, no doubt.
Disclaimer: I'm just a landlord blogger; I'm 100% not qualified to give legal or financial advice. I'm a doofus. Any information I share is my unqualified opinion, and should never be construed as professional legal or financial advice. You should definitely get advice from a qualified professional for any legal or financial matters. For more information, please read my full disclaimer.