Why is my house not letting?

Letting is as much an art as a science and there is no scientific answer to ‘How long will it take to let my property?’ One thing is certain and that is an empty property is earning you £0 and costing you to maintain (Council Tax etc.). If your property is sitting lonely and unloved and unlet, there is a reason for it. Either the rent you are asking is too high and/or the property is not attractive to potential tenants.


Reduce the Asking Rent


The housing market is price sensitive and with many tenants choosing not to view a property if they think it is overpriced, the asking rent is critical. Too often landlords get hung up on ‘my property is worth £X’. I am afraid your property is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it. It doesn’t matter who told you what they think it is worth, or what the top price on Rightmove is; you have to consider what people are paying. Don’t get too precious about achieving the ‘market rent’; take what someone is prepared to pay.


In most cases, if there is no interest, then the asking rent is too high for the current market conditions (which may not be the same as the market conditions last year!) and it needs to be lowered. Of course, this is easy to say (especially for an agent) but hard to accept (especially for a landlord). This is even harder if the asking rent is close to the mortgage repayment level and you risk having to top it up each month. The harsh reality is that some income is better than none – it is better to lower the rent, have a tenant and pay a small contribution to the mortgage repayment than to hold out for a higher rent and have no tenant and pay 100% of the mortgage repayment. If there is something that may put off some tenants, such as traffic noise or poor parking availability, make sure the rent is priced to reflect that.


Consider the state of the market. The housing market is a changing and evolving thing. Prices can go down as well as up for any number of reasons including economics, time of year and market sentiment amongst others. A property may not be renting due to changes in the market and the price may need adjusting to react to market changes.


If you used an agent to carry out a rental value assessment of the property and are not following their advice on the asking rent this is certainly something to consider. If you did use an agent make sure the rental value assessment was based on evidence from the rental of similar properties and the agent has provided such evidence for you to see.


Successful landlords know they need to find the pivot point between supply and demand. A classic mistake made by unsuccessful landlords is to set and stick with an inflated asking rent and refuse to budge. Many experienced landlords set the rent just below the market rent, so they get it filled quickly, and very rarely increase the rent as they like to keep their tenants in occupation knowing a good tenant is worth holding on to.


Improve the Condition of the Property


The condition of the property is paramount. Tenants have high expectations – they want the best quality for the price. They want light, neutral and modern interiors that are in good condition and clean. Tenants will pay for the best properties and walk away from the tired homes. The better the condition of the property, the quicker it will let, the better the tenants will be and the longer the tenants will stay. Be honest about the condition of the property. Often landlords will think their property (just like their children!) is the best and feel tenants must think so too but being too partial is dangerous. You are not the tenant. You are not the target audience.


If the property is struggling you need to take action to improve the condition of the property. Whatever property you have, you are part of the ‘lettings market’ and will always have competition. With property websites it is easy to see both the inside and outside of your competitor’s properties; have a look and see what they are doing. Remember if they are being advertised they have not yet been let, so they will not have it right, but taking a look will give you an idea of what you are up against.


First Impressions


First impressions should not be underestimated. Think about the first impression the property gives when the prospective tenant approaches and enters inside. You have 60 seconds to make a great first impression and that starts at the garden, the front door and the external window sills.


What first impression does your property give? Is it going to impress a viewer?


Stand outside your property as though you are viewing it for the first time, this will help you notice if anything is off-putting as a first impression.


Atmosphere and Ambience


New kitchens, new bathrooms and light, clean and modern will make a difference. You will struggle to let a property with stained carpets, faded curtains and a 1950s bathroom or kitchen. Do what you can to make sure the property is looking at its very best and ‘smart as a guardsman’.


What sort of atmosphere and ambience does your property have? Does it make people want to stay or go?


Decor


This should be light, neutral in good condition and clean. Keep colours to a minimum.


Is the décor in your property light, neutral and in good condition and clean?


Cleaning


Who wants to live in someone else’s dirt? Get the property cleaned to a professional standard between tenancies.


Is your property cleaned to a professional standard?


Energy Efficiency


Have a look at the EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) to identify opportunities to improve the energy efficiency of the property – if you do not check the EPC you can be certain prospective tenants will.


What is the energy efficiency of your property? Could the energy efficiency be improved?


Damp


A definite no-no. If you have damp of any sort in the property, find the root cause and deal with it quickly as nobody is going to want a property that smells musty and has black mould in places.


Are there any signs (or smells) of damp in your property?


Shower


If you have to choose between a bath and shower, go for the shower; it’s quicker, cleaner and cheaper. Whilst not everyone will expect a power shower, make sure the one you fit is of reasonable quality and power and remember to test it!


Is the shower in your property any good?


Furnished/Unfurnished


Be flexible.


Gardens


Small is good – few tenants have the time, inclination or green fingers to maintain a garden.


Parking


Almost a must.


Remove the Barriers


Soft Criteria


The soft criteria are your preferences over which you have control, for example:


Criteria for applicants


• No Children
• No Housing Benefit Claimants
• No Pets
• No Sharers
• No Smokers


Restrictions


• Not allowing use of roof space/garage/outbuilding/cellar
• Insisting property is only let furnished
• Insisting any tenancy must be x months long
• Insisting windows are cleaned every X days


Saying ‘no pets’ is your prerogative but the more restrictions you have, the smaller the target audience and the longer it will take to let your property. Taking pets as an example, in 2015 it was estimated that 12m (46% of) UK households had pets so by excluding pet owners you are excluding almost half of the population.


Hard Criteria


The hard criteria are things you have no control over, for example:


• Availability of parking
• Earliest date property is available for occupation
• Restrictions in a superior lease


The hard criteria may be outside your control but consider what you can do to mitigate these factors e.g. arrange alternative parking nearby, do what you can to make the property available earlier.


So how long will it take to let my property?


You should have enquiries in the first week and the first viewing within 10-14 days. If you have not had any viewings within 14 days the rent is too high. If you have not had a suitable offer within 21 days and/or had 5 or more viewings, action is needed – be flexible and be decisive!


• Work your way through our Preparing a Property to Let – Pre-Let Checklist which may help stimulate some thoughts on how you can improve the odds in your favour.
• Review any feedback you have had from previous viewings which will provide clues on how to improve the condition of the property and what barriers you may need to remove. Excuses that the property is not big enough, has too much traffic noise, that there’s not enough bathrooms, or even the wrong parking, are all other ways to say that the asking rent is too high. If priced correctly to allow for any downside, it will rent.
• Compare your property to similar properties available on the market – how does it compare?
• Be honest about the presentation of the property – is it really being presented at it’s best?
• If you are finding the competition tough, decide whether you want your property to be the cheapest OR the best presented in the street


Questions for your agent?


If you are using an agent to market your property here are some points to be considered…


Written particulars…


Are the written particulars sufficiently detailed to cover all aspects of your property and in particular the key features?
Are there enough photographs to show the entire property?
Are the photographs and videos of sufficiently high quality to show your property at it’s very best?
Are the different mediums using consistent wording and photographs?


Online listing…


Is your property listed on the agent’s website?
Is your property listed on any property portals?
Does the listing include a floor plan?
Does the listing include a virtual tour?
Ask for a property performance report for the property portal/website listing
Ask to have your property listed as a featured property or a premium listing


Offline marketing…


Has a ‘To Let’ board been erected at your property?
Is your property advertised in the agents window?
Is your property advertised in the local press?
Ask how many prospective tenants have been sent details of your property
Ask what the agent plans to do to attract more interest in your property such as no fees for tenants
What does your marketing literature look like?


What is the agent doing for you?


Are they keeping in regular contact?
Are they providing quality feedback for you to act on?

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