Rental Vacancy - How to make your property appealing to tenants

Rental vacancy levels are continuing to rise in these uncertain times. Here, experts offer sound advice to landlords who are finding it difficult to attract or retain renters, including tips on pricing, presentation and welcoming pets.

More people are struggling financially and rental property vacancy levels are continuing to rise, leaving landlords under increasing pressure to find tenants.

While they might have to resolve to work harder than ever to attract tenants, it helps to know why their properties are losing out to others.

“When tenants lose interest in a property, we always ask them to give us a reason,” says Ben Shaw, chief executive of digital property rental agency HouseME. And with data on tens of thousands of users, he has been able to build unique insight into tenant preferences in the rental market.

These are some of the main reasons tenants might not choose properties and what landlords can do about it:

Incorrect pricing

Even if property owners have previously found tenants willing to pay their required rent, this does not mean that particular amount is still achievable. A property may be overpriced relative to the current rental market prices.

To compete for precious tenants in the current economy many landlords are dropping their rents, and this means that the average rent for a particular property on offer may be lower than it was previously.

To remedy the situation, Shaw says landlords should spend 15 minutes researching rents asked of similar properties in their neighbourhood by searching on online marketplaces such as Gumtree. Then they should try lower their rent a little to see if they get more responses from prospective tenants.

“This will have the effect of making your property visible to more tenants because many tenants search within a specific price bracket when they browse properties online… Even if it means slightly less income for you during this lease, it won’t be forever.”

Landlords could also be saving themselves the higher costs of their properties standing vacant.

Unappealing photographs

A whopping 96% of tenants indicate that the photos on an advert are the number one factor in their decision to view a property, he says. So, it is worthwhile to use a professional camera – even if you have to borrow one – instead of using a smartphone to snap property shots.

“Make sure all your photos are taken in landscape, and not portrait format, as most property sites are set up to display landscape photos.”

Other advice is to:

  • Always take the photos during the daytime, if possible during bright weather.
  • Make sure you have some snaps of the outside, garden or communal facilities, as greenery and open spaces are often appealing.
  • For indoor photos, spend a bit of time clearing any clutter.
  • Have plenty of photos from different angles. This will further pique tenants’ curiosity and increase the number of viewings you’ll get.

Be readily available to host viewings

Shaw says tenants typically look for properties on multiple marketplaces, and even if they express interest in one property, they are also viewing any number of other properties.

In cases where tenants are under time pressure they are more likely to choose a property where the process of viewing and applying moves quickly.

Landlords should make sure they are available to host viewings often so their prospective tenants do not need to wait too long to see their properties.

“Remember, every day that you make them wait is a chance for them to fall in love with a different home. If you are using an agency, expensive or cumbersome application processes can also be a barrier

Not being upfront on pet-friendliness

Pet owners are desperate for pet-friendly properties and will often not bother viewing one unless they know beforehand that their pets are welcome, Shaw says.

“Some online marketplaces even allow tenants to filter property listings based on whether pets are allowed or not and they won’t even look at the ads for properties that don’t show up in those search results.”

Landlords who do not mind pets living in their properties must mention this on their adverts. If they forget to, they could miss out on many interested tenants.

“Even if only some pets are allowed (for example, small dogs but not large dogs), it’s worth mentioning that. Sometimes pet rules are up to the complex your property is in so take the time to find out and adapt your ad accordingly.

“Even if you’re concerned about the damage pets might do to your property, it could still be worth the cost of repairs (some of which may qualify as being for the tenant’s account) at the end of the lease, in exchange for reliable tenants moving in sooner.”

Insufficient Parking

A frequent reason tenants don’t pick an otherwise gorgeous property is a lack of parking and, unfortunately, this is not always within a landlord’s control.

Even if a property owner cannot offer covered parking it may be worth asking neighbours in their complex or street if there are any vacant lots for rent.

“That way, if a tenant enquires about parking, you can give them some options instead of being forced to turn them away.”

Property description is vague or too short

Remember, tenants very much judge the book by its cover, and so Shaw says the better landlords describe the property in their adverts, the better.

“Include info like what floor it is on and whether it has a balcony, a view, a lift or security. And describe the neighbourhood: is it close to public transport or shops?

In short, you want your description to amply mention anything that cannot be seen on the photos themselves.”

He adds: “Properties that are well-advertised and well-priced fly off the shelves. You’ll know you’re in a good place if you’ve had at least five responses and one to two viewings within the first week.”

Courtesy: Bonnie Fourie

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