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NO VACANCY: KEEPING YOUR RENTAL PROPERTY OCCUPIED

They say that death and taxes are the only two certainties of life. Well, if you’re a landlord, you might be feeling that empty weeks at your rental property are an inevitable third.

Vacant days are money lost for landlords, and we meet plenty who feel both entirely powerless and resigned to losing valuable rental income. Aside from the financial cost, if voids become a regular occurrence, they can cast a lingering cloud over your tenancies, with the back of your mind never completely free: will your tenant give notice at the earliest opportunity; will you find new ones for a seamless changeover; will you need to carry out repairs or maintenance before new people can move in?

But are void periods, or the lack of them, entirely down to chance and luck, and is there really no way to influence the number of days your property remains empty? While it might be unwise to expect 100% occupation every year, there are undoubtedly actions you can take to reduce the risk of void periods, and even use them to your advantage.

So this week’s article focuses on how to keep your rental property occupied in the long term so that voids don’t become a regular nuisance.

BE IN IT TO WIN IT

To quote Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz: “there’s no place like home”. Can you think of anyone who would argue with that phrase? It’s such a powerful and universally resonating statement. Now let’s change it to: “there’s no place like rented accommodation.” It really doesn’t have quite the same ring.

Think about your property’s presentation during viewings and pre-empt any issues. If your tenants have given notice, ask them if anything needs fixing so you can either attend to it now or line up contractors for the day they move out.  An empty and cold home simply isn’t as inviting as one that’s lived in, so give yourself the best chance of re-letting before your tenants leave.

If your property is empty, make sure it’s as inviting as possible. Scuffed paintwork, mouldy grout, or chipped skirting don’t exactly paint a picture of a lovingly cared for home, so repair them as soon as you can. Large piles of mail forming by the front door are also never a good look, so clear them on regular visits if you’re self-managing. And depending on the time of year, either open the window vents to ensure a proper airing or leave the heating on low to avoid a frosty welcome.

You may feel this sounds obvious, but setting the correct price for your property will help it to rent faster, especially when there’s lots of competition. Overpriced homes tend to attract very little interest, and there is no way to communicate that you’re open to offers without making your asking price look pointless. 

A letting agent can help you reach the largest number of people: not only will they have a register of potential tenants, but they can list your property on the national property portals where almost everyone begins their search. Many people never get any further than this before finding a home, so make sure you don’t miss out on the richest source of tenants.

Finally, be pragmatic and look at the bigger picture. In a competitive market with plenty of property available,  accepting an offer that’s €10 less per week than your asking price per week could well turn out better than sticking to your guns and risking a month without tenants.

BOOST YOUR APPEAL

Generation Rent is a thing. The number of tenants is on the rise, and higher house prices have shifted people’s thoughts to long-term renting. Today, people are looking for a home to enjoy for a longer time, rather than a stop-gap before getting on the property ladder. 

The fact that more people are renting is good news for landlords, but it comes with increased hopes and expectations about the quality of the rental homes on offer.  So think about how to make your property more rentable to attract higher calibre tenants. Relatively small items like replacing the hose attachment on the mixer tap with a thermostatic shower unit; upgrading the kitchen by installing a dishwasher; or implementing affordable smart tech like room thermostats can make all the difference in attracting premium tenants.

Many of the upgrades or appliances that you can install cost much less than Ireland’s average monthly rent of €1213. Investing in good-quality items from recognisable brands will not only ensure your property keeps up with the market, but also reduce the need for ongoing repairs and replacements. People tend to give notice as soon as they can for homes where things keep breaking down, so why not help them to stay by ensuring that everything works.

THINK LONG TERM

Make it known to potential tenants that you want them to stay for the long haul, and that your property is somewhere for them to create lasting memories. 

If your tenant feels truly at home while living in your rental property, they are far less likely to start hunting for somewhere new in nine-or-so months. Many tenants have experienced continual rent increases or being given notice every year to the point of feeling they should always keep an eye open for their next option. But if your tenant is a good one, it pays to reduce the possibility of them jumping ship.

The vast majority of tenancy agreements are for 6 or 12 months, which hardly sets the scene for longevity, but there is no limit on the length of a tenancy agreement.  So why not consider an extended contract to give your tenants more comfort while including a break clause in the event of the tenancy not going to plan. And if you already have tenants in your property who you’d like to keep, even if the renewal date is still a long way off, say something now. The sooner you do, the sooner you nip their wandering eyes in the bud.

Most landlords don’t want to have to continually re-let their property, even if they get a slight increase in rent each time, because they know that changes of tenancy often mean periods of vacancy. No matter how conscientious your outgoing tenant, there will inevitably be the signs of wear and tear that come from everyday life, and from moving out. Empty homes are only too good at highlighting even the slightest marks which could make your home look less loved than it is.

As your letting agent, one of our jobs is to help you strike the perfect balance between ensuring your rental income stays in line with the market and keeping your property occupied. A tenant on a long-term contract brings stability and provides you with steady yields, with zero voids and less expense. That may work out far more in your favour than the on-paper attraction of an incremental rent increase every 12 months. 

SHOW YOU CARE

Being a landlord means providing a service, and tenants paying for their experience in your property expect a high-level service in return. They will find it hard to leave if you treat them like your best client.

That starts by being commutative and transparent. If your tenant reports the washing machine isn’t working, respond quickly, even if you can’t send someone out right away. They will appreciate you taking the time to react and feel assured that you’re on top of the situation. 

Don’t skimp on repairs, either; it’s your asset, so it’s in your best interest to keep the property in good shape. Doing so sets the agenda with tenants too, which should encourage them to keep it in excellent condition while they live there. 

Carry out property inspections at least twice a year if you’re self-managing – to check on its condition and ensure that everything is going well for your tenants. You might need to listen to the odd gripe here and there, but tenants will appreciate your efforts. Plus, a tenant who is quick to report issues is someone who will keep your investment in tip-top condition. Someone who takes excellent care of your property and pays the rent on time is a keeper. By showing that you appreciate them, you’ll increase your chances of keeping them in your property for longer. 

In summary

It would be wrong to suggest that you budget for zero empty days at your rental property, but you do have the power to create an environment that attracts the very best tenants. By looking after your property, encouraging your tenants to stay for a long time, and showing them you care about their enjoyment of their home, you’ll give yourself the very best chance of staying ahead of the market and maximising your rental income.

If you’d like to learn more about keeping your rental property occupied and keeping your void periods to a minimum, why not get in touch? You can call us on 042 933 2482 or email us at info@lavelles.ie – we’re here to help you make the most of being a landlord.

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