Void periods are the most pressing concern for many buy-to-let landlords. Independent landlords often rely on rental income to pay the mortgage, so it is vital that you endure as few empty months as possible.
Some buy-to-let professionals suggest that the most significant factor in minimising void periods is the letting agent; they believe that the agent is generally to blame if a property is not let. However, while the agent’s abilities may ultimately prove a deal-breaker, there are a number of important steps you can take to minimise void periods – without sacking your letting agent.
1. Think about pricing
Price is the most important factor for many potential tenants, particularly during periods of economic uncertainty. There is a strong temptation to stick to your guns and refuse to settle for anything less than what you think the property is worth. However, dropping the rent just slightly is likely to pay dividends in the long-term; it is better to have void periods filled than to hold out for an extra £50 a month.
Conversely, potential tenants are also likely to be put off by an unusually low price, as they will presume there is something wrong with the property. You should ensure that you are aware of the average rents for similar properties in the area, and that you set your asking price accordingly.
Think about presentation
As obvious as it might seem, it is vital that your property is in a presentable condition for viewings. Far too many landlords overlook basics like cleaning the windows and ensuring that work surfaces are dusted.
Many landlords let the properties ‘at arm’s length’, preferring to leave the process in the hands of the agent. If you have chosen this course of action you should remember that you may not see the property for long periods. It is important that it remains in good condition, so make sure you visit regularly to deal with any presentation issues that may arise.
Think about availability
If you are conducting viewings yourself, you should think carefully about your availability. Most tenants will want to view properties outside of normal working hours, and it is vital that you make yourself available to meet these requests.
Similarly, if you are entrusting the rental process to an agent, you must ensure that they are prepared to work outside normal office hours. If a potential tenant cannot get hold of you or your agent, or cannot arrange a viewing at a suitable time, they will rent another property.
Think about visibility
You could have the world’s greatest rental property, but it will remain empty if no one knows about it. In order to guarantee the highest possible volume of enquiries – and, therefore, the shortest possible void periods – you should ensure that your property is receiving the coverage it deserves.
The internet is now the first port of call for most tenants seeking new accommodation, so it is vital that you are well represented online. Taking a few minutes to sign up to the major sites (FindAProperty, RightMove, PropertyFinder and Gumtree are all absolute musts) will significantly improve your chances of letting the property – and, best of all, private landlords often enjoy free membership of property directory sites.
Think about budgeting
The average void period for each residential property in the UK is now two weeks. Despite your best endeavours, the likelihood is that you will have to endure periods during which your properties are empty. As a result, it is vital that you factor void periods into your budgets.
You would be well advised to budget for void periods longer than two weeks, particularly if your property has had a high rate of tenant turnover in the past. You should set aside enough cash to pay the mortgage and other bills while the property is empty. You may also wish to consider taking out insurance to cover you against the financial risk of void periods.
An empty property is the biggest risk for any professional landlord or buy to let investor. But rental properties are increasingly in demand as mortgage availability remains low – and this situation looks set to continue for the foreseeable future. As a result, with a little care and attention there is little reason why you should have to endure lengthy and expensive void periods.
Simply Business provides unoccupied property insurance to help you protect your buy-to-let property even while it’s empty.