There's a book by Simon Sinek called Find Your Why, and it's all about identifying your reason for having a business: why do you do what you do?

The same question can be applied to your rental property: why would a tenant choose your buy-to-let instead of another? Why would they pay you more rent? And why would they stay beyond their initial contract?

Asking yourself these questions helps you appreciate everything that's already great about your rental property and how to seek out areas for improvement. It's an integral part of owning a successful buy-to-let, both when it's empty and occupied.

It's also why we carry out interim inspections – not only to identify repairs, but also to ensure our landlords' lettings portfolios keep up with the local market and stay ahead of government legislation.

So let's look at how you can review the rentability of your buy-to-lets to keep them performing at their peak and pulling in the crowds.

IS YOUR TARGET MARKET CLEAR?

Every business has an ideal customer, but the most successful ones are those that correctly identify their perfect client and make a real connection. If you think of any brands you have an affinity for – perhaps Apple for technology; Tesco for groceries; John Lewis for home furnishings – there's almost certainly something specific that draws you to them.

The lettings market is no different and is made up of several target audiences:

  • Singles
  • Couples
  • Sharers
  • Families
  • Professionals
  • Students
  • Corporates

If you look at your buy-to-let, is it obvious who you're looking to attract, and are you in step with the neighbourhood? Schools get better or worse; transport connections develop; shops and businesses evolve with changing demographics.

Take a moment to review the local market: does your student-let have a more profitable future with professional sharers, or could your family rental make a perfect HMO?

Unsure how to fine-tune your buy-to-let for its most suitable audience? Drop us a line at lettings@baillie-white.co.uk for some useful tips - we're here to help you get it right.

IS ANYTHING LOOKING TIRED?

When you think about checking into a hotel room, do you want to be reminded of the previous guests? They're literally the last people you want to think about when you jump in the shower, and it's exactly the same for your tenants.

Empty rooms show every flaw, but not everything that looks scruffy needs replacing. Plenty of superficial jobs require minimal expense but make an enormous difference to the overall impression.

Among the many removable signs of wear and tear from previous tenancies are:

  • painting out scuffs on walls and woodwork (including the front door)
  • dissolving limescale on taps, showers and wastes
  • removing mould on grout and sealant
  • steam-cleaning carpets
  • washing curtains and re-aligning blinds
  • fixing wobbly handles and hooks
  • weeding gardens and jet-washing balconies and pathways

Wondering if you've missed anything? Get in touch for some expert advice.

DOES EVERYTHING IMPORTANT WORK?

Your tenant's first few hours and days in your buy-to-let form the foundations of your relationship. Little niggles make big impressions, and moving into a property with a fiddly door lock or heating that doesn't work is simply not a great start.

Ultimately, anything that's broken will need fixing at some point. Nothing improves or repairs itself, so delaying is simply holding off the inevitable while risking a showdown.

Use the following checklist to give your buy-to-let an eagle-eyed audit. Once you're done, you can be absolutely sure that everything works as well as you think it does.

  • Boiler or hot water tank
  • Washing machine
  • Dishwasher
  • Fridge/freezer
  • Oven, hob & extractor
  • Doorbell or entryphone
  • Locks & keys
  • Electrical sockets
  • Light switches
  • Radiators and heaters
  • Shower and taps
  • Gutters, downpipes & drains

Knowing that everything works means you won't be wondering when the phone will ring after your tenants check in.

IS IT TIME FOR UPGRADES?

The lettings market has become far more sophisticated in recent years, and renting a home is now a long-term lifestyle choice for many people. There was a time when tenants demanded far less than buyers, but we've seen that change a lot.

The good news is that people are willing to pay higher rents for better homes, so treat every tenant's departure as an opportunity to make an upgrade, even if it's a tiny one.

  • The cheapest appliances are often hopelessly unreliable and equally unpopular among our contractors. You'll thank yourself in the long run by choosing respected mid-range brands like Neff, AEG, Bosch and Siemens: they're a hit on viewings, and they'll give you and your tenants years of service.
  • We still occasionally encounter mixer taps with leaky shower hoses, unpredictable water pressure and fluctuating temperatures. These should be consigned to the past and replaced with a modern, thermostatically controlled shower fitting.
  • Rising fuel bills are a massive conversation right now, and tenants are scrutinising running costs like never before. Look for gaps in your buy-to-let's energy efficiency, then plug them.
  • Replace any unsalvageable carpets or peeling laminates with engineered wood floors.

Uncertain whether your buy-to-let is falling behind the times? We're here to help you keep on track.

IS YOUR MARKETING MAGIC?

Once your buy-to-let looks all ship-shape and pristine, it's a shame to waste all that hard work with poor-quality promotion.

When choosing a letting agent, run a spot check on how they work. To ensure you get the best result, it's essential for the marketing of your property to include:

  • up-to-date photos that reflect what tenants will see today, rather than ones your letting agent took a few years ago when you first met;
  • multiple images that show off the best angles of the rooms and highlight close-up details and features;
  • an enthusiastic and evocative description that sells the finer points of your property along with the high points of the neighbourhood to attract your target audience;
  • inclusion on a major property portal to ensure you capture a wide range of potential tenants;
  • an active social media presence where the agent shows a knowledge of using the platform to promote their listings;
  • a pricing strategy designed to get you the best possible rent without losing enquiries through overvaluing or guesswork.

What's next for you?

Conducting a regular review of your buy-to-let for its presentation and place in the market will keep your investment looking great and in high demand among your ideal tenants.

Keeping our landlords' rental homes current and competitive is our top priority, and we'd love to do the same for you. Give us a call on 01268 955001 or drop us a message at lettings@baillie-white.co.uk for a chat about your portfolio.

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