10 Top Tips For First-Time Landlords

Zahraa Valu

By Zahraa Valu

10 December 2015

Hot on the heels of our advice for tenants just starting out in the rental world, we’ve compiled a list of key points for first-time landlord to consider as they place their feet firmly on the buy-to-let ladder.
Whether you’re an accidental landlord or an aspiring buy-to-let mogul, there are still a number of factors to consider as you choose both your property, and your tenants…

1. Decide what type of tenant you’re targeting and shop for your property accordingly:

Working out what type of tenant you want to attract is the first step to deciding what kind of property to buy, as different tenants will have very different needs. 
  • If you’re keen to enter the student market, you should largely be able to leave the finishes of the property as a blank canvas, as students will want to make it their own. That said, as students moving away from home for the first time, they’re unlikely to have any furniture. So, you will need to kit the place out  – preferably cheaply, with sturdy, reliable furniture that can withstand student living, and student partying!

  • Young professionals on the other hand will be looking for a more upmarket finish. It’s worth investing a little more on modern and stylish fixtures and fittings to catch their eye. Young professionals probably won’t have the time or inclination to bother with a garden. However, they’re still likely to be won over by low-maintenance outside space: roof gardens or decked terraces add instant appeal to this market.
  • If you’re looking to get in the family way, you probably will need to invest in a property with a garden and ideally lots of storage space. On the plus side, tenants with families are likely to have lots of their own things so unfurnished properties appeal. When housing adults and children you don’t have to worry about the bedrooms being the same size, as you might for professional sharers.

 2.  Off the beaten track

While the student, family and young professionals market are fairly well developed; it’s also worth appealing to the following two tenant groups, who many insiders see as the gold standard of the letting world.
  • Corporate tenants are any landlord’s dream! They have the backing of a company behind them, meaning their budgets are higher and they (should) never default on the rent!

  • Don't forget ex-pats! Those either relocating or returning to the UK are an untapped resource as they’re more likely to look at properties like large family homes that some other tenants aren’t in a position to consider. Known for being reliable, they’re often looking to move quickly.

 3.  Location, location, location

When it comes to rental property, location definitely matters and once again, the area that you choose is likely to make a big impact on the type of tenant you attract. The following areas tend to be as safe as houses when it comes to a steady return:
  • University towns - It doesn’t take a degree to spot that the university sector in the UK is booming. More and more people are attending university. Which means more and more housing is required for them. Those looking to invest in these areas should seek accreditation with the university housing services to increase their chances of attracting tenants. (find out more about investing in student rentals here)

  • School catchments – Parents will pay a premium to rent near a good school. Young parents priced out of cities may want to try before they buy.  Investing in a family property in the suburbs or the commuter belt, as a buy-to-let, is a great first step for your property portfolio.

  • Stick to what you know – While it may be tempting to buy in an area that you know well, such as the one that you currently live in or the town where you grew up, you need to be sure that you can afford it. Stretching yourself just to purchase a place in a neighbourhood you know could put you in a far more precarious position than choosing to explore some uncharted territory.

4.  Make sure the price is right

One of the advantages of an investment purchase is the freedom it gives you to drive a hard bargain. Don’t be afraid to use the fact that you’re not dependent on selling a property to make the purchase – now is the time to haggle. Like first-time buyers, you are chain-free, so make sure to emphasise your ability to move quickly when you make your offer. 

5.  Get to grip with the facts and figures

In a market when house prices seem permanently on the rise and interest rates are historically low, it can be tempting to be ambitious with your budgeting. Beware, as interest rates will inevitably rise, so it’s important to take a potential hike in rates into account when you’re doing the math. Those in the know also recommend factoring in a dud month where the property lies empty into your calculations and maintaining a contingency fund approximate to about three months’ rent. 
Once you’ve bought your buy-to-let, be sure to consider the following:

6.  Does your agent add value?

Many first-time landlords are tempted to skip the costs associated with letting or managing agents and handle the property alone. While you will make more money if you don’t have to factor in the costs of a managing agency, you must be prepared to give up your evenings and weekends to show the property and be constantly available to your tenants. Those who decide they would rather leave things in the hands of the agent should be looking for the following things when they’re selecting their agent:
  • Local knowledge – Make sure that your agent has a comprehensive knowledge of the area that your property is in.

  • This should include contacts that you don’t have for electricians, painters and decorators and other odd jobs that may need to be done around the house.

  • Check that they have a strategy in place for when your tenant moves out to ensure the property doesn’t lie empty too long.

  • While a shop-front is helpful, in today’s market an online presence is equally important when it comes to attracting a tenant.

7.  Protect yourselves as well as tenants with the following measures:

  • Inventory – we can’t overestimate the importance of making sure a thorough inventory is conducted before your tenants move in. (Find out what the Deposit Protection Scheme advises about inventories here)

  • Security – decent locks and a burglar alarm will not only keep both your prized possession and your tenants’ possessions safe, it’s also likely to attract a better type of tenant in the first place.

  • Insurance – remember that a standard home and contents policy isn’t enough - you do need landlord’s insurance to protect your investment before you rent your flat out.

  • Gas Safety Certificates – it’s a mandatory requirement to get your gas appliances checked and certified each year. It’s also a vital for the validity of your insurance!

8.  Think commercially and don’t get emotional

It’s vital to remember that, although your property is going to become someone’s home, you won’t be the one living in it. You must divorce your feelings from the situation.
  • Never take any feedback you get from viewings as a personal attack – try and see them as constructive criticism.

  • Dress your flat to attract a tenant rather than to please yourself and take any tenant requests about furnishings and decoration seriously, not personally.

  • Always dress the place to impress – make sure that the bathroom and kitchen are aired properly, the place is spotless and any outside space is neatly maintained with all plants, hedges or grass trimmed back.  (find out about dressing a property for rental here)

9.  The customer is always right

New to the game, first-time landlords can often be found complaining about the stream of contact and demand they receive from a “troublesome” tenant.
You may be surprised to learn that for professional landlords, the definition of a good tenant is simply one who always pays his rent on time, regardless of the requests they make in the interim.
First-time landlords would do well to remember that long-term tenants make them the most money and the worst thing to do is chase a reliable tenant out by being unreasonable or uncontactable. When it comes to tenants, if you’ve got one who pays you what you ask for your property when you ask for it, hang onto them.
For tips to smooth the landlord/tenant relationship click here.

10.  Don’t neglect the paperwork

Inevitably there will come a time when you and your tenant part ways and it’s here that your attention to detail and meticulous record-keeping will prove their worth.
Beginning with the inventory when your tenant moves in, and continuing with careful records of any contact you had during the rental period, the mountain of paperwork that you amass as a landlord may seem like a hassle. But it will be a lifesaver if you ever end up in dispute.
You should also extend this thoroughness to the manuals and warranties for every appliance in your property as you never know when you might need them.
If you rent out a property in England then make sure you understand the new rules around Section 21 proceedings.  Download a free guide here and if you're paying an agent to manage your property ask them what they are doing to comply with the changes.


This article is intended for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have any questions related to issues in this article, we strongly advise contacting a legal professional.
These blog posts are the work of Fixflo and are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. In summary, you are welcome to re-publish any of these blog posts but are asked to attribute Fixflo with an appropriate link to www.fixflo.com. Access to this blog is allowed only subject to the acceptance of these terms.

Zahraa Valu

By Zahraa Valu

10 December 2015

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