The dreaded winter-let. People say “Never let in December” but life happens and for whatever reason, you may be scrambling to let during the quietest season of the year. As we launch a new service for self-managed landlords, this blog is about what you can realistically do to make your listing stand out and stay calm.
1. Force the kitchen view to be the main picture
For some reason, agencies love putting the front of the house but studies show that the kitchen attracts the most clicks. This is assuming you have great professional pictures at hand. If you don’t have a perfect set of pictures, get it taken ASAP.
2. Make the availability date slightly later than it is
I know. Counter-intuitive. It’s because most agencies keep it on for a long time so tenants think the property is unavailable and thus, don’t enquire.
3. Bring down the price immediately – with conditions
If one week has passed that includes two weekends, and you had zero enquiry, bring down the per calendar month (pcm) price immediately. The trick is to do so by at least 2%. This triggers platforms to think that yours is a new property so it bumps up your listing to the top.
4. Re-think where you are marketing
Think: facebook, local corner shop/cafes, council, other DIY let sites. Specialist facebook groups can be as effective as listing on Rightmove/Zoopla so be diligent in finding the right groups. People move away from areas they had liked because they can no longer afford the rent – but keen to come back. And in this day and age, there are many sites that let you access the two main portals and many many more. Try companies like Upad, OpenRent, thehouseshop.com, LettingaProperty.com, and PropertyLetByUs.com.
5. Break the cycle of winter-let
Make sure that your Tenancy Agreement is ~10 months or ~14 months and communicate this at every viewing. An AST does not have to be 12 months. The best month to search tenants are around April and September so adjust accordingly.
6. Visit the property regularly and alternate lights
As long as it’s vacant, visit as often as possible because there are professional thieves out there that target vacant properties on Rightmove/Zoopla. Turn on and off alternate lights (preferably not the LED ones because they are more expensive and annoying to replace) and make sure you also turn on heating every now and then so the boiler/radiators don’t freeze.
7. If you get a viewing, encourage them to visit early
During your initial call with them, arrange to be their first or second viewing of the day, and if possible, during mornings. Tenants often make up their mind very quickly in the winter because they need to move-in ASAP. The closer it is to Christmas, too, the more likely they will also give in to a property that’s just ‘okay’ and skip their afternoon viewings in preference for shopping or anything else but property viewings.
1. Lose hope
This is a number’s game. The more exposure you have, the better. Talk about it to everyone, advertise it everywhere (see #4 above) and do not stop until you physically cannot, ie, you’re on the airplane for your holiday. You never know who will need to move during Christmas and new year.
2. Expect normal behaviour from prospective tenants
Even if you made every effort to confirm the viewing, there will be more no-shows compared to other times of the year. You did nothing wrong – better to focus on your next viewing rather than go through every permutation of things you could have done and feel low because you will simply never know why he/she/they never turned up.
3. Take anyone
These times can be stressful but try to think long-term. Eviction process is even more stressful and very costly. E.g. a nightmare tenant can cost you up to 6 months rent and stress on yourself and your spouse. Not worth it!
4. Aggressively lower price
You will regret. Instead, think of creative incentives. People love offers. I’ve heard of free TV at move in, 1/2 off first month, gift card, pay the heating bill for the first two months (make sure you cap the amount on the lease), scrap the admin cost you would normally charge – the possibilities are endless. My favourite idea I recently heard is providing a starter set of bedding for tenants to keep. A duvet, cover and pillows can be bought for £30 from supermarkets. It costs a bit, but not as much as a whole month’s rent.
5. Let agents rush you
That is, if you are already using one. Some agencies will be particularly pushy to rush through references around December in order to hit their end of month targets. As with any other time of the year, insist on meeting the prospective tenants in person before going ahead. If you’re away on holiday, tough, postpone it. It’s your property at the end of the day and trouble will cost you. One person I know discovered at the last minute that a tenant had poor credit including recently unpaid CCJ. It was only by being pushy and nosy that she found out the “real unsugarcoated story” (thanks for sharing SD!).
If all else fails:
1. Stop stressing
If it’s almost Christmas like now, just stop. It’s not worth ruining the holiday cheer. Re-group for the end of January, a high activity season.
2. Use the down time effectively
For example, renovate areas that will really add value like the kitchen and fix what you were thinking of doing.
3. Contact us
Why not call 020 3588 5115 or email now to take the hassle away, so you can get on with the more important things in life!