Over the years I have made some prize-winning mistakes with my rental properties. When I started out in 1994 it was all trial and error but I was given some great advice along the way. Here then, in all their glory, are my Top Ten Mistakes, which hopefully will prevent you from being as daft as I have been, if you’re thinking of investing in the rental market.
1. Don’t carpet the bathroom floor. I have always, so far, carpeted the bathrooms with the same sandy coloured carpet as the rest of the flat because that is what I like. This is a no-no as most tenants, especially Americans, prefer tiled or vinyl flooring. It is also more hygienic and easier to clean.
2. Don’t paint the walls in very strong colours. I once painted a flat in a terracotta colour, which looked amazing, but I couldn’t let the flat. The more neutral a flat looks the quicker it will let. Try not to let your own taste take over. Soft creams are currently in.
3. Don’t use cheap door handles or knobs. I bought handles from a mail order catalogue thinking they were great value (i.e. cheap) when in fact they were just ‘orrible ‘andles. They all broke. This is false economy. Buy the best that are built to last.
4. Don’t buy a nice flat in a naff location. This is so obvious but I did it and paid the price. It should be near a station, local amenities and in a nice street.
5. Don’t use cheap furniture. If you’re going to furnish, furnish well. Cheap stuff just breaks or chips and your deposit does not cover normal wear and tear. Chairs need sturdy legs and washing machines should be pretty sturdy too. (Tenants can be fairly tough on white goods.) Don’t leave prized family antiques if you are renting out your own home as your deposit may not cover any damage.
6. Don’t buy furniture from auction rooms that doesn’t comply with the 1988 Furnishings (Fire and Safety) Regulations, otherwise you will have to re-upholster the whole lot. I thought I was being really clever buying sofas at auction, but ended up spending more than on a brand new one.
7. Don’t over clutter the kitchen. Most tenants like basic pots and pans – I always use good quality stainless steel – but don’t need gizmos. I always used to put in too much stuff only to be asked to remove most of it.
8. Don’t buy cheap curtain track. The plastic track is okay for most domestic situations, but in a rental you need steel track that you get in hotels. My curtains in flat number two are currently stationary due to fitting the wrong track.
10. Don’t try to let it yourself. I get so many letters from people dealing with the tenant from hell just because they are trying to save that 10%. It just isn’t worth it. An assured shorthold tenancy will give you peace of mind and protection. Find an agent who knows the area and let them have the hassle of checking references etc. Always listen to your instincts about a tenant.
One last word of advice: open everything that comes in a box before you leave the shop/warehouse/plumbers merchants. This will save you a return journey if they have given you the wrong thing, which they usually do.