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Avoiding the void

Agents help landlords maximise their investment, but convincing them isn’t always easy, says Robert Nichols.

Robert Nichols, Director, Edmund Cude

Edmund Cude agency image Rental voids are an eternal worry for landlords everywhere. In many cases, the amount of money lost through a void period can be the difference between a landlord making a gain or a loss from their rental income. Similarly, for many property investors an inconsistent flow of rental income caused by extended void periods can result in a struggle to make mortgage payments. With a one month rental void accounting for over 8 per cent of a landlord’s annual rental income, there can be no doubt that minimising the amount of time a property lies void is an essential priority for landlords, particularly in a hostile economic climate.

Robert Nichols image

Robert Nichols, Edmund Cude

The good news is that with rental demand outstripping supply, landlords have the opportunity to significantly reduce the amount of time that their property sits empty. Monitoring the local market for demand and supply – and comparative rents, a bit of pro-active advertising, asking for, and listening to feedback are all routes to success. However, while many landlords feel that they can look after their investments perfectly well themselves, these ‘tasks’ can be challenging for landlords to effectively manage without the correct resources. So it makes sense for them to use a trusted lettings agency. The challenge for the agent though, is to get that message across.

We all have to decide on our own promotional pitch, but usually, a clear knowledge of the issues and the solutions, genuinely recounted (no over selling!) does the job. So some examples:

  • Employing a lettings professional can prove invaluable for landlords looking to reduce rental void periods, says the Deposit Protection Service (DPS). They released a report that stated that 63 per cent of properties let through lettings agents were left void for less than two weeks, compared to 38 per cent of properties marketed by landlords directly.
  • Established lettings agencies invest heavily in training their staff to enable them to offer landlords informed advice on the local lettings market, they know how to maximise tenant interest in a property.
  • Marketing a property takes time. Most landlords lead busy lives and finding the time and resources to continually manage online advertising, respond to queries and host property viewings can be difficult.
  • The exposure given to a property by a professional agent is almost impossible for a lone landlord to replicate; portals (major ones are only available to agents) place a property in front of millions of potential tenants, high profile press advertising (rather than a classified advert, does the same on a more local scale, high street premises and local reputation attract applicants, current tenants tend to move with the same agency and they are ‘tried and tested’!
  • One of the consequences of a booming lettings market is the emergence of a small proportion of private landlords looking to take advantage of an increase in tenant demand by letting sub-standard properties and abusing tenant rights. For tenants, there is a risk they could enter into an agreement that sees them committed to sub-standard living conditions and without any kind of deposit protection scheme. For that reason, most prospective tenants opt to search for a property through a industry approved lettings agent, where they are guaranteed a certain level of security.
  • The lettings industry is complicated and ever-evolving, voids are only one of multitude of issues that face landlords when letting their properties. Legislation changes, accounting, tax crackdowns, referencing, inventories, check-ins (and outs) inspections, insurances, … there’s a long list, life is easier with a professional agent.

The message is really quite simple; a lettings agent can offer maximum exposure to potential tenants, and handle all aspects of the marketing process, making it the most effective channel through which to market a property and reduce rental void periods.

Robert Nichols is a Director at Edmund Cude

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