It pays to be organised and think long-term
One of the questions I’m asked most often is how to tenant-proof a buy-to-let property. The truth is, you can’t. Kids will put dirty handprints on walls. People wearing muddy shoes will walk through a home. Door frames get chipped when moving furniture around. This is part and parcel of home life. It’s the difference between wear and tear and damage. And, for buy-to-let landlords, it’s hugely annoying.
No, you can’t eliminate wear and tear; but you can make things last a little longer. You can decorate for durability. You can plan for when your white goods break.
These 11 tips will help you tenant-proof your property and save money when you’re renovating between tenancies.
1. Schedule renovation work
When you know a tenant is leaving, inspect the property early. Make a list of what needs to be done to get the property ready for a new tenant. Then schedule the work. Plan it like a project – which is exactly what it is. Get in touch with the maintenance technicians, decorators and cleaners early. A good schedule with everyone booked into the calendar will:
- Avoid costly time overruns
- Ensure void periods are minimised
- Make sure you get the best job done at the best price
- Get your property up to scratch for viewings quickly
- Help you achieve the best rent
2. Forget Magnolia!
Light pastel colours give the impression of light, airy rooms. But those magnolia walls make for short lifespans, too. Keeping light-coloured walls clean is hard work. Instead, opt for mid-tones. These will help to prolong the life of your painted walls, while also meeting the need to maintain neutral colours.
3. Fund fantastic floors
Floors are hit hardest in a home. Foot traffic is constant. Don’t expect kids to remember to remove their muddy boots.
Knowing this, many landlords give in to the temptation to buy cheaper flooring. Don’t make this mistake! Instead, pay a little extra on:
- Longer-lasting hardwood, vinyl, or laminate flooring
- Thicker carpets made with more durable fabrics
Again, forget the magnolia look. Choose darker shades that don’t show up the dirt.
4. Tile those walls!
Wall tiles are a fantastic value. For sure, it’s more expensive to buy tiles than a couple of tins of paint. You may need to hire a professional tiler to put them up (my advice would be to do this). But when they are up, they will last years. Maybe even decades. They clean easily, and they’re waterproof. Over the lifetime of your investment, tiles will pay back their cost many times over.
Bathrooms, kitchens, and utility rooms are obvious rooms to be tiled, but porches and hallways could also benefit from tiled walls. Then there is the downstairs toilet. And how about a tiled feature wall in a dining room?
Tile more and have less work to do during your next void period. And less work means shorter void periods, which translates into higher profits.
5. Mind the gaps
If there are drafts coming through gaps, holes, and cracks, deal with them. Check all windows and doors and fill the cracks. If you don’t, you are more likely to run into expensive repairs down the line. Water leaks in, and this can cause dampness and rot. Worse still, your property could become infested with mould – and this could lead to health issues for your tenants.
When you are checking for gas, don’t forget to repair mastic around baths, sinks, showers, and hobs. Water that seeps through these seals can do an awful lot of unseen damage.
6. Avoid cheap fittings
Cheap fittings in kitchens and bathrooms don’t last long. That’s a fact. They get chipped easily. They discolour. Getting them fitted by professionals takes the same amount of time – and if you need them replaced often, you’re doubling and trebling, even quadrupling those fitting costs.
Never buy ‘just enough’. Always buy a little more than you need. Not only will this allow for miscalculation, but you’ll also have some tiles or paint in reserve should you need to redecorate or repair. It’s amazing how often paint companies slightly change colour shades. And, if you’ve ever tried to find a replacement tile a few years after fitting the originals, you’ll understand that it’s an impossible task. Pay a little more now, to save a fortune later – it a great insurance policy!
8. Pay for those warranties!
I expect, like me, you rarely pay for those extended warranties when you buy a new washing machine or other items for your home. But when buying them for a buy-to-let, my advice is to do so. You never know the habits of your tenants. Their main hobby may be to have the washing running constantly. When you are paying £300 or £400 for each of your white goods, the £30 or £40 to cover them for an extra three or four years is worth every penny for the peace of mind it gives.
9. Use the professionals
Will you really save money by decorating yourself? A professional will do a great job in half the time. That’s extra time you could be letting out your property, and extra time you could be spending doing the things you really want to do. And electrics, gas, and water? Always get the professionals in.
10. Set an appropriate budget
Spend more than the bare minimum, and you’ll save money in the longer term and benefit from happier tenants. You’ll probably be able to command a higher rent, too.
Spend too much, and it will be difficult to recoup your costs. If the maximum rent you could achieve is £800 per month, spending £30,000 on renovation work won’t pay dividends.
11. Keep all your receipts
To claim maintenance costs against your rental income, you must show proof of what you have spent. Keep all your receipts, even if they are for pennies.
I haven’t discussed furniture in this article, but this article “11 tips to help you choose the best furniture for your buy-to-let property” is a great resource if you are considering furnishing a buy-to-let property. In the meantime, if you have any renovation tips, we’re sure that other landlords would love to read about them. Contact the Ezytrac team on +44 0 1522 503 717 and let us know what they are.
Live with passion,