Make next year a record for profit and lifestyle
At this time of the year, the best buy-to-let landlords will be concentrating on three things:
- The first, and most important, is spending time with family and friends – although this is something that the best investors do throughout the year.
- Second is to review the successes and failures of the last 12 months.
- Finally, to use this review to learn lessons and create a plan for the next 12 months.
I met with a property investor a couple of weeks after the beginning of last year. His portfolio had grown since he had started investing a few years earlier, and he had become a full-time buy-to-let landlord – not what he had ever planned to do with his life. He realised he needed help when Christmas was ruined by constant phone calls from tenants, complaining about everything from dripping taps to smoke alarms ringing too loudly in the kitchen (blame the overcooked turkey).
Together we analysed his successes and failures of the previous year, and made a list of landlord New Year’s resolutions. They’ve worked so well for him, that I thought I’d share them with you in this article. I’ve split them under four headings: tenants, cash, maintenance and repairs, and lifestyle.
Buy-to-let landlord resolutions for tenant management
Nightmare tenants will turn a great property investment into a money pit. They’ll cause damage, be difficult to deal with, and stop paying rent. When it comes to tenants, a plan to avoid the worst and obtain (and keep) the best makes real sense.
1. Find the best tenants to occupy your investment property
Top tenants respect your property, pay rent on time, and report maintenance needs promptly. Make sure that you utilise a comprehensive tenant search process, meeting face-to-face with applicants and vetting tenants thoroughly (including employer and landlord references, and credit checks) before offering them a tenancy.
2. Get the tenancy agreement right
The tenancy agreement sets out the terms and conditions under which you and your tenant will act. You can download a tenancy agreement template from the Internet, but you’ll find that it probably won’t cover everything you need it to. If you write it yourself, you’ll be leaving yourself open to abuse of your property and your goodwill.
The only way to get the right tenancy agreement in place is to discuss it with an expert and make sure a solicitor looks it over.
3. Communicate better with tenants
Get a little personal with your tenants by contacting them regularly – once a quarter is perfectly acceptable. You’ll build a better relationship this way, and your tenant will see you as approachable and caring.
You might decide to contact them in person – for example, when making a scheduled property inspection, or via email or letter. Ask if any maintenance issues need addressing, any comments or complaints. Take care of your tenant, and they’ll take care of your property.
Buy-to-let landlord resolutions for cash management
Unless you manage your buy-to-let finances properly, you won’t maximise your rental income profit. You’ll need to create a strategy to deal with your money both astutely and legally.
4. Deal with tenant deposits correctly
Some tenants will try to get out of paying a deposit, and you might feel tempted to let them move in before the deposit is paid. In my experience, doing so is a big mistake. Remember that the law says a deposit must be protected in a special tenancy deposit scheme. If you fail to do this, you could find that your rights as a landlord are restricted – including having the ability to evict quickly.
5. Review the rent regularly
Make sure that you are maximising your rental income profit. One strategy to do this is to review how much rent you charge at least once a year. Compare to similar properties in your area, speak to letting agencies, review local press adverts, and ask other property investors. With a rental review clause in the tenancy agreement, your tenant will be prepared for a rent revision. Don’t bump up the rent blindly, and don’t increase the rent to a level that forces an exceptional tenant to move out.
6. Use rental profits to build a contingency fund
If you have positive cash flow, deposit at least some of your profits into a separate account for emergencies. You never know when a maintenance issue will need subsiding. If a tenant leaves, you could be left with a void period during which you have no rental income to pay the mortgage and other costs.
Buy-to-let landlord resolutions for maintenance and repair management
With a well-maintained property that is kept in a good state of repair, you should be able to charge the maximum market rent. Also, a well-maintained property is one that encourages tenants to stay put.
7. Tackle any outstanding maintenance issues
If there are any maintenance issues outstanding from your last property inspection, have them completed as soon as possible. The longer they are left unattended, the more expensive any repair will be. You’ll also be viewed by tenants as a landlord that doesn’t care – a poorly maintained property and an uncaring landlord are two big reasons for a tenant to up sticks and move on.
8. Create a maintenance schedule
Time to get proactive with property maintenance. Create a diary of events for each property you own. Have central heating systems and roofs inspected before autumn. Make sure that air-conditioning vents are cleared in the spring. Use the better weather in the summer as an opportunity to have gardens, fences, gates, doors and windows inspected and repaired.
Use regular property inspections as the opportunity to ask your tenants if any maintenance issues require attention.
9. Deal with repair requests faster
One of the most common complaints that tenants make about their landlord is the amount of time it takes to attend to a repair request. Make it your mission to take care of any maintenance issue within 24 hours. If you’re not efficient with repairs, your tenant probably won’t be efficient when it comes to paying their rent.
10. Improve relations with tradespeople
If you’re known as a complainer and bad payer, the tradespeople you use are more likely to go AWOL when you most need them. Be professional and let them know exactly what the problem is that needs their attention (we give tenants access to a repair reporting system that allows photos and videos to be uploaded, making reporting quicker and more effective).
If a tradesperson sees you as a good client, you’ll get better service and better prices – and that will improve your rental income profit.
Buy-to-let landlord resolutions for lifestyle
The reason to invest in property is to create a lifestyle. All the money in the world will not bring you the lifestyle you want unless you allow it to. It means making more time to do the things you want to do.
11. Spend more time with family and friends
The most important thing in your life bar none are the people in it. If your family and people you love are happy, you’ll be more relaxed. You’ll make better investment decisions, and deal with your tenants in a more even-handed manner.
12. Spend time doing the things you want to do
After family and friends, make time to do the things you enjoy doing. That might be fishing, sports, travelling, painting, or reading. Whatever it is, unless you can relax while doing it, you probably won’t enjoy yourself as much as you should. If you become a full-time landlord, as your property portfolio grows, so will your time commitment to managing and maintaining them. You could end up spending all your time on being a landlord with no outside interests.
13. Hire a property manager to take back your life
When you hire a property manager, you invest in having a team of professionals on your side. Your tenants will be happier, and you can be confident of a property investment that is working as hard as it can towards your long-term financial goals. You’ll get you time back, to spend with family and friends and doing the things you love to do, while the property manager undertakes the day-to-day tasks including:
- Finding tenants and vetting them
- Collecting rent
- Fielding calls from irate tenants
- Undertaking all the maintenance needs using qualified and experienced local tradespeople
- Helping you review rents and keep your portfolio on track
Contact one of the Ezytrac team or me today on +44 1522 503 717, and discover how our property management services can increase your focus on property investment and the important things in life. Look forward to making 2017 the year you never look back.
Yours in effortless property management,
Brett Alegre-Wood MARLA MNAEA