On a landlord’s list of biggest fears, an unrented property is right up there. If a high vacancy rate persists, you may be unable to make mortgage payments and you can kiss your sweet little investment property goodbye. Ideally, you want a good tenant with a long-term lease agreement, but things happen and this isn’t always possible. Fortunately, there are a few specific actions you can take to help lower your vacancy rate. So instead of chewing your cuticles with worry, read on to find out how to keep your occupancy rate high (and stress levels low).
1. Keep up appearances
It’s cosmetic and superficial, we know, but appearances and first impressions really matter; nobody wants to live in a dump. So don’t expect prospective tenants to queue around the block if your property is looking a little worse for wear. Does the property need a bit of a spruce up? Some ways to enhance kerb appeal include:
- Cleaning out gutters
- A coat of paint (inside and out if required)
- Pruning, weeding, mowing the lawn
- Re-mulching garden beds
- Connect the power so the property doesn’t look dark and uninviting
Make sure the house and yard are in mint condition before you take photos for advertising.
2. Make timely repairs and do regular maintenance
‘Old and busted’ doesn’t exactly do well in the advertisement description. Tenants are far more likely to want to rent a property where words like ‘new’, ‘modern’ and ‘contemporary’ are used. Plus, anything that’s clearly broken or in bad condition just makes you look cheap. Doing regular repairs and maintenance on your investment really only costs a few bucks, but in the long term it could potentially save you hundreds.
3. Update appliances
Do the ‘Grandma Test.’ Take your grandma to your investment property and show her around. If she makes comments like ‘ooh yes, I love it. I used to have an oven like this…’ Head straight to the nearest store and update the appliances immediately. Stainless steel appliances, adequate storage and bench space are big ticks on a would-be tenant’s criteria. And these days, dishwashers and air conditioners are basic living essentials, so don’t be stingey on providing tenants with vital necessities.
4. Research local rent prices
Keeping informed of changes in your local market could save you weeks of unpaid rent due to a vacant property. The best way to do this is to check online at what similar properties in your area are renting for. Finding out what your competitors are charging means you can offer tenants a better deal. Talk to your property manager if you think your rental price is contributing to a high vacancy rate.
5. Advertise well in advance
Most tenants need to give at least two weeks notice at their current property, so not advertising until the property becomes vacant will only leave you high and dry. As soon as your departing tenant gives notice, start the replacement process immediately. This gives you plenty of time to allow for advertising, screening and contractual agreements to be fulfilled. Also, make sure your property advertisements are placed where tenants are looking. Your property manager should know the best ad placements to reel in new tenants.
6. Find a property manager with good communication skills
Your property manager is an expert at what they do and you’re paying them for a reason. It’s their job to liaise between owner and tenant, and therefore good communication skills are critical. A good property manager will keep you informed and updated on any issues regarding the tenant or property, and do so without delay. Of all the reasons to have an empty investment property, a lousy property manager should not be one of them. Making sure you have a professional and effective agent could be a wallet-saver when it comes to lowering your vacancy rate.
What it all really boils down to is not giving your tenants a reason to leave (within your control). Dropping a little bit of coin on your investment property now could help you avoid forking out big bucks down the track. And not only does it prevent serious maintenance issues, it also adds value to the home which means more money coming in. Have a chat with your property manager to find out more about keeping your property’s vacancy rate to a minimum.