To stay ahead it's often important to think ahead so, as another year draws to a close, those helpful souls at Belvoir have compiled a list of tips to help you plan out your strategy for 2018.
1. Visiting times
Inspections play an important part in any landlord's calendar.
Vaughan Schofield, owner of Belvoir Wrexham, says: “Regular routine inspections are a must in order to protect your property and ensure the tenant is living within the terms of the Tenancy Agreement.
Pre-scheduling these at the beginning of the year can be useful. If they are not diarized in advance they have the potential to be overlooked or for the tenant to find them ill-timed and intrusive.
Advance planning will enable you to secure mutually convenient dates throughout the year, ensuring that both you and your tenant are present during these vital visits.
At Belvoir Wrexham we usually advise that inspections are carried out on a quarterly basis and prior written notice is given.”
2. Maintenance management
"It's surprising how many landlords only have a reactive positioning to maintenance as far as their rental property is concerned,” says Vaughan.
“A car, for example, costs a fraction of what a property does and will usually depreciate in value, yet we carry out annual MOTs and services in order to maintain and protect it. A property is one of the biggest investments you'll make and it's important that its welfare is approached in a similar manner.
There needs to be a common sense assessment of what routine maintenance needs to be done at certain times of the year,” he continues.
Think seasonally about what will need addressing and when. Recently, for instance, we've had a cold snap which happens every year at approximately the same time so it's possible to plan ahead for this. Likewise, summer brings its own common maintenance concerns which can be planned for in advance.
Forward planning is also advantageous in that you will be able to secure the contractors of your choice plus, if your tenant is planning an extended holiday, it may be possible to coordinate your routine maintenance to coincide with this which will allow for unlimited access and minimise disruption for the tenant.”
3. Financial thoughts
Make sure your finances add up in 2018
Vaughn says: “It makes sense to keep track of any mortgages you may have. Something that may have been a good deal when you applied for your mortgage, for example, may not be so attractive once the initial discounted period has expired. Thoroughly research the market, know what's out there and be aware of your eligibility.
As part of your financial review it's also important to monitor the levels of rental return other properties are achieving in the area in which your property is located.
It's useful to keep an eye on this so you can ensure that your own property's rental price is moving with market forces and is fulfilling its full potential.
Regular small increases which are scheduled in advance are likely to be less disruptive to a tenant than a single unexpected large one.”
4. Portfolio plan
“Investing in property is a journey and if you're starting a portfolio (or growing one) in 2018 it's vital to start off with a defined idea of what you're looking to achieve,” says Vaughan. “Like any journey, if you set off without knowing your destination you'll very soon get lost... plus you'll never know when you actually get there.
It's also essential to have a timeline in terms of how and when you're going to acquire the next property, plus when you're likely to release each investment too.
Additionally, pre-preparing for portfolio expansion enables you to monitor your favoured residential areas in order for you to identify those properties that will give you the best yield and potential for capital growth.”
5. Tenant talk
What are your tenant's plans for the year ahead?
“Having a relationship based on good communication is highly desirable and it enables you to work together with cooperation and understanding,” says Vaughan. “If you have a good relationship with your tenant it can be helpful for self-managing landlords to find out what their plans and aspirations are for 2018.
Is your tenant intending to stay on at the property? If not, when are they looking to leave?
Knowing answers to key questions such as these allows a landlord to pre-plan their marketing strategy and start remarketing the property at the earliest opportunity.
If your tenant is planning to leave the property in 2018, also find out the reason why. Often tenants move on because of a change in personal circumstances or relationship status but it's beneficial to make sure their move isn't motivated by issues with the property which you need to address.”
6. Agent help
If you're thinking about placing your property in the hands of an agent or changing your current one in 2018 it's important to plan ahead.
When choosing or changing an agent research is key so advance planning is vital in order to allow adequate time to carry this out.
Look at online reviews, assessing the authenticity of these by the number and range of comments. Also find out if your chosen agents are members of any industry bodies, plus validate your findings.
Planning ahead allows you to thoroughly research a cross-section of agents and filter down your shortlist before each is approached saving valuable time, energy and resources.”