How to prepare your own property for letting

Investor landlords are inundated with advice on where and what to buy and how best to present a rental property in order to achieve the optimum yield in terms of maximum weekly income, minimum void periods and potential capital growth. But how do you fare if you are an owner-occupier who is looking to let Apartments in Prague or house that was not bought – let alone decorated or furnished Rome apartment- with tenants in mind?

Perhaps you are being posted overseas and want to let your own home until you return. Or you may be one of the fast-growing band of would-be vendors who wish to sell but, with all the talk of economic uncertainty and a possible recession, are wary that property prices may not hold. If you are prepared to wait for a more buoyant market, it makes sense to cover your costs by letting your property rather than leave it standing empty.

“The market last saw a similar scenario in the late 1980s, when many would-be vendors donned landlords’ caps, but ten years later it is not so easy to play at being a landlord,” observes Mary Ryan, of Property Vision Management. “As well as all the various fire and safety, gas and electrical regulations with which rental property must now comply, the whole business of letting property has become increasingly professional. International tenants now expect high standards of accommodation?’

Professional investors recognise the wisdom of spending money up front on furnishing and refurbishment. Typical costs range from 50% of the first year’s gross rental income for furnishing a flat that is already decorated to builder’s finish, up to 150% or more for a full refurbishment, says Naomi Heaton of London Central Portfolio Services, which offers a one-stop service for investor landlords.

Not unnaturally, would-be vendors are reluc­tant to spend so much on upgrading a property they really want to sell. “If you simply don’t have the funds to rip out your 1960s kitchen or install a second bathroom in your four-bedroom family house, there are a number of basic improvements you can effect at relatively little cost to enhance your home’s rental appeal,” says Vicky Palau of FPDSavills. “The most obvious – and frequently overlooked ­is ensuring that the accommodation is clean and spotlessly presented.”

View your Apartment Barcelona through a tenant’s eyes. “Would you want to feel you were living in someone else’s space or sleeping in someone else’s bed?” asks Rowena Wild of Chestertons Residential. “Remember, first impressions count. Sweep the pathway, tidy the garden, clean the common parts and paint the front door, if it is cracked or peeling.”

Sam Lander, of Thornton Property Management, suggests that, if you just cannot afford to repaint a tired interior throughout, you should pay attention to skirting boards, banisters and other woodwork.

Keep the decoration as simple as possible and bring the interior up to date by replacing old-fashioned brass door furniture with modern stainless steel or chrome. A few strategically positioned wall lights can prove as effective ­and less expensive – than halogen downlighters. Similarly, strip flooring may be all the rage, but plain-coloured carpets and good-quality linoleum will also create an impression of spaciousness.

Lisa Ryde of Anscombe & Ringland says: “It is often possible to update tired and tarnished kitchen units by fitting new hinges, handles, worktops and tiles. Coloured bathroom suites are not so easily addressed, but they can be improved by installing new flooring, a good shower unit, new taps and tiles.”

Annabelle Hay of Foxtons warns that landlords cannot expect to market tired properties on the strength of promised improvements. Unless there is evidence of work in progress, applicants will quickly move on to ­and probably into – the next property they view.

As Vicky Palau points out: “Landlords whose property is spotless and immaculately presented, but which is not suitably located or geared up to appeal to the long-perceived “ideal” American corporate tenant, may yet achieve a successful letting to professional flat-sharers or to private individuals caught between selling and buying ­or to the increasing number of applicants who are opting to sit on the fence while they wait to see what happens in the sales market.”