I am always astounded by the quality of so many new HMOs that are proudly shared on Facebook and other Social Media sites by their creators. Funky-looking communal areas, gleaming en-suites and comfortable bedrooms - many resembling five-star hotels.
When the house is brand new without any tenants in it, rooms will no doubt be booked very quickly. But sooner or later, tenants will give notice and need to be replaced. So, how do we ensure the house is as appealing and attractive to viewing potential tenants when the house is lived in and full of tenants’ possessions?
When you design your HMO, ensure you have plenty of storage in each bedroom. Tenants will often have a lot of possessions, so they will need plenty of places to put their stuff. We invest that little bit more in fitting floor-to-ceiling fitted cupboards (with shelves) so the full height of the room is utilised, and we make certain that there is underbed storage so the tenants have plenty of storage options.
With communal areas, make sure there are plenty of units so each tenant has at least one cupboard and ensure there is plenty of storage space at the front door area for shoes and coats, as first impressions when entering a property is so important.
Having plenty of storage will reduce the chances of communal areas and bedrooms looking cluttered, which is particularly important when you are wanting to rent the property to prospective tenants.
Have a clear set of house rules that state what standard communal areas need to be maintained to. This should include rules about washing up, and storing food items in cupboards and personal possessions in bedrooms etc. Pay particular attention to house rules being followed when viewings are taking place, so that a prospective tenant is not put off by mess and clutter.
Putting the above rules in place is one thing, getting the existing tenants to abide by them is another. We find that a good landlord-tenant relationship will go a long way if tenants respect their landlord and the house they live in, they will want to maintain standards, particularly at a time when it is in their interest to attract a new tenants who they would all be happy to live with.
Clutter quickly builds up in any HMO. Old tenants often bring in stuff with them (kitchen equipment etc) which they leave when they move out. It is important that every 12 months tenants are asked to move all their own stuff to a designated area and anything left over (apart from communal items) are thrown away. Regularly carrying out this exercise will ensure your storage areas do not become clogged up with unwanted items.
We often paint our properties internally in brilliant white. We use features like coloured blinds and headboards to bring colour into bedrooms. Having white walls means that scuffs and marks can regularly be painted over very quickly, ensuring that the paintwork inside the house always looks like new. If you do have coloured walls, ensure you keep the paint that you initially used, so touch ups can easily be carried out. Many of our cleaning team are happy to help with basic paint touch-ups which can save maintenance costs.
Perhaps it is stating the obvious, but if you are booking viewings, try to book them on the day or days after the cleaner has been. Harder said then done, but just something to bear in mind if you have the option. Or, if you have a flexible arrangement with your cleaner and you have a number of bookings in a given week, try to move her/his slot so s/he cleans before the viewings take place. S/he can then make sure everything is looking as it should be before the viewings.
As well as having a great quality property, your tenants are also looking for “community”. We focus on creating desirable communities within our HMOs by selecting a balance of like-minded people to live together. By involving tenants in the viewings, prospective tenants will buy into joining this community, and this can often be a bigger persuading factor then the house itself.
Once your house is lived in it will never quite have the same allure as when its brand new, but hopefully the above tips will help you keep your house fully tenanted and avoid voids.