Why It Is Important To Upgrade And Maintain Your External Buildings

While it is important to carry out ongoing maintenance throughout the year, the arrival of summer is an ideal time to address any problems you might have with the exterior aspects of properties you manage, let and are responsible for.

From communal stores and bike racks to broken fences or garage doors, the outdoor features of properties tend to look more weather-beaten and neglected following the colder months. The warmer weather is the ideal time to prioritise routine management checks that have run over from winter and carry out significant repairs that require immediate attention. All your maintenance efforts will go a long way in ensuring the safety, security and overall presentation of your properties.

Putting in the time, money and work into fixing external areas of your property can have long-term benefits too as neglecting responsibilities might spell additional, and potentially costly, problems later on. Dry weather and longer days also mean greater opportunities to work outside on your building’s exteriors and access any awkward areas easily (and more safely).

This article looks at why it is important to address essential and non-essential external repairs on any properties you’re responsible for maintaining.

Maintain security and compliance

One of the most critical aspects of managing communal, residential and multi-occupancy buildings is ensuring the security of the people who live there. This applies to all buildings and to any additional outbuildings, such as bike storage sheds, greenhouses, garages and sheds which can be vulnerable to potential security threats.

Everyone wants to feel safe in the comfort of their home; landlords and property managers have a responsibility to ensure their occupants are kept safe. Leaving a property in disrepair, neglecting front doors, communal areas or garage doors is not a good look if you want to attract tenants and reassure them. Make time to inspect all the main entry/exit points in the property and upgrade garages to have automatic doors, if necessary, or install other modern designs.

In communal buildings and shared properties especially, looking after the locks on all your doors and windows is crucial because they are the property’s first line of defence against potential intruders. Outdated or faulty locks not only compromise the safety of residents but can also lead to costly repairs or replacements in the event of a break-in. It’s essential to have a professional locksmith regularly inspect and maintain your locks, ensuring they are functioning correctly and meet the latest security standards. High-quality, tamper-resistant locks can provide an added layer of protection, deterring would-be criminals and giving residents peace of mind.

Exterior buildings are also vulnerable to potential security threats. These features are often used to store valuable items making them attractive targets for opportunistic thieves. By investing in robust security measures, such as heavy-duty locks, alarms and lighting, you can significantly reduce the risk of theft and vandalism.

Prioritise a property’s appearance

It is important to look after all the exterior walls, window sills, roofs and every outside feature of buildings you manage or rent as a property landlord, concierge or estate agent. In addition to making residents feel better, there are external building standards that legally you must uphold to care for the overall structure and condition of a property.

It is common sense to stay on top of any of any routine tasks, such as rebuilding a fence, painting splintered woodwork on doors or window surrounds and replacing a broken garage door that can’t be used any more. Not only do you want to attract occupants, you want to keep them comfortable and happy.

In addition, having great kerb appeal is valuable, so it’s important not to sacrifice the appearance of property due to missed maintenance jobs. Arguably, paying more attention to the exterior presentation is more significant in blocks of flats, from the street view outside and the prospective resident’s perspective. Well-maintained exteriors not only create a positive first impression for visitors and potential tenants but can also contribute to the overall value of properties.

Simple tasks such as pressure washing paths, repainting faded surfaces on shed doors/roofs and fixing any cracked or damaged driveways can breathe new life into tired-looking exteriors. Investing in attractive landscaping and lighting can also enhance the overall look of your properties, making them more appealing to residents and visitors alike. Regular maintenance, such as trimming overgrown hedges and clearing debris, can also help to create a more inviting environment for residents.

Be proactive with ongoing maintenance

Regular maintenance is key to ensuring the longevity of your external buildings. By addressing issues promptly, you can prevent minor problems from escalating into more significant and expensive repairs down the line. For example, neglecting to repair a leaky roof or address moisture issues can lead to structural damage, mould growth and potentially hazardous living conditions for residents. Similarly, failing to maintain landscaping and drainage systems can result in flooding, erosion and other costly issues.

By implementing a proactive maintenance schedule, you can stay ahead of potential problems, have extra time to focus on more important issues. It is also cost effective to invest in the maintenance and upgrades of your property’s exterior features, with benefits including:

  • Safeguarding your property’s value: Well-maintained and secure properties are more attractive to potential buyers and tenants, which can lead to higher property values and rental rates. You can maximise the return on your investment and increase the overall value of your portfolio.

  • Compliance with regulations: Failing to maintain external buildings can lead to violations of local building regulations and safety rules, potentially resulting in fines or legal issues. By staying on top of maintenance and upgrades, you can ensure compliance and avoid costly penalties and disputes.

  • Reduced repairs: By addressing issues promptly and investing in high-quality materials and workmanship, you can extend the lifespan of your external buildings and minimise unexpected repair expenses.

  • Improved tenant satisfaction: Residents appreciate living in well-maintained, secure, and visually appealing properties.

  • Enhanced reputation: If you take pride in maintaining properties, you’ll earn a reputation for quality and reliability to attract new tenants and help you stand out in a competitive market.

While the benefits of maintaining and upgrading external buildings are clear, neglecting outdoor spaces can be detrimental. Proactive maintenance is key coupled with the knowledge of managing different types of properties. With management assistance, you can help to minimise problems, prevent potential safety breaches and ward off costly repairs.

Unique Quirks Of Managing Student Accommodation

Student accommodation is a significant aspect of university life and represents a substantial portion of a student’s expenses. From shared buildings and communal halls of residence to private student lets and large houses, the variety of options present a distinct set of challenges and benefits for landlords, estate agents and facility managers.

Beyond attracting tenants and letting properties out, the pressure today as much to provide low-maintenance and secure accommodation so that tenants can study in safe and high-quality environments. Due to a reported student housing shortage and limited choice, most cities have more students than places to fill available. There is a balance to be found when investing in student accommodation to keep on top of maintenance to ensure that the property’s interiors, furnishing and its general state of repairs are up to scratch.

This article is for responsible landlords and property managers with a portfolio of student lets or an agency, and explores the complexities, positives and diverse nature of managing student accommodation.

Understanding the supply and demand of student lets

Students and their parents – ‘the Bank of Mum and Dad’ – are realistic about funding student accommodation. While some might invest in property as part of their long-term wealth management plan, others will agree to pay for rent during term time or throughout the year. In doing so, students and their parents (who are usually the guarantor) expect high standards in the accommodation they are paying for, be that communal, shared or an independent room.

Student accommodation does differ from other types of rentals due to the transient nature of its student occupants. With the UK having too many students and not enough accommodation, finding suitable accommodation can be difficult to find in larger university locations, such as London and in popular university towns. This is the unfortunate reality in Bath and Bristol, where the costs are much higher because supply is so low. In recent reports, students were being urged to look for accommodation in neighbouring areas, such as Cardiff and parts of Wales.

Despite the low stock of accommodation, increasing costs and scarcity of student digs aren’t always the only factors to consider. Rents can vary depending on the location and type of properties available in particular places. For instance, a weekly student rent might cost from £80/week in the north to £120/week in the south east. From a landlord’s perspective, other variables will be the ongoing expense of maintenance, of using a property manager or management company to oversee your shared building and student halls.

Being proactive in the academic year

Each academic year sees a turnover of tenants so being on top of end-of-tenancy agreements and contracts means being proactive. In this way you can ensure consistent occupancy rates, although effective marketing will help to capitalise on term timings and mitigate for empty properties in quieter periods. However, with the shortage of students mentioned, getting students into properties is not the main challenge. Instead, it’s about attracting the right students.

Landlords and agents will feel reassured letting their properties to respectful, sensible and mature students who are more likely to look after that property. In this sense, it might be wise to set up and market a student property to command a higher rent than you might initially think. Likewise, attracting wealthier international students, who are often willing to pay premium rents, presents a great opportunity for landlords to maximise profits. Higher quality expectations: International students often expect higher quality accommodations, presenting opportunities for landlords to invest in and upscale properties.

Students do often have different expectations and lifestyles compared to traditional tenants, so a tailored management approach is still needed. Having said that, in addition to the points mentioned earlier, there are further positives for having student lets, including:

  • Regular and predictable rent: Students typically search for accommodation towards the end of the term and move in at the start of the academic year, providing landlords with a regular income.

  • Low financial risk: Students often have guarantors (usually their parents) and receive subsidies through student loans, reducing the financial risk for landlords.

  • High rental yields: Student properties offer high rental yields, making them financially attractive compared to other rental investments.

  • Profitable Shared Accommodation: Shared accommodation and Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) are common among students, allowing landlords to charge more per room and increase profitability.

Greater flexibility

Unlike long-term leases in residential properties, student accommodation often involves shorter lease terms aligned with the academic calendar. This necessitates flexibility in lease agreements to accommodate varying study durations, holidays and early exits. Landlords and estate agents must navigate these complexities.

There is, however, the potential for long-term tenancies to come as a result of their short-term lease. Some students may require accommodation for the duration of their academic course providing landlords with a greater potential for long-term tenancies.

Safety, maintenance and repairs

Ensuring safety is paramount in student accommodation and implementing robust security measures and emergency protocols is crucial to safeguarding the wellbeing of residents. Keeping the access and locks on doors (and windows) secure in all communal areas will be a key concern if you’re in charge of accessing communal areas. For anyone managing communal student halls and buildings, it’s crucial to ensure that doors open and close properly. Maintaining the locks and organising an easy key tag system to replace keys to flats and student rooms is also an ongoing priority. Students are generally even more prone to misplacing their keys than other tenants!

Typically, students let furnished units with essential amenities such as high-speed internet, laundry facilities and other mod cons. In some cases, having ensuite bathrooms in student halls and communal areas are highly sought after in university towns and cities. Due to their student rooms or houses being furnished, there is a higher rate of wear and tear (and therefore upkeep) compared to conventional rental properties.

Regular maintenance checks and prompt repairs are important throughout the academic year to help your property retain its value and to prevent more serious (and costly) problems occurring further down the line. Facility managers play a vital role in coordinating maintenance schedules, managing services and ensuring student accommodations are always in compliance with current health and safety regulations.

Compliance with regulations

Student accommodation management necessitates a greater adherence to specific regulations and standards governing rental properties. Fire safety regulations to HMO (House in Multiple Occupation) licensing requirements, landlords and estate agents must stay abreast of legal obligations to avoid potential penalties and liabilities. While universities might communicate their fire hazard and safety rules and advice to keep students’ safe, it’s good to circulate and emphasise these as often as possible. Regular inspections and compliance audits are essential to ensure the property meets regulatory standards.

Managing student accommodation presents a distinct set of challenges along with positive opportunities for landlords, estate agents and managers. By understanding the unique dynamics of student lets and prioritising their welfare, property professionals can ensure the long-term maintenance and profitability of their investments.

Proactive management practices are also key. With knowledge on managing different types of properties and with management assistance, you can help to minimise problems, prevent potential safety breaches and ward off costly repair jobs.

Tips For Promoting Your Buy-To-Let To Prospective Tenants

Owning a buy-to-let property and renting it out can be a great way to generate additional income. However, in order to find and retain quality tenants, landlords need to put effort into making their rental property as appealing as possible.

About our guest blogger:
Dakota Murphey has experience in property management with her portfolio of properties expanding in the South of England. Her passion for renovation and home improvement projects is shared through her writing to help educate and inspire others.

As a buy-to-let landlord, it’s important to understand how to best promote your property so you can fill vacancies faster and keep tenants satisfied. Consider the following suggestions to help set your buy-to-let up for success and make the process of finding responsible tenants much smoother.

Whether you’re renting out a studio flat or a spacious house, these promotion strategies are key for any new landlord getting started in the buy-to-let market.

Choosing the right property

When searching for an investment property to rent out, location is key. Look for properties near public transportation lines, restaurants, parks and other conveniences that tenants will find desirable. The more amenities and attractions nearby, the more likely you are to attract tenant interest.

Evaluate the layout and size of the property as well. Studios and one-bedroom units often rent quickly, providing a steady tenant flow. Expand your search to include both flats as well as single-family homes. Pet-friendly properties with outdoor spaces also appeal to a wide pool of potential tenants, so permit pets if possible. Choosing the right buy-to-let property that offers features tenants want will give your rental an advantage over the competition.

Getting the word out

To maximise exposure for your buy-to-let property, utilise both digital and traditional marketing tactics. First, list the property on major property platforms like Rightmove and Zoopla or look for online estate agents in your area. These sites attract millions of monthly visitors searching for their next rental.

You also want to promote the listing on your social media accounts, especially if you have local follower bases, and share posts showcasing listing photos and encourage shares among friends and followers.

One of the most influential ways you can showcase your properties is with landing pages, which can include images, videos and trust signals. These are signs that validate your business as reputable, such as testimonials, logo accreditations or reviews. Where possible, factor in location too, by using local geo-tagged hashtags to connect with local renters browsing on social media.

Work with nearby rental agents, as they may have clients looking for properties just like yours. Offering a referral fee incentive can motivate agents to recommend your property. Leveraging both digital and personal connections will get your buy-to-let in front of the most prospective tenants.

Offering virtual tours

Virtual tours have become an expectation for today’s renters. Offering digital walkthroughs of your buy-to-let property will improve the tenant experience and your listing’s exposure.

A videographer can record a tour while walking through the rental, capturing each room in detail. This allows out-of-town prospects to fully tour the property without travelling on-site first. You can also use rental tour apps that allow prospects to take their own virtual tour using a mobile device. Apps sync images of the property into an interactive digital display.

Virtual tours create excitement and help prospects feel connected to the property before even seeing it in person. Top virtual tour platforms make it easy for prospects to share the tour link with others too. Consider adding a 3D floor plan created as well, which gives prospective tenants an immersive experience touring your property digitally.

Compelling listing descriptions

The listing description for your buy-to-let is another critical marketing component. Craft copy that sells the property’s amenities and location. Open with an attention-grabbing first sentence highlighting the property’s best feature. For example, lead with the recently updated kitchen or prime location just steps from the train station.

You can use search engine optimisation (SEO) best practices in your description too. Incorporate relevant keywords like the neighbourhood name, “near the park,” or “newly renovated” throughout the copy. Optimising for local SEO helps listings rank higher in localised searches and attracts people in the area who are looking for a property.

Be sure to list all of the property’s amenities and updates to convey value. Include the year appliances were replaced, heating and cooling systems, parking options and any storage or outdoor spaces. It’s also worth discussing the proximity to transportation lines, restaurants, shops and parks. Busy professionals want rentals close to conveniences.

Provide welcome packs

Make a great first impression and welcome prospective tenants with a thoughtful welcome pack. This is a useful tool for establishing a positive landlord-tenant relationship before they’ve signed on to the property, and establishes your reputation early on.

The welcome pack should include essential documents like the lease agreement and an inventory checklist. Providing these upfront ensures the tenant understands their rental contract obligations and the property’s condition at move-in.

It’s also worth sharing information to help new tenants settle into the area, such as guides on local attractions, restaurants, public transit maps, waste collection schedules and other local services. Features such as these can make or break a property for tenants, so knowing the information up front helps you find the right people for your property.

Follow up with tenants shortly after their viewing to ask if they have any additional questions. Being proactive and helpful sets the stage for smooth ongoing relations, especially if they’re looking to move in quickly. Investing time into furnishing new tenants with a robust and thorough welcome pack pays dividends through improved satisfaction and retention, and may even swing the vote in your favour if they’re deciding between several properties.

It is clear from the points above that rental success comes from targeted marketing that grabs prospective tenants’ attention in a crowded market. If you’re looking for a reputable agent who can do this for you and help to ensure that your listing stands out from the competition, the Best Estate Agent Guide is a great place to start. Proactive marketing will attract qualified tenants faster which naturally results in generating rental income sooner.

Property Management Priorities: Key Checks In The Colder Months

As the weather turns colder, property managers, agents and landlords in charge of their buildings’ upkeep will shift their focus to a winter maintenance checklist. The colder temperatures can often bring unique challenges that require attention and professional services.

Making sure managed properties are in good condition will go a long way to keeping tenants and residents safe and comfortable. Preventing any problems with heating or mould build-up, for example, will help you to avoid getting embroiled in a dispute with tenants or with anyone occupying a poorly kept building. From servicing boilers and bleeding radiators to fire-safety regulations and chimney sweeps, there are key tasks to consider before the freezing temperatures hit home.

This article will outline the main maintenance concerns to tick off to ensure managed properties stay in tip top condition throughout winter.

Organise a checklist and call in contractors

Staying on top of property maintenance during the coldest season of the year is important because freezing weather can create a unique set of issues, such as a propensity for mould, damp or cracks in wooden frames. Naturally the heating is ramped up and fires are lit, so it’s good to have a thorough checklist of issues and possible repairs to be aware of.

If you’re managing the property as a landlord or letting agent yourself, look out for the usual and not so common issues that can help to prevent needless work further down the line. This will save you money and hassle in the long term. If need be, you can contract the checks to a property management service who will draft in fitters, electricians and site supervisors to tackle essential repairs quickly and efficiently.

Inspect boilers, radiators and heaters

As colder weather moves in, optimised functioning heating systems are essential for keeping properties sustainable, sufficiently warm and preventing disruptive and costly breakdowns. Booking in your annual boiler service and giving any HVAC equipment the once over is a recommendation. Engineers can thoroughly inspect components for wear and efficiency, undertaking preventative repairs and adjustments to ensure reliable operation throughout winter.

During essential winter checks can be a good time to invest in renewable energies, taking advantage of the government’s zero tax incentives and Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS). Consider upgrading to more energy-efficient heating equipment by switching from fossil-fuelled heating systems to low carbon solutions.

On a practical level, radiators prone to irregular heat distribution can be bled to eliminate trapped air restricting flow. Simply bleeding all radiator valves can also help improve circulation efficiency ahead of sub-zero temperatures. Likewise, inspecting exposed water pipes and tanks to confirm adequate insulation remains in place helps guard against freezing and burst pipes.

Testing thermostatic radiator valves and smart timers for accuracy is worth doing to optimise heating levels indoors. Engineers can recalibrate thermostats during your annual service appointment if particular rooms feel colder than the settings might suggest. During the current cost-of-living crisis, getting heating controls right in people’s properties will be a priority for everyone concerned.

Read up on regulations

Paying attention to winter property checks is a key part of your annual property-maintenance routine. Being conscientious is not only professional, it demonstrates your duty of care to anyone residing in the properties you manage.

Part of the UK Government’s Fitness for Human Habitation (FFHH) standards state properties with tenants must be in a good condition. Maintaining even these standards are important so property managers, agents and landlords must evaluate and address some major points, including:

  • Properties must be well-maintained and not allowed to become dilapidated. Structural stability and freedom from dampness are also assessed.

  • The positioning of amenities and rooms must be safe for inhabitants.

  • Lighting and ventilation – Indoor spaces must have adequate natural light and air flow.

  • Adequate hot and cold water supplies must be provisioned and wastewater drainage via properly functioning pipes and sanitary conveniences.

Check windows and doors

Preventing heat loss through poorly insulated windows and doors is not eco-friendly and will not help residents keep their energy bills down when they most need to. It can make a significant difference in tenant comfort and energy efficiency. Carefully checking around all frames for gaps, cracks, or deterioration of existing sealant is advised. Ensure all entrance doors close and lock securely which is crucial for anyone who manages access to communal areas.

Doors or windows letting in draughts should have rubber seals replaced and gaps re-caulked to limit air infiltration. Applying supplementary insulation, especially to older timber framed windows lacking modern double or triple glazing will also help reduce condensation during very cold spells. For frequently used external doors, brush or draught excluder seals fitted along the bottom edge can hamper cold air entering whilst still enabling ease of access.

Prioritise fire safety

With fire safety being a priority in everyone’s homes, the risk of fires is statistically higher in the UK winter which is why extra caution is needed. According to government statistics, three fires a day are caused by heaters and an average 3,800 chimney fires occur every year. Therefore, you need to ensure your property has a robust set of fire safety safeguards in place this winter.

Make sure that your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are correctly positioned and working well and that any fire extinguishers, both communal and within flats are ok. Emergency exits and stairwells should also be cleared. During the festive period reports of fires go up with the prevalence attributed to four main factors: Christmas decorations, candles, heating equipment and cooking, so being extra vigilant is key.

Sweep chimneys and improve ventilation

If the property you manage or let has a chimney, it’s a good idea to have it swept ahead of winter. Accumulated soot and debris poses a considerable fire hazard and risk of poisonous fumes entering living spaces. Be sure to employ a qualified chimney sweep to fully clean flues, spot any damage or nest obstructions. They can also service any wood burning stoves that have been out of use for a while.

Ventilation units will likewise need checking, especially extractor fans in kitchens and bathrooms that might be prone to mould growth from poorly circulated air. Wall/ceiling vents should be cleared of dust and any broken covers or ducting repaired. Improving ventilation in a property during winter is a main method of preventing condensation. With the health hazard of mould in people’s living spaces making headlines in recent years, it’s vital to prevent mould growth early on for property managers and people renting or occupying your buildings.

As a property manager it can be hard to guarantee a problem-free winter, but with advanced preparation or professional management assistance, you can certainly help to minimise complaints from tenants, prevent potential health hazards and ward off costly emergencies.

How To Safeguard The Contents Of A Holiday Rental

Staying in holiday rentals is the preferred choice for many keen travellers. Staying in a beautiful property located in a desirable spot can make a holiday much more special, providing travellers with the freedom to spread out and enjoy the home away from home experience to the fullest. Embedding themselves into a new locale is much easier if they are staying somewhere with full amenities and optimum comfort.

Having said that, holiday-goers cannot afford to overlook security and safety when choosing rental properties. Unlike hotels, private rentals don’t have front desk staff working around the clock, keeping tabs on everyone who comes and goes within the vicinity. Safeguards like alarm systems, cameras, and other technologies aren’t always guaranteed when staying in an overseas holiday rental, no matter how exotic or tranquil it might be. This is why you must rely on your own common sense and due diligence of holiday rental portals and the property manager or owner.

While it’s likely that most holiday rentals are perfectly safe and offer sufficient protection, it’s always wise to take precautions to ensure your belongings are protected during your stay, as well as your own peace of mind. Follow these tips to ensure that your next overseas excursion is safe and stress-free.

Verify your host and listing

Whether you’re booking your accommodation through a reputable local estate agent, which is normal in countries like Spain or via a trusted property portal, it’s always crucial to ensure that your rental property’s host and/or owner is legitimate.

While all reliable providers will take steps to ensure that all listings are authentic and not misleading, some scams or fraudulent listings do slip through the cracks. Therefore, you should check the property’s reviews and listings carefully and methodically before placing your booking.

Here are some other things to look out for and verify:

  • Look for verified accounts; established hosts with plenty of good reviews are less likely to be running a scam. Platforms like Airbnb have badges for seasoned, reputable hosts.

  • Check all the intricate listing details. Do photos seem professional? Are amenities, house rules, and other details fully outlined? Scam listings tend to have sparse info and seem quite sales-y and desperate in their prose.

  • Search listing addresses. Run the address through a search to see if it’s a known rental property. Fake listings may use fabricated or non-residential addresses, while others may be in rough areas with minimal security.

  • Communicate through the platform to confirm all details. Don’t go off-platform to email or text with a host, keep all exchanges on the official rental site, and go through the vendor if any alarm bells ring.

  • Use secure payment methods. Pay only through the rental platform, never via wire transfer or cash. Legitimate, trusted owners won’t ask you to pay outside the site or application.

Taking a few minutes to vet listings and hosts can help you avoid bogus listings and ensure you’re dealing with a real rental owner.

Research the neighbourhood

Once you’ve booked your accommodation, familiarise yourself with the surrounding area before and during your stay. This will help you make more informed decisions and understand the real-world risks at play.

  • Learn and comply with local laws. Some Airbnb properties may have strict curfews or regulations to adhere to, while areas themselves may have to keep noise to a minimum after a certain time. Ensure that you’re capable of meeting these expectations.

  • Popular tourist or attraction locations often draw more thieves and scammers. Rentals on their outskirts may be safer. Even if it means you have to venture slightly further afield, you could be making yourselves inherently safer.

  • Ask the host for tips. Your host can offer guidance on safe areas, neighbourhoods to avoid, and other local insights. Ultimately, if they care about your custom, they will want to ensure you are comfortable and safe.

Arriving clued into all neighbourhood conditions allows you to make smart, situation-appropriate choices for a safe stay.

Secure entrances and access points

Entryways are a common vulnerability for vacation rentals. Secure all possible access points as much as possible to prevent intrusions and unwarranted trespassing:

  • Lock windows and doors. Check that all ground-floor windows have locking mechanisms. Close curtains or blinds at night and definitely don’t leave doors unlocked, even when you’re there.

  • Check for hidden or spare keys; these may be concealed under fake rocks, planters, or other innocuous ornaments. If necessary, liaise with the host about their whereabouts or remove them if not needed.

  • Remember passcodes. If using a keypad lock with an access code, make sure codes are memorable but not easily guessable like ‘1234’. Don’t share codes publicly. Property managers should ensure that passwords are changed for each booking.

  • Limit copies of physical keys. If you use traditional keyed locks, there should be minimal duplicate copies to prevent misuse. Have a rekeying policy for lost keys.

For owners, securing a holiday home doesn’t need to cost much either. The most important point is to control and limit entry access points to keep your rental and belongings secure against intrusions.

Ask about security systems

Confirm any of the property’s built-in security technology with your host. Does the rental have security cameras, alarms, or other systems that enhance safety?

Ask your host about existing features or options to add:

  • Outdoor cameras. Exterior cameras covering entryways can deter and record trespassers. Make sure they are not unnecessarily invasive and easy to use.

  • Interior cameras. Indoor cameras provide further monitoring but may make some guests uncomfortable, so confirm whether you are at liberty to turn them off once you are inside.

  • Burglar alarms. Monitored systems can automatically alert authorities of a break-in. Ensure the host explains how to operate it.

  • Motion detectors. These systems turn on lights and send alerts when they detect activity, helping deter potential thieves.

  • Safe boxes. Provide a secure place to store valuables like passports, jewellery, and electronics.

Ask your host upfront what measures are in place to ensure that the property’s security fits your comfort level.

Use your common sense

Your own habits also help keep a holiday rental secure:

  • Whether you’re there or not, keep entryways locked at all times and never prop open doors.

  • Don’t post your location. Be cautious about posting travel photos publicly while away that reveal your location.

  • Conceal valuables. Keep cash, electronics, jewellery, and travel documents out of sight in bags, drawers, or safe boxes.

  • Vary routines. Don’t stick to the same patterns of coming and going from the premises or leaving at the same time every day.

Staying alert helps avoid making yourself an easy target while travelling.

Overseas holiday rentals can be welcoming and alluring accommodations for many keen travellers. They provide more space, flexibility and amenities than hotels or hostels, even if they come at a slightly higher price on average. By vetting all listings and asking the right questions ahead of your stay, you can stay vigilant and create unforgettable travel memories while being as safe as possible.

The Pros And Cons Of Smart Locks For Home Security

With smart homes growing in number each year and smart technology becoming more widely available, it’s clear that the UK property market is experiencing a blossoming trend for homes that centre around technology and automation.

As smart technology often adds to a property’s value and appeal, it’s important for estate agents to offer practical advice on whether their clients stand to benefit by integrating smart tech into their properties. For instance, will installing smart locks add more value to a property up for sale or appeal to renters if home security tops their wish list?

Smart technology in general exists to not only give homeowners more control of their energy usage but also to make their lives more convenient and their homes more secure. Smart lock systems, meanwhile, are a modern home feature that has gained popularity in recent years, also providing added convenience for homeowners and tenants of rental properties.

When it comes to analysing the benefits of smart door locks, convenience should never come at a cost to our security and safety. This is why estate agents and landlords need to understand the inherent security risks associated in order to make fully-informed decisions about adopting smart door locks in favour of tried-and-tested, traditional keyed locks.

This article will look at the benefits, risks and best practices of installing a smart lock system in your property, as well as common security vulnerabilities to be mindful of.

Possible benefits of smart door locks

Smart door and window locks provide some advantages for homeowners, landlords, and tenants.

Secure and seamless entry

Smart locks eliminate the need for residents to hold and fumble around for sets of keys, which can be handy when arriving at the property with your hands full. By allowing immediate and easy access through key fobs, PIN codes, smartphone scanning software or biometric data like fingerprints, residents can gain access to their property in plenty of convenient and non-invasive ways.

Integration with the smart home

Some smart locks pair easily with existing systems, such as alarms, security and surveillance cameras, and other smart home devices like lights. This can create a futuristic feel for a property which appeals to a certain kind of buyer or tenant.

Control and visibility

Some smart locks use apps to remotely lock or unlock doors, grant temporary access and monitor ‌activity from anywhere in the world. This can particularly helpful if you live far away or spend large periods away from home, providing you with a convenient solution to keep an eye on your estate without worrying.

Many smart door lock solutions come with additional features such as real-time notifications and alerts to give homeowners full visibility over who enters and when. Time-stamped activity logs also provide them with additional insights and control. If something doesn’t look right, homeowners can grant (or refuse) access to anybody who they deem necessary.

There are, however, a number of factors to consider before agents and landlords see this as a silver bullet for managing access to rental property (see below).

Potential Challenges of Smart Locks in 2023

Getting a reliable connection

In the majority of Smart locks, the more advanced functionality (such as being able to grant a person access from anywhere in the world) relies heavily on the lock having a connection to the internet. This often means attaching the locks in some way to a home Wi-Fi network. Although home Wi-Fi is getting more reliable all the time, the majority still wouldn’t rely on it for the essential security of their property.

Landlords are often not responsible for the internet provision to the tenant, meaning that they can’t rely on the tenant setting things up correctly for correct operation of the smart lock. There is still a danger of smart locks becoming just one more thing that needs to be maintained with the work required outstripping the benefits.

Sharing access

It’s tempting to see smart locks as a great solution to the problem of managing keys faced by landlords, tenants and agents alike. If all parties can have access to a smart lock, then it becomes easier for access to be provided when needed. At least, in theory. In practice, most domestic smart locks are really designed around a single family to use, and don’t allow for easily sharing of control between different parties in a tenancy contract. It introduces a number of problems around who has control to the smart lock apps. Who assigns new users.

Many agents and tenants alike would be concerned that different teams of people would all need to be trained in each different type of smart lock. Most agents don’t want the risk of a team member accidentally opening up access to a property because they didn’t understand the app properly.

What happens when it goes wrong?

There are many reasons why smart locks can go wrong in practice. Aside from connectivity, the most common is a power failure. Most smart locks rely on a battery, which if not changed, can lead to tenants being locked out. Most have a a backup mechanism such as external battery contacts or a USB port to attach a phone- but they rely on the occupier having the correct battery or charging cable with them when they need it- not at all likely if it’s late at night!

Other smart locks still have a backup key to allow manual unlocks- this is perhaps the best solution, but still requires keys to be carried and managed by the interested parties.

Addressing potential vulnerabilities

While smart door and window locks offer plenty of security benefits, agents and landlords must be mindful of certain risks before any smart lock is installed. If not properly addressed, these possible risks could manifest into larger problems.

Cyber attacks and hacks

Cybercrime is rife at the moment, and hackers might attempt to intercept wireless communication between devices. Unprotected and unpatched networks and devices will make that easier. If a controlling device is compromised, a hacker could potentially disrupt the connection between it and the lock.

This is why it’s important to deploy a solution that ensures encrypted connections between devices, as well as regular security patches to prevent any breaches.

Unpatched software

Firmware that is not updated or patched can expose smart lock systems to more vulnerabilities and hacking risks. If prompted, you should always ensure that you install recommended security patches to ensure core systems remain as secure as possible. You should also do this for any other smart home technology that you have, as it only takes one breach for all interconnected devices to become vulnerable.

Access code theft

If smart lock access codes are compromised, it means that unauthorised individuals could gain access to your property. This is why enabling multi-factor authentication (MFA) protocols like biometric verification, SMS or email access codes, or phone calls to trusted devices can be a valuable additional layer of security. You can install reputable third-party authenticator apps to verify all legitimate requests and refuse any that have not come from a trusted device.

Best practices for optimal security

There is no denying the fact that smart locks present some security risks. However, if landlords and estate agents can address these known risks and instil the preventative measures outlined below, security can be maximised.

Choose reputable brands

Make sure that you choose a trusted smart lock provider with proven security experience and one that is transparent about its approach. Make sure that you consider the relevance of all your solution’s features, whether it’s anti-hacking software, regular security patching or smart integration with other software.

Secure networks and devices

Make sure that you set your software to update all security patches automatically, as this will ensure all known vulnerabilities are promptly addressed and safeguarded. Don’t exclusively do this for your smart locks, but for all connected smart home devices, as this will ensure optimum security within your property.

Ensure that the Wi-Fi network (which the smart lock system will connect to) is also secure with a strong, unique password. Make sure that you change your network’s default username and password.

Implement MFA and real-time monitoring

If available, make sure that your smart lock system and app have multi-factor authentication features enabled. This will ensure that you (or another trusted resident) receive codes or prompts to verify the identity of whomever is trying to access the property, and thus will safeguard you and your possessions from potential theft or damage.

By integrating your smart lock software with a smart CCTV or camera system, you’ll be a step closer to achieving real-time visibility over your property. Landlords and estate agents can consider partnering with a reputable penetration testing expert that can provide 24/7 monitoring, as well as immediate assistance in case a system is compromised.

Smart locks: the future of secure property access?

As smart technology continues to affect the UK lettings and sales sector, you can expect to see Smart Locks becoming more compelling in the years to come. Traditional keyed locks are not going to go away, and certainly not anytime soon, however, smart locks will gradually become a more preferred option over time. As the market matures, the problems of today will become easier to solve.

Digital Tools Streamlining Commercial Property Inspections And Surveying

Commercial property surveys and inspections have remained relatively formulaic for decades. The crucial due diligence process of inspecting and surveying properties has remained relatively unchanged for some time.

That said, new technologies are emerging that serve to make this tick-box exercise much faster, more accurate and more efficient for commercial agents and property managers. From mobile applications to 3D scanning to drones, Proptech innovations are changing the inspection landscape significantly, cutting down on manual efforts and alleviating agents from excessive, tiresome and labour-intensive paperwork.

Find out some of the most innovative and intuitive tech that looks set to transform the ways that commercial properties can be routinely inspected and surveyed.

Automated and AI-powered defect detection

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are two intertwined technologies that are causing widespread disruption in many industries, and property is no different. While it’s no secret that AI can transform agents’ content marketing, lead generation and data entry efforts, the tech can also be used as the backbone for visual inspection solutions.

AI-powered software can autonomously detect defects and issues in buildings, based on insights and data from surveys, and therefore automate many of the laborious and time-consuming parts of manual property inspections.

Inspection tools such as TensorFlight can provide in-depth visualisations of properties, while using AI to highlight potential areas for further inspection and deeper analysis, meaning surveyors can dedicate their time and efforts to the most imperative tasks.

By leveraging automation, surveyors and commercial estate agents can intelligently analyse images, models and datasets to identify problem areas such as dampness, corrosion, asbestos, and so on.

Drones and UAVs to access high-up or hard-to-reach areas

Drones have become an invaluable tool for commercial property surveyors, enabling access to difficult areas like roofs, chimneys, gutters and facades, as well as the external walls of high-rise buildings and blocks of flats.

Equipped with high-resolution cameras, drones can capture detailed imagery and videos of a building’s external condition. Built-in photo-capturing software can then stitch these images and video content together into sophisticated, immersive models that can provide detailed inspection maps for surveyors and agents.

Providing this extent of data and photographic evidence makes report generation much more detailed and efficient; it’s no surprise that surveyors are regularly using these UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) to conduct greater numbers of detailed RICS Homebuyer surveys and reports.

Drone deployments are much safer and faster than manual inspections of hard-to-reach areas. They also cause no disruption to a building’s occupants and are relatively easy to learn with minimal training.

3D laser scanning for precise digital replication

Static LiDAR technology – another word for terrestrial laser scanning – is becoming vital for commercial building surveys and inspections. Tripod-mounted scanners allow surveyors to deliver more comprehensive surveys, capturing very specific areas or everything within view, with individual scans distributed within a few seconds. The scans are condensed and aggregated to construct detailed 3D property models.

These scans pick up all physical and structural details at millimetre-level accuracy, which can then be used to create bespoke, detailed floor plans, flythroughs, elevations and supporting imagery for property listings. Everything is geospatially located with precise measurements and details. Using this highly sophisticated technology, professionals can inspect a property’s condition and identify defects with ease, often in real-time.

Dynamic mobile apps for improved accessibility and analysis

Mobile applications can make inspection reports much more sophisticated, usable and shareable for all stakeholders involved in a property transaction. Surveyors can use mobile applications to capture HD photos, videos, annotate images, and deploy measurements directly on-site, and subsequently embed these assets in their reports.

Interactive floor plans can also be created as a result of the images and supporting measurement data, thus making navigation and analysis easier. With these assets backed up by detailed, timestamped analytics, defects and issues can be identified with greater accuracy and efficiency.

Having inspection data in accessible and visual formats enhances understanding for clients. It also enables improved maintenance and repair scope planning. Commercial Estate Agents can find end-to-end platforms for defect detection and 3D CAD floor plan rendering, such as AutoCAD LT from Autodesk

Exercising caution with human oversight

While property technology tools provide significant cost- and time-saving benefits, they can’t replace the need for qualified professionals conducting on-site assessments and inspections‌.

Comprehensive building surveys and inspections still require meticulous attention to detail and expert human skill, experience, and opinion for all elements. While technology can certainly improve productivity and automate many manual components of the surveying process, we are still at a point where we can’t entirely entrust all aspects to computers and algorithms.

With people supervising and managing the use of this technology effectively, surveyors and professionals can use their natural senses like smell, hearing, and touch which technology can’t detect or replicate as easily. These insights can therefore be married with the real-time data that apps and tools have already aggregated to make reports more comprehensive and primarily human-driven.

The optimal approach blends traditional techniques with new technologies for more rigorous and complete surveys.

Enhanced due diligence for agents and property managers

For agents and property management professionals, the emergence of new proptech tools makes the due diligence processes much more enhanced for sales, lettings, and ongoing asset management purposes.

The baseline documentation derived from drone imagery and scans makes the property condition reports more comprehensive during the acquisition stage. From this, comparisons can be drawn with images taken down the line, thus making future repairs more accurate and easy to identify and schedule.

Ongoing maintenance scans at regular intervals can identify emerging defects early. Having detailed digital defect reports also aids in repair scope planning and contractor management.

Technologies like automated AI analysis provide more consistent and objective insight, while still allowing for manual assessment by experienced surveyors.

Overall these innovations in technology mean commercial property professionals can provide clients with greater transparency, scrutiny and planning abilities when it comes to the built environment. This raises trust and satisfaction for vendors, buyers, and landlords under contract with agents.

It’s hopefully clear to see that the adoption of proptech tools requires the right strategic approach for them to be optimally effective. Their benefits are clear, in that they can streamline and automate many of the cumbersome aspects of surveying while delivering greater insights, detail and analytics. The key is harnessing and leveraging the technology to make the process work for each end user, and not viewing apps and software as sufficient replacements for hardworking property professionals.

Leveraging the strengths of technology and marrying them with your own methodical approaches and real-world experience will allow agents to reap more of their benefits. From this, smarter management, leasing, selling, and investment calculation decisions can be made. In the near future, it’s evident that we will see the further integration of emerging technologies within the property sector, paving the way for more productive and insightful approaches.

If you can successfully embrace and implement the technology and tools available now, it will work in your favour down the line.

How Might The Renters Reform Bill Impact Lettings Agents?

Initially proposed in 2019, but delayed numerous times, many property professionals believed that the Renters Reform Bill would be postponed indefinitely. But in May 2023, the UK Government announced that they still intended to move forward with these legislative changes and it was back on the agenda.

With big changes on the horizon for the rental market, it has naturally led many letting agents and landlords to wonder how these changes will affect them and their businesses.

What are the changes to the Renters Reform Bill?

The Renters Reform Bill is being presented by the Government as a solution to improve relations between tenants and landlords. The primary goal of the bill is to eliminate the small fraction of criminal landlords, thereby improving the reputation of private landlords as a whole and minimising disputes. The majority of landlords already provide safe and comfortable properties for their tenants but these positive changes come alongside significant rent reform measures that will impact landlords.

The proposed changes for the Renters Reform Bill include:

  • End to ‘no-fault’ Section 21 evictions

  • Landlords aren’t legally allowed to unreasonably refuse tenants with pets

  • Landlords can’t reject tenants on benefits

  • Landlords must not discriminate against tenants with children

  • All privately rented residential properties have to meet the Decent Homes Standard

  • Landlords must become members of a private rental Ombudsman.

The Renters Reform Bill is being introduced to improve the private rented housing sector in the UK. The private rental market makes up a significant portion of housing in the UK, with over 4 million properties being privately rented, a number that has doubled since 2004.

The Government has identified several issues with the current private rented legislation. First, some renters face uncertainty and lack of security in their housing, particularly due to Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions that allow landlords to evict tenants without cause. Secondly, responsible landlords face difficulties competing with criminal landlords who break the rules. One examples might be not respecting a tenant’s right to be asked before permitting landlords legitimate access to a property.

While the Renters Reform Bill aims to address some of these issues, the Government has further goals for improving the private rented sector. Nearly a quarter of private rented homes do not meet basic standards of decency, and the Government hopes to implement the Decent Homes Standard for private rentals in the future to improve quality and conditions.

How will the changes affect Letting Agents?

The Renters Reform Bill will bring mixed effects for letting agents. While details remain unconfirmed, letting agents must stay up to date and help landlords understand the changes. Landlords with portfolios of all sizes are already asking letting agents about new measures like the Property Ombudsman and property portals, so agents must respond knowledgeably about the Renters Reform Bill. Some may even benefit by becoming experts, attracting more business in the future.

However, the outlook is uncertain given the market. Many agents worry about the constant attack landlords may face, and the impact this will have on the buy-to-let market or even the profitability of a rental investment in the long-term. If more landlords sell quality rentals, letting agents will have less work and revenue, while regulation and taxes could hurt tenants with lower rental supply.

While some letting agents may gain by helping landlords adapt to the Renters Reform Bill, there’s a risk that the impact could be negative if many landlords sell in response to the reforms. Support for landlords may be letting agents’ best strategy in this time of change.

Updating landlords on the changes

At present, letting agents have the ability to offer advice to landlords, including helpful tips for new landlords to succeed with the proposed changes on the horizon. However, the scope of their advisory role is expected to expand significantly.

According to the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA), letting agents have a crucial role in keeping up with the ever-evolving nature of the sector. If and when the Renters Reform Bill becomes law, private residential landlords will be required to demonstrate compliance with the Decent Homes Standard or face fines for non-compliance. Letting agents can even view this as an opportunity to broaden the services they offer and provide enhanced guidance to property owners in light of the changes to come.

The renters reform can present a real opportunity for agents. Landlords may feel overwhelmed and seek professional advice from well-informed letting agents. In today’s market, having a letting agent to provide guidance and support on property types, locations, tenant demographics and tax considerations is invaluable.

However, effectively explaining the intricacies of the significant changes outlined above may prove more challenging in practice. The NRLA has criticised the Renters Reform Bill for its lack of detailed information regarding these major property letting changes, fearing that the proposed ruling may not be robust enough. They believe that more detailed information is needed to ensure the bill functions as intended, though they welcome the Government’s commitment to enabling landlords to regain their properties in such situations.

What can landlords do to prepare?

Landlords will be required to meet new minimum standards when it comes to property maintenance, which means fixing any lingering repairs and issues as soon as possible. In particular, if those repairs pose a health or safety risk, such as damp or gas and electricity issues, they need to be dealt with immediately to improve living conditions for tenants.

Landlords should also review tenancy agreements to ensure the properties in their portfolios meet the new requirements for repairs and ongoing maintenance.

One of the biggest changes landlords can make to prepare for this new legislation is to ensure that they communicate effectively with tenants as to their rights under this new ruling. Seeking advice from letting agents but also professional bodies such as the NRLA will help landlords to comply with these requirements.

The Renters Reform Bill will have a huge impact on the private rental sector, and both letting agents and landlords need to stay up to date with the proposed changes to ensure they’re legally compliant. The changes may be significant but they hopefully will improve the renting experience for everyone and make this sector more stable and secure.

Creating A Low-Maintenance Garden To Boost Your Rental Appeal

It is in your landlord’s interests to make your rental property as appealing as possible to potential tenants, giving it a competitive edge over similar properties in the area. One of the features many people look for is a private garden or patio.

Outdoor space has become a particularly sought-after feature in recent years for obvious reasons. “Since the recent pandemic-induced lockdowns, everyone seems to have rediscovered the immense value of having private outdoor space,” explains one letting agent.

That said, a garden tends to mean ongoing maintenance, which equals additional time and expense for both landlords and tenants. With estate agents also highlighting attractive property features like presentable gardens and patios, what’s the solution? In this article, we take a look at how to create an attractive yet low-maintenance garden that enhances your rental appeal and income without increasing your workload.

What do tenants want?

Whether you have a garden flat or a whole house to let, the type of tenants you wish to attract will determine the kind of outdoor space that appeals to them. Different groups look for various features – here are some typical examples:

Young Professionals:

Families:

  • Larger lawn area for children’s play

  • Sturdy table, chairs and benches

  • Child-friendly plants and trees

  • Secure fencing for safety, privacy and preventing stray balls/toys

Mature tenants:

  • Level pathways for easy access

  • Seating at frequent intervals

  • Flower beds with colour but not requiring much pruning or weeding

  • Natural light for spending time reading or enjoying the garden

Specific characteristics may differ but most tenants seeking private outdoor space want minimal responsibility for the upkeep of their garden. For landlords, this means that choosing a simple, uncluttered design with low-maintenance features will have the widest appeal across tenant types.

What are the key features of a low-maintenance garden?

The trick to creating an easy-care garden is choosing hard landscaping, hardy planting and efficient features that minimise ongoing chores. Start with hard landscaping to provide useful patios, decking and seating areas without a lawn to mow. One recent article recommends mixing materials for added interest. “From concrete, to pavers, stone, tile, brick and gravel, changing materials can create separate zones within your patio. Ideal if you want to use your patio for multiple things such as a dining zone or a reading corner.”

When it comes to planting, opt for low-growing evergreen shrubs, succulents like lavender and hardy perennials over flowering annuals. These plants don’t need annual replacement nor much in the way of watering or pruning once established. Also consider container planting with pots and planters that can be easily moved around and brought under shelter if needed. This also allows you to adjust planting displays for different seasons or tastes.

If there is a lawn, have it mowed and edged regularly by a gardener to keep a tidy appearance. Choose more robust grass types that do not require feeding to stay green and luscious. An artificial lawn is also an increasingly popular option, with no ongoing maintenance needed whatsoever. If you do have a gardener, arrange pruning shrubs and small trees a couple of times a year to avoid any areas becoming unruly while also encouraging healthy growth. This type of general maintenance should be sufficient for most low-key rental gardens.

With these choices, it is possible to design an outdoor space that presents beautifully but doesn’t become a chore to manage or cost a fortune to maintain. Keeping things simple but stylish is the key, with a minimal amount of lawn or planting that needs attention. Most routine maintenance can be handled efficiently by occasional visits from a professional gardener. Your tenants get to enjoy an appealing garden area without the hassle of ongoing responsibilities.

Who is responsible for garden upkeep?

Many landlords find it more convenient to pass the responsibility for garden maintenance onto the tenant, requesting that a minimum amount of work must be carried out to keep the garden looking reasonable. In fact, mowing lawns and keeping on top of weeds are often standard clauses in Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreements.

If garden responsibilities are to be included in the tenancy agreement, be as specific as possible about what exactly your expectations are. Can your tenants grow vegetables or make structural alterations to the garden? What about adding or removing plants? It is advisable to add a clause saying the landlord’s permission must be obtained before any improvements or changes can be made to the garden.

We would also recommend that you include dated photos of the garden in your inventory check-in report, which can then be compared to the condition of the garden at the end of the tenancy. “Landlords should make sure that they are taking a sensible deposit from the tenant before the tenancy begins. This can then be used to recover some of the costs that might occur due to damage or neglect of the garden by the tenant,” explains an insurance expert in the field.

Unfortunately, garden maintenance is often a bone of contention between landlords and tenants, particularly when it comes to the end of the tenancy. The result of any dispute will largely be based on what it says in the tenancy agreement, so make sure you’re covered. If there is no clause about gardening responsibilities, you won’t be able to claim for damages caused by the tenant.

How to present your property’s garden for viewings?

First impressions count when it comes to viewings, so ensure your garden is looking its best to help secure the right tenants. While aimed at low maintenance, a few touches will make an outdoor space more appealing for viewings:

  • Clear any debris from patios, walkways and decking. Mow the lawn, edge pathways, pull up weeds and prune shrubs. A clean, clutter-free garden will show much better.

  • Place a few potted plants, window boxes or hanging baskets near entrance ways to give a friendly welcome and add colour, but without overcrowding the space.

  • Set out a bench, table and chairs to demonstrate how the space could be used. Keep furniture contemporary and in proportion to the size of the garden.

  • Feature good quality photos of the garden in your property listing to generate interest, including images of seating areas, greenery and other garden highlights.

Is A Leasehold Property A Good Buy-To-Let Investment?

[Image source: Deposit photos]

When investing in a buy-to-let, there are countless considerations to make, but one that often gets overlooked in discussions is whether looking at leasehold properties is a good use of an investor’s time. When you buy a freehold building, you own the building and the land it’s on until the time comes to sell it, but leasehold means you only own the building for a set period. So, what does this mean for landlords, and are leasehold properties a good investment?

What is a leasehold property?

A leasehold property means you own the property in question for a specific length of time, which is the term of the lease. When the lease expires, the ownership transfers to the person or entity that owns the land. For a landlord, the idea of the investment simply being lost can be a frightening prospect and can put people off wanting to invest in a leasehold home.

Leases can range from 99 or 125 years all the way to 999 years, the latter of which is as good as a freehold. Theoretically, the closer the lease expiry date is, the less valuable it becomes and it can be harder to recoup your investment if you’re looking to sell. If the remaining term falls to 80 years or less, it can be hard to obtain a mortgage on the property, which is something potential investors need to bear in mind when looking for buy-to-lets.

The key differences with a leasehold property

Most leasehold properties are flats, though a leasehold can apply to any property. Properties purchased through the shared ownership scheme may also be leasehold. Because a leasehold means you don’t own the land the property sits on, you don’t have any ownership of communal areas in the case of a flat, meaning stairs, hallways and gardens are not your sole responsibility.

However, while leaseholders usually pay a set fee to the freeholder which goes towards the maintenance of these areas, from June 2022, new legislation on ground rent charges means these rents will be banned on new residential leases to avoid future rent increases, which makes leasehold properties more affordable.

What to consider before investing

The first question an interested landlord needs to ask is ‘does the lease permit letting?’. Not all leases will allow you to sublet the property, so if your intention is to purchase the home as a buy-to-let, this is a critical question to ask. If you go ahead with your buy-to-let without checking this first, you could find yourself in breach of your lease and that can come with fines and complications later on, so it’s important to check first.

Landlords also need to ensure they take into account the cost of maintenance and repairs for the property, as with any buy-to-let, which some leases enforce via a sinking fund to cover any unexpected repairs. Investing in a property as a buy-to-let means landlords need to think about the saleability of the property for the future, as it’s not their primary residence. Problems can occur, as previously stated, if the lease is less than 80 years, so extending a lease may be beneficial when purchasing the property but this can be a costly endeavour.

The benefits of leasehold buy-to-lets

It’s not all bad news when it comes to a leasehold property, especially when it comes to finances. Because of the challenges that you need to face when you buy a leasehold property, you can often find great bargains on the property market as they’re less appealing for many investors. If you’re willing to overcome these hurdles, you could find yourself getting a great deal upfront compared to a freehold.

There are some restrictions with this type of property, because you’re effectively renting space from another landlord who is the freeholder, so you’re at their mercy in terms of what you can do to the property. However, from a landlord’s point of view, the likelihood is you only want to make the property presentable and won’t be investing in any large-scale renovations, so this may not be an issue at all.

It may be possible to extend your lease if you’ve owned the property for at least two years, or if it only has 80 years or less left. Extending sooner rather than later is the best option, as the shorter the remaining lease is, the more expensive it will be to extend. Lease extensions are usually for 90 years, and the cost is typically 50% of the ‘marriage value’ of the property, or the extra value the property would gain from the longer lease, as well as legal fees, Land Registry updates and property valuations.

Is investing in a leasehold the right decision?

The process of investing in any property is complex and time-consuming, and it requires in-depth research to ensure you’re making the right choice. A leasehold may seem more complicated than buying a freehold to rent out, but it can still be a highly valuable investment depending on the buyer’s circumstances. Of course, this might not be the case if it is sat on the market with a short lease and you need to sell it fast.

The trick to investing in a leasehold is finding an agreement that suits the needs of the investor. If it’s an affordable property with agreeable lease terms and you aren’t in any rush to sell the property on, it can be a great way to save money upfront and grab a bargain. There’s certainly nothing wrong with investing in a leasehold property, if it meets the criteria you need from it – you simply need to be aware of the differences that a leasehold property has to a freehold.

There are also some unique perks, such as not needing to worry about the upkeep of communal areas, which frees up your time when you’re managing your buy-to-let portfolio. The best advice for landlords looking to buy a leasehold to rent out is to seek professional advice and speak to local buy-to-let agents who can offer advice based on the potential yields for the surrounding area. This will ensure the best returns, whatever the type of property bought.