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.

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.

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.

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

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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.

Helping Viewers See The Full Picture: How Agents Can Highlight Potential

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When your agency or property management company is tasked with selling a home, it often goes one of two ways; the property is in great condition, has been renovated and practically sells itself or it’s time to get creative as there’s not much to shout about. In scenario two, the best way to sell the property is to highlight its potential, but sometimes it can be difficult to see where that potential lies.

If you’re struggling to see it, then there’s a good chance that viewers are going to encounter the same problem. To help viewers see the full picture of your property portfolio, here are some helpful tips to share as you show people around.

Increasing the property’s footprint

Most people want as much space from their new home as possible, perhaps because they are looking to move to something bigger or they are simply trying to move up the property ladder. Building outwards is one of the easiest and most common ways to improve the footprint of any property, with rear extensions being favoured as most people are happy to lose some of their gardens to improve their indoor living space.

According to CheckATrade, the average cost of a 20m2 extension is £44,000 while expanding a home can add between 10 – 20% to its value. So not only can you use adding an extension as a way to improve potential buyers’ lives and living spaces but also it can be a way to improve their returns when they come to sell.

Adding extra storeys

If the outdoor space is already limited or there isn’t much scope for a rear extension, consider whether an additional storey is a viable option. This could be a loft conversion which can be a quick way of increasing space and adding value, or perhaps a basement with lower floor conversions, which can be a great way to improve the energy efficiency of a home as there are fewer directly exposed external walls.

Of course, there is also the potential for a double-storey extension which will greatly increase its capacity but will require substantial funds. As an agency or property company, you can check whether a house is suitable for extension or additional storeys by asking for pre-planning advice from the relevant council.

Having an informal discussion can give you enough scope to know whether an extension is viable and if it’s a smart marketing strategy as you show viewers around. It requires some additional groundwork on your part but can be worth it to paint a better picture of the property’s potential to viewers who may otherwise be unsure about an extension.

Decluttering and cleaning

House viewers want to be able to imagine themselves living in the property they are being shown around but one filled with clutter and that needs cleaning can be a distraction from those thoughts. For starters, a decluttered home allows viewers to better understand how much space there is in the property they are viewing.

It is also much harder for them to envision how they would live their lives in a house if someone else’s clutter is everywhere to be seen. Sure, it’s not possible to remove the vendor from the home but encouraging them to make their home as aesthetically appealing as possible is a great boost to their chances of selling.

Similarly, a viewer who goes into a home and is met with visible dirt or dust, or perhaps some unsavoury smells, is going to have to work hard to overcome those issues to imagine themselves living there. It might be fine for a buy-to-let buyer but if you are selling the property as a home rather than an investment then it must be set up to succeed, rather than fail.

Acquiring nearby land

Sometimes an opportunity presents itself that allows a buyer to invest in more than they initially think. Consider whether there is any adjacent land available, whether it’s from a neighbour or even just a bit of extra land a freeholder is willing to part with.

This can greatly improve the prospects for potential buyers as they can expand their home, add an outbuilding, add electric car charging or look for further investment opportunities. A quick enquiry with the Land Registry can let you know who owns the land and whether it’s possible to approach a sale.

Updating doors and windows

Doors and windows can be an important selling factor when it comes to buying a home. With old doors and windows, the buyer knows the time they have until they need replacing is limited but again this is an opportunity to highlight the value of upgrading.

Whether it’s the front door, side door, or garage door, security shouldn’t be overlooked and the same goes for insulation levels, where you can show the EPC potential can enjoy a sharp rise with some new doors and windows.

Reconfiguring the layout

Open-plan living is very popular at the moment and while you won’t be able to reconfigure the layout yourself, exploring the options ahead of showing people around can help put the home’s potential into perspective.

Homes with dated kitchens are a great opportunity to showcase the potential in an open-plan layout as people will already be feeling as though they want to update it. Similarly, outdated bathrooms are a great selling point and shouldn’t immediately be something to try and gloss over.

Spending time layout out and describing what improvements are possible and how they could be easily implemented is useful information that viewers can take with them as they think about their options. Updating both rooms will not only represent a great investment but provide real value to the people who live there.

Other layout considerations to point out to potential buyers include installing a downstairs loo, adding a room in the garden as an office or creating a kitchen diner to free up another room in the house.

Are Top Floor Flats Harder For Estate Agents To Sell?

The sale of flats and apartments makes up around 1 in 5 homes in the UK (and about half of all property transactions in London). Recent price inflation has lagged behind the growth enjoyed by houses and many factors have contributed to slower capital growth for leasehold flats, among them the leasehold and cladding scandals of 2017 and the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, in 2023, the demand for flats and apartments in the UK is expected to strengthen. Urban living is gaining traction again post-covid, while budget-squeezed households and high mortgage rates mean property buyers are looking for affordability and value for money.

Of course, it’s easy to make sweeping statements and predictions, but don’t forget that demand is also majorly affected by property specifics. Flats come in all shapes and sizes and can be found in a wide range of locations, sited on different floors in purpose-built blocks or converted buildings. Some are new-builds and are assumed to be in pristine condition, while others are charming period flats with original features. And that’s before their leasehold status is taken into account…

In this article, we’ll take a look at the desirability of top floor flats. Is it easier or harder to sell a property on the highest floor of the building? What are the advantages of living on the top floor? Are there any perceived drawbacks of this type of property and how can estate agents address potential buyer concerns and allay any fears?

What are the key selling points of top floor apartments?

Top floor flats have several obvious advantages over properties on lower floors, and these selling points provide excellent opportunities for marketing the sale:

Great views

One of the main attractions of living in a flat on the top floor is the views over the neighbourhood. Depending on location, this could be a panoramic sea view, a sweep of the eye across the city’s rooftops or a glimpse of greenery in a public park on the opposite side of the road. Urban property buyers, in particular, will be looking for great views, with London’s iconic cityscape being top of the list of desirable vistas.

Natural light

Abundant natural light is high on homebuyers’ wish lists, especially in smaller properties where it can add a sense of space. In a recent survey, nearly 85% considered this the most important criterion when buying a property. Compared to ground floor or mid floor accommodation, top floor apartments have a natural advantage when it comes to light. Maximise the effect by opening curtains and window dressings to let the light flood in and show off the bright and airy feel that buyers love.

Greater privacy

Privacy and seclusion are also highly prized, particularly among city dwellers who tend to be looking for a peaceful sanctuary to retreat from the urban hustle and bustle. Moving to the top of the building means less traffic noise from the streets below, less commotion on stairways and lifts and generally fewer disturbances. With nobody living above and the windows ideally not overlooked by nearby buildings, a top floor flat combines the convenience of urban living with the ultimate in privacy.

Good security

Being the least accessible property in the building has definite advantages when it comes to home security. Most burglaries are initiated by thieves spotting an opportunity such as valuables left in plain sight, an open window or unlocked door to gain entry. It is the reason why ground floor and basement flats are at greater risk of break-ins. None of this applies with a top floor flat, which is inherently the safest place to be.

Adding value

While it is much more difficult to add capital value to a leasehold flat compared to a freehold property, there may be an opportunity with a top floor flat. It may be possible to develop the unused loft space above, subject to the lease and the necessary consents being obtained. If the attic does not form part of the demise, could the freeholder be approached with an offer to buy the space in the loft? It’s worth pointing out the possibilities to any interested buyer.

What are the potential drawbacks of top floor properties?

Top floor apartments can be an excellent purchase, and the best properties should have no difficulty achieving the optimum price. In some cases, people prefer a low-rise flat because they are scared of heights or are worried about the re-sale value. Flats on a short lease might be even tougher to sell if they are on an unpopular floor in a building. That said, agents need to be prepared to address some of the downsides potential buyers may identify and counter any negative perceptions.

Too many stairs

A flat at the top of the building means many flights of stairs to climb, unless of course there’s a lift. Older properties and period conversions may not have one, which could be a real problem for young families with babies in prams, elderly people and those with mobility issues. Even fit and healthy buyers may feel uncomfortable having to go beyond the second floor to carry the shopping up or the bins down, and bulky deliveries such as furniture could also be an issue.

Roof leaks

It goes without saying that properties on the top floor, with no one living above, will be most vulnerable to any damage caused by roof defects and water leaks. Most top floor flats will be absolutely fine and unless there’s any evidence to the contrary when buyers come to view, there’s no reason to draw attention to issues that don’t exist. In any event, should water start leaking through the ceiling, the freeholder is typically responsible for any roof repairs.

Lack of outdoor space

Ground floor apartments and basement flats may have the benefit of a patio or private garden, which constitutes a valuable asset that top floor accommodation simply cannot provide. In fact, outdoor space is much harder to come by in apartments at the top of the building, but usually, the abundance of natural daylight and great views make up for it. Top floor flats with a balcony, a roof terrace or even a roof garden, and luxury penthouse apartments, are clearly premium properties and need to be marketed as such.

Conclusion

In the end, there’s unlikely to a simple answer and most often it will come down to the individual apartment you are trying to sell. Whilst many of the negatives to top floor flats are self evident to potential buyers, it’s important to check for all the positives as well, know the positives as some might be more easily missed. This should help you to achieve maximum value for your clients.

What Will Really Matter In The 2023 Property Market?

Buying a home is a huge decision, and one that is obviously going to be influenced by the prevailing economic climate and personal financial situation. That said, while the housing market, along with the rest of the economy, may be experiencing a period of uncertainty at the moment, this doesn’t mean that people won’t be moving home.

When it comes to choosing the right new home, every buyer has a list of must-haves and need-to-haves that will be used to assess properties listed for sale. So, what is it that buyers are looking for in 2023? According to a recent survey, 54% of potential buyers were looking for a garden as their top asset, 50% wanted a nice kitchen, 44% prioritised parking or garage space, and 36% were looking for a nice bathroom. Add to that the rising importance of having an energy efficient home, and a picture appears to be emerging. Let’s take a closer look.

Energy-saving features

According to Rightmove, buyers are now increasingly searching for sustainable properties or homes that have at least some eco-friendly features. Not that long ago, green home features were seen as nice to have by homebuyers keen to make a positive contribution to the environment. However, the current cost of living crisis, skyrocketing energy bills and the global oil and gas crisis have put energy-saving features firmly into the ‘must have’ camp.

Searches for properties for sale that have solar panels or heat pumps fitted have increased significantly over the last few years, and the trend is set to continue. Even without any new technologies, buyers are now more concerned than ever before about energy efficiency.

From double-glazed or even triple-glazed windows to loft insulation and cavity wall insulation, high-efficiency boilers and LED lighting and more, there are many ways that a property can achieve a favourable EPC rating and add value.

Private outdoor spaces

Ever since the recent pandemic-induced lockdowns have shown us the importance of having access to a garden, a patio or even just a balcony, properties with outdoor space have become much more sought after.

A simple, lawned garden space may be all that’s required for buyers to be interested, as long as it’s well-maintained and easy to look after, or presents an opportunity to get creative. Wooden decking or paved patios are also high on the list, either as a no-maintenance urban garden option or for dining, socialising and entertaining and as a peaceful space to relax.

Creating a seamless connection between outdoor and indoor living spaces is another major trend, epitomised by the ubiquitous bifold doors adorning kitchen/diners and living rooms. And it’s not just about ‘bringing the outside in either. These days, ‘taking the inside out’ means creating living spaces in the garden, be it outdoor kitchens, alfresco dining rooms, or lounging and chillout areas. The latest pergola designs come with retractable roofs and side panels for shade and shelter as you can see here, fully able to withstand the elements and ensure year-round use.

Large family kitchens

The kitchen has long since been hailed as the heart of the home, and this trend isn’t going anywhere fast. This is the room where family and friends congregate, and not just at mealtimes.

Some would argue that the kitchen is the most important room in the house and it’s a well-known fact among estate agents that kitchens sell houses. A generously proportioned, welcoming and convivial space with a kitchen island is what most buyers will want to see.

Kitchen redesigns can be expensive and disruptive. A recently updated kitchen with modern cabinetry and plenty of storage, and in a style that complements the rest of the property, is one home improvement that is sure to pay big dividends.

Open plan kitchens/diners are still the gold standard for interior layouts, however people are also rediscovering the advantages of having separate living spaces. Perhaps the lockdowns are also responsible for this shift in perspective. After all, when the entire family is spending time at home, it’s useful to have doors you can close to provide peace and privacy. Even a separate snug, den or box room can make all the difference – plus it has the potential to be transformed into a home office for working from home.

Indulgent bathrooms

Kitchens may sell homes but bathrooms are also receiving a lot of attention. As the concept of self-care is becoming more widespread, buyers are looking for recently updated bathrooms that have separate showers and baths to accommodate different needs: function and rest. A traditional shower over the bath can be seen as old-fashioned and not up to speed with current lifestyles.

Bathrooms are also a prime contender for underfloor heating, which adds a luxury feel. There’s nothing like stepping out of the bath or shower onto warm floors below, especially during colder months, and especially in our temperate climate. Indeed, luxury and indulgence are the main watchwords for bathroom features.

Finally, it is interesting to note that the absence of a downstairs WC can be a dealbreaker for many potential buyers. Whether there’s space under the stairs to fit a small washroom, or it can be added (along with a utility room) with a house extension, it’s an investment well worth making when it comes to sell.

Home security system

Having a modern home security system to protect the property against intruders is proving to become a popular feature that home buyers are looking for. From smart doorbells to security cameras or intruder alarms, there are many ways to add extra security features to keep the occupants safe.

Then there’s the automatic control of electronic devices in the home, such as lighting or heating but also including Internet-of-Things devices such as smart fridges and home security devices, via internet technology that can be controlled remotely to make life more convenient and save on bills. Whether you’re a property manager looking after a property for sale or rent, or you’re a homeowner looking for your next home, smart home automation is the gold standard.

5 Steps to Easier End-Of-Tenancies

[Image source: Deposit photos]

It is in everyone’s interests to ensure the end of a tenancy is handled as smoothly as possible. While there is a lot to think about, making preparations early on means it doesn’t need to be a headache.

Read on for five steps to easier end-of-tenancies.

1. Give the appropriate notice period

The end of a tenancy starts with your tenants giving you notice or you terminating their tenancy. The exact amount of notice required will depend on the terms of the contract but a minimum of four weeks is usually required from either party.

This period allows time for a tenant to find a new property and remove their belongings from their current one. It also provides you with some time to seek new tenants or list the property for sale if you plan to reduce your letting portfolio.

Before the deadline for ending the tenancy comes around, it’s wise to be prepared for what you will need to do as a landlord. There are various things to consider including your legal responsibilities, such as:

  • requesting the release of your tenants’ deposit from the tenancy deposit scheme
  • inspecting the property and
  • making any necessary repairs and renovations.

2. Inspect the property

Before you return your tenant’s deposit it’s essential to visit the property and conduct a thorough inspection of the furnishings, fittings and goods. It’s good practice to draw up a property inventory at the start of a tenancy as it’s this document that you can refer to when it’s time for your tenants to leave.

A property inventory details the contents and condition of the property at the start of a tenancy. It should include a full list of fixed features, from walls and ceilings to cupboards and doors, as well as any appliances and fittings. It’s important to remember any external buildings such as sheds or greenhouses and make a note of their condition and contents too.

Having an inventory means that when you inspect the property at the end of a tenancy you can compare its current condition with the way it was at the start. You can then make any relevant deductions for damage or missing items from the deposit. This reduces the chance of any disputes over deposits.

3. Return your tenant’s deposit

Once you have thoroughly inspected the property and agreed upon the cost of any damage or missing items with your tenants, you must return your tenants’ remaining deposit within ten days. Since 2007 it has been a legal requirement that landlords must put deposits in a government-approved tenancy deposit scheme for any property rented on an assured shorthold tenancy.

It is simple to return a deposit via the online account you will hold for the tenancy deposit scheme. But bear in mind that if you plan to make deductions from the deposit you should be able to provide evidence for your reasons in the case of a dispute.

As long as your tenants agree with your repayment instruction or claim the deposit will usually be released in a couple of days.

4. Enlist professional help with cleaning

Your tenants have responsibility for leaving the property as clean as possible when they move out. But this doesn’t mean it’s going to be ready for the next tenants to move straight in.

In order to benefit most from rising rental yields and attract reliable new tenants it’s important to show off the property in its best light. Depending on the length of the previous tenancy that could mean a thorough deep clean is recommended.

You could do this yourself, of course, but it’s usually better left to professional cleaners. Agencies that specialise in end-of-tenancy cleaning services are used to carrying out the many tasks required to leave a property looking (almost) like new

The specifics of what is needed will depend on the state in which the property has been left. But you should expect a clean to include jobs such as cleaning of internal and external windows, all carpets and upholstery cleaned; the kitchen and bathroom de-greased and deep-cleaned and the oven, hob and extractor thoroughly cleaned.

5. Carry out repairs and renovations

With any luck, you won’t need to undertake any significant work when your tenants move out. If the property is well-maintained and generally sound, the most that will probably be required is giving walls and woodwork a fresh coat of paint.

However, it is your responsibility as a landlord to make any necessary repairs to basins, sinks, baths and other sanitary fittings, maintain heating and hot water systems and ensure the building is in a good condition structurally. The longer you spend on these tasks, the more time you will lose out on rent or leave your property vacant and vulnerable to break ins. So it often pays to enlist professional services for security support or property maintenance. Whether it’s clearing gutters, supplying new appliances, safeguarding empty homes or changing the locks, these specialist teams have the experience and capacity to get the job done quickly and efficiently.

By bringing in professional support – and putting processes in place in good time – you’ll cut down on lost income and be ready for another successful tenancy.

6 Ways Landlords Can Keep Properties Secure With A Minimum Spend

Your landlords, have a responsibility to keep your rental properties as safe and secure as possible. Tenants want to know that they can live comfortably and safely in their home, and it can help to minimise tenant turnover as people who feel safe are more likely to remain in the property for longer periods. But, security can often be an expense that they don’t want to shell out for.

The good news is that there are ways to make a home more secure without it costing a fortune, reducing the risk of vandalism and theft. Here are a few ways that landlords can create a secure property with minimum expense.

1. Install a security system

A high-tech security system isn’t just a benefit for landlords, but it also provides peace of mind for tenants too. It could spell the difference between the best tenant choosing one property over another. Security systems don’t need to be complex to be effective. In fact, technology has evolved enough that you don’t need to spend a fortune to feel as though you’re securing the property effectively.

From smart alarm systems to alert unauthorised access or attempted entry, to motion sensors to detect movement and CCTV cameras. You can create a master code for security systems and enable tenants to have their own personal access codes for privacy.

2. Light up the home

An easy but highly effective way to make your tenants feel safe, while also preventing criminal activity, is to add outdoor lighting. Would-be criminals tend to be deterred by well-lit areas as it makes them vulnerable to witnesses, so it’s always a good idea to have lights fitted to the exterior of the property to keep it safe and avoid a break-in.

Solar or LED lights are an effective solution that provide a great source of lighting and are very affordable, as well as being low maintenance as you won’t need to worry about replacing batteries or an increase to your tenants’ electricity bills. Fit these lights near entry points to the property but also near driveways and gardens where criminals may try to gain access from.

3. Automate the garage door

If the property comes with an adjoining garage, it’s vital that it’s kept secure because not only is it likely to store valuable, expensive items that could be stolen but it could also serve as another entry point for burglars. One way to increase security is to make sure your garage door is automated. Automation isn’t just a convenient feature for tenants, but it also makes it much harder for vandals and criminals to do damage or gain access to the property. Garage doors are common targets for entry to properties, and they’re also often overlooked by property owners, so don’t neglect this area when securing your rental property.

4. Secure windows and doors

Windows are a vulnerable area of any home, and are a common target for opportunist thieves. Even if the windows of your rental property have a mechanism to prevent them from being opened from the outside, they can still be broken into. And if the windows don’t have a lock, it’s even easier for your property to be accessed by someone other than your tenants.

Installing locks is the first step to making the property more secure, but it’s also important to remind tenants to lock up if they’re leaving the house. Window sensors can also be installed for a relatively low cost that will sound an alarm if the windows are ever meddled with, with alerts sent to your smartphone so you know precisely when the property is at risk. For added peace of mind, encourage tenants to use a door jammer for additional protection.

5. Find the right insurance

Landlords may be thinking of the physical changes they can make to your rental property, but have they considered the unforeseen costs that will come your way if the home is broken into? Landlords need to have the right insurance policy in place to protect the assets of the property and any furnishings. Liability insurance is a worthwhile addition to property maintenance, making sure that the home is protected, for only a small amount of money every month. The right insurance will give landlords the confidence that the home is protected from a financial perspective as well as physically. It is worth remembering that securing your garage to prevent easy access for would-be thieves will also keep your insurance company happy.

5. Conduct regular inspections

In the property market, prevention is always cheaper than the cure, so you want to do all you can to avoid costly repairs. By dropping by a few times a year, you can check on the health of the property and spot any issues that tenants may not have seen as a problem. For example, a lock might be broken on a window, there might be a blind spot on the security cameras or the smart doorbell might not be working properly.

These faults could cost you and your tenants if they lead to a break-in, so make sure that you’re scheduling in visits periodically to give the property a scan and check for these issues before they cause problems.

A rental property is an investment so it stands to reason that you want to protect it from damage. Keep your buy-to-let home secure to protect it from break-ins while also giving tenants the confidence that they can live in the home safely.