5, no, LOTS of Reasons why you should NOT let your property in Clapham using Gumtree
Honestly I could write a book about this. Time and time again through my agency career I would have landlords calling me, desperate for advice after they've placed a "lovely" tenant in their property using a free (or low costs) DIY advertising website. The tenant presented themselves as honest, open, and above all very capable of paying the rent.
But the truth is a different matter. They got into the property by deception, and ended up costing these landlords thousands of pounds in damages, unpaid rent, and above all stress. These landlords had to cover the mortgage whilst funding the legal battle. One made very difficult because they weren't aware of all the legislation surrounding lettings. This could prejudice their position in court. Didn't serve the Prescribed Information? Didn't register the deposit within 30 days? That means the tenant could actually sue YOU for 3 times the deposit amount! And there's more...
It has been said that some 30% of the PRS is made up of accidental landlords (Source: Landlordnews.co.uk). Here lies the problem. As an accidental, or amateur (not a bad thing!) landlord, it is unlikely that they invest the time to make themselves aware of all the legislation surrounding lettings. There is a lot, but as the saying goes "you don't know what you don't know," so most are blissfully unaware - until it goes wrong, and they can do with disastrous consequences!
If you saw last night's episode of "Nightmare Tenants, Slum Landlords" on Channel 5 then you will know more. Paul Shamplina, Director of Landlord Action advocates against using such sites. I say there is a time and a place for DIY platforms. After all, there are certainly elements of the process you can do yourself - IF you are able to dedicate the time to it. After all, opening a door and doing a viewing can cost very little time and effort if you are local. If you need to travel from work to the property in Clapham and then back to your home in Finsbury Park after work it could become a very tiring process, especially factoring in the inevitable no-shows.
There are certain elements of the process, and depending on which you can do, you can choose a service to suit you.
This is the first hurdle where most people fail. Miserably. The average rent in Clapham is £1750pcm, or £21,000 per annum. I would suspect that if you are looking to part with over £20,000 then you would expect to see something immaculately presented and shiny. Like a car. Ever seen a dirty car in a showroom? No? I wonder why. Let's compare and contrast with letting your property. iPhone photos will not do. Unmade beds? No. In order to achieve the best result (best price in the shortest space of time with the most enquiries, viewings and offers to choose from) you want to present the property to the best of your ability. Present well, clean, and use a professional photographer. I can highly recommend a few that are reasonable and will do all the digital editing required. An investment of £100 goes a long way, if you achieve £2 per week more rent then it's paid for itself. And remember the photos last for a good number of years, you don't need to redo them.
Where are you likely to attract a professional tenant for your £20,000 a year property? Not in a free advertising site like Gumtree that is impossible to navigate, sort any meaningful way and so forth. You want to get on Rightmove and/or Zoopla. These two portals is where 95% of home movers look. That's where you want your property. Any good quality agent will be on both of these. Beware of agents that are NOT on both of these in favour of a third platform called Onthemarket.com. In essence they are trying to compete with Rightmove and Zoopla but failing miserably and they don't want to admit it. Tenants on the whole don't look here, advertise elsewhere.
This is key. Whatever you may think, it is unlikely that your property is the best property in Clapham. Harsh but true, there will be better properties out there. A good look on Rightmove and Zoopla will give you an idea of prices. Talk to a local agent that you respect - do they have good quality properties? Well-presented? Good photos? They probably know what they are doing, speak to them. And price competitively, you want it to let after all. Time is also key. If you start advertising 60 days in advance and you think "well, I'll start high because I have time" then you may miss out on those excellent tenants who plan ahead. A lot of landlords I know tend to drop their asking price with 3 weeks left on the tenancy because they know that is roughly when it really comes down to decision time for most. And indeed my experience tells me that tenants tend to make their decision 2-4 weeks in advance. I have, however, let properties long in advance but they tend to be 1bed apartments where the more organised of the couple (tends to be the female) would like to plan ahead. So they price ambitiously for 4 weeks to have satisfied themselves that they have "tried to get a better price." But what if they've missed out on an organised tenant? After all, do you want someone who makes last-minute decisions? I personally would rather have someone that is organised.
Do you know about deposit registration? Tenancy agreements? (no, not the ones downloaded for free off the internet) Repairing obligations? Gas Safety Regulations? EPC regulations? Right to Rent checks? These are just some of the things that you need to do when placing a tenant. If you don't, you could find yourself in a spot of bother. When you serve a Section 21 notice (a notice to end the tenancy) you will find that the notice is INVALID if you haven't sorted all the aforementioned! Having a professional estate agency take care of this is invaluable. A few % commission takes care of all the viewings, paperwork, legwork and numerous phone calls that comes with letting a property.
Linking back to the beginning, time is money. If it takes you 2 hours to carry out a viewing (adding in travel) and you need to do an average of 15 viewings the 30 hours you spent to save some money becomes less valuable. Add in the legal paperwork, referencing, right to rent checks and so forth you are probably talking closer to 50 hours of your work. Say you earn £80,000 per annum. Divide by 52 weeks and 40 hours and you're earning about £40/hr. 50 hours = £2000ish. I'd argue it's worth paying a professional agent that to benefit from their time, expertise, knowledge and near guarantee of a better result.
So to summarise - free (or low cost DIY) advertising websites are fantastic for getting rid of an old desk or sofa, probably not the place to advertise for the professional tenant you want for your rental property. They are possibly professional scam artists. And they know who to target. Do you know how to avoid them? Do you have systems for referencing? Can you afford to have them know more than you, and take advantage? I certainly can't. There are many great resources you can use to educate yourself, such as joining the RLA (I have a referral code, email me for a discount) and reading blogs and listening to podcasts, but unless you immerse yourself in it fully you are likely to miss things. I've been in property in South London for nearly 15 years and I know what a minefield it can be. If you would like help and advice on letting your property in South London then get in touch via email or come down to the Clapham Property Meet on 28 March and let's talk property.