I managed a 3-bed buy-to-let property in Uckfield for over 2 years. The property has since been sold. The whole process from finding and purchasing it, to the end of the tenancy proved to be a steep learning curve that I’m sure would be helpful to share with anyone thinking of doing the same.

Looking back, there are lots of things that I would do differently, some of which would have led to a very different and better outcome. Hindsight!

So, let’s start with:

What to consider when looking to purchase a buy-to-let property:

  • Location – probably the most important thing. Try to choose one that’s in a popular area, close to a school, within walking distance of a town and has good travel links.
  • Be realistic – see what your budget can buy and stick to it. Make sure you keep in reserve money to cover legal fees, estate agency fees and potential property repairs.
  • If you can afford it, consider a family home. A two or three-bedroom property (in Uckfield) will give you a monthly rental income of potentially at least £300 more than a one bed flat. Also, if you purchase a flat you (the landlord) will be responsible for paying the ground rent and any other maintenance fees.
  • Don’t be afraid to negotiate the asking price. You might be pleasantly surprised, especially if the property has been on the market for a while.
  • Survey – if you are worried about potential problems, it’s best to ask for a more detailed survey. Be sure to find a surveyor with good online reviews. Don’t assume that a leaflet you’ve picked up from the estate agent (or anywhere) is from a reputable company. If the survey does highlight problems, investigate further. Don’t wait till after the sale completes…then it’s too late.
  • Solicitor – it makes sense to choose a reputable solicitor too. Don’t be coerced into choosing one that you don’t know, even if they are recommended by the agent. 
  • Check the sums – don’t assume that invoices are correct. Unfortunately we had to challenge the solicitor’s invoices three times before they got it right! The same applied to the final completion invoice! 

After purchase:

  • If the property needs upgrading, or requires work, think about the quality of what’s required. There is no need to spend a lot of money on a new kitchen and bathroom, if they’re current serviceable. The same applies to decorating and carpets. The important thing is that everything works, is clean and in good condition. Two upgrades that are worthwhile – will make your property more desirable, and will add value when you sell it eventually – are double glazing and central heating. If you have a gas fire and/or central heating, you will need a Gas Safety Certificate. You also need to purchase landlord and contents insurance for peace of mind.
  • If the property does need work, inside or out, do it before you show any potential tenants around, as this can be off-putting.

Tenant Finding

  • Do you want to use an agency or manage it all yourself? Tenant-finding is easy, particularly using social media, however a good quality ‘perfect’ tenant with a faultless credit rating and references is not.
  • If you choose to manage your property yourself, be very choosy when selecting tenants. An excellent credit rating is a must, as is rent affordability. If you are OK with accepting tenants on housing benefit, that’s up to you, but be very wary. Although it’s a difficult choice, it’s better not to accept pets as they can damage your property (new carpets is a common consequence and will cost £100s).
  • If you choose an agent to help you find a tenant and/or manage your property, make sure you look at online reviews. Agencies usually have a scale of charges, depending on what you require. Even if you do go down the agency route, don’t expect it to be trouble-free!
  • It’s better not to let a friend become a tenant. It could damage your relationship if you have problems down the line.

Tenancy advice

  • If you’re managing the property yourself, create an inventory, including photos.
  • Inspect the property on a regular basis – at least 6-monthly.
  • Keep on the right side of your tenant will help it all to run smoothly.
  • If there are any maintenance issues, find out what caused them. For example a blocked drain is usually caused by mis-use and is the tenant’s responsibility to unblock it!

 Get all of these points above right and you should have a problem-free tenancy. 

If you are a landlord looking for advice, call Sue on 01825 761890 or email sue@sjemarketing.co.uk

 

Sue Edwards
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