If there's one thing that can take big bites out of your annual profit, it's letting a property sit there earning nothing. And while the occasional month of vacancy will happen, there's plenty you can do to reduce how long – and how often – you're left out of pocket.
The first step towards tackling void periods is accepting that they happen. Don't be overly optimistic in your plans for the year ahead: let your budget allow for one or two months of vacancy. If you can turn a profit on ten months' rent each year, it'll be a pleasant bonus for those years when you take the full twelve.
If you've got an empty property in a neighbourhood that's mostly occupied, there's usually a rational explanation. It might be that your asking price is too high compared to similar local properties, or that you haven't chosen the best lettings agent. So fix these issues directly: try a slight reduction in price, or find better ways to market your product.
Advertise your property everywhere you can: online, offline, through agents and by yourself. You could even enlist a few different letting agents at once – let them compete to be the first to place a tenant. It might also be worth simply relaxing a few rules: allow pets or offer individual rooms on separate contracts, for example.
If your budget allows it, try including extra incentives with your asking price. Fixed bills – such as broadband or council tax – can easily be factored into the rent, and make for a much more simple and attractive deal for new tenants. Alternatively, you could consider reducing the initial deposit, or offering a discount on the first month or two. It's still better than getting no rent at all from an empty place.
Properties that have been on the market for a long time tend to stagnate. People looking for a place to rent will probably assume there's something wrong with the place. It's especially apparent for properties listed on sites like Gumtree: the date is right there, and searchers usually start by looking at the most recent properties first. So take some new photos, re-write the descriptions and create a brand new advert for the same place.
If you do end up stuck with a void period, take the opportunity to make the improvements you couldn't make when it was occupied. Redecorate, upgrade the furniture or install that new shower. A little spending now might mean less money lost later – and you might also be able to ask for more rent.
As a landlord, you're a business owner – so work on your customer service. If tenants ask for improvements, do your best to make them. If they need advice or information, do your best to provide it. Don't intrude, but be available and helpful. And remember, it's not just a great home that makes people stick around. People can grow quite attached to a great landlord , too.
And for the unavoidable occasions when your property will lie empty, why not protect your investment with loss of rent insurance ?