By Ben Shaw, CEO, HouseME, Smart Property Rental for Landlords and Tenants.
Reading Time: 3 Minutes
So your current tenants are moving out and you’ve put your rental property on the market. You may even have had a few viewings but no one is committing quite yet and your vacancy date is rapidly approaching. How can you speed up finding that perfect new tenant?
At HouseME, when tenants lose interest in a property, we always ask them to give us a reason. With data on tens of thousands of users, we’ve been able to build up some unique insights into tenant preferences in the rental market. Here are some of the main reasons why tenants might not be choosing your property and what you can do about it:
- The rental price is higher than the rest of the rental market.
Your property may be overpriced relative to the current rental market prices – even if you successfully found tenants at that price before. Why? Because since 2018, lots of new property developments have become available in South Africa, which means that tenants are spoiled for choice. To compete for these precious tenants, other landlords are dropping their prices, which means that the average rental price for a property like yours may be lower than last year.
What can you do about it? Spend 15 minutes researching prices of similar properties in your neighbourhood, by searching on online marketplaces such as Gumtree. Then try lowering your price just a little, to see if you get more responses. This will have the effect of making your property visible to more tenants, because many tenants search within a specific price bracket when they browse properties online, your property will only show up on their screen if it is within their price bracket.
Even if it means slightly less income for you during this lease, it won’t be forever – the rental market is bound to improve again in the coming years. Besides, you could be saving yourself the higher cost of having your property fall vacant for a month or more. Vacancy rates in SA have gone up by 60% since 2017, so this is a real risk.
- The photos don’t look appealing enough.
A whopping 96% of tenants indicate that the photos on an advert are the number one factor in their decision to view a property or not. And if you look at some of the property listings out there, it’s amazing how often the photos are really not that inviting.
So how can you improve your photos? If you know anyone with a fancy camera, it is definitely worth borrowing it instead of using your smartphone. Make sure that all your photos are taken in landscape and not portrait, as most property sites are set up to display landscape photos. Always take the photos during daytime, if possible during bright weather. Make sure you have some snaps of the outside, garden, or communal facilities, as greenery and open spaces are often appealing. For indoor photos, spend a bit of time clearing up any clutter. Even though the tenant will obviously decorate the place in their own way, people make snap judgements based on how appealing the interior looks today. Lastly, make sure you have plenty of photos from different angles. This will further peak the curiosity of tenants, and increase the number of viewings you’ll get.
- They are finding a property elsewhere faster
Tenants typically look for properties on multiple marketplaces, and even if they express interest in your property, they are also viewing any number of other properties in the next few days. Especially if they are under time pressure, tenants are more likely to go for the property where things move quickly: viewings, applications, etc.
Make sure you’re available to host viewings often, so that you don’t make tenants wait too long to see your property. Remember, every day that you make them wait is a chance for them to fall in love with a different home. If you are using an agency, expensive or cumbersome application processes can also be a barrier. With a national average application fee of R980, 53% of tenants have decided against applying for a property because the application fee was too high.
Landlords who use HouseME have an added advantage, because their listing page includes the available viewing times chosen by the landlord, and allows tenants to book in directly instead of waiting to get in touch. HouseME also offers one of the lowest application fees in SA, as well as a simple online application form to minimise hassle.
- The property does not indicate whether or not it is pet-friendly.
Pet owners are desperate for pet-friendly properties. They won’t bother viewing a property unless they are sure beforehand that their furry friends will be welcome. Some online marketplaces even allow tenants to filter property listings based on whether pets are allowed or not, and they won’t even look at the ads of properties that don’t show up in those search results.
If you don’t mind pets living in your property, be sure to mention that on your ad. If you forget to do so, you might be missing out on tons of interested tenants. Even if only some pets are allowed (for example, small dogs but not large dogs), it’s worth mentioning that. Sometimes pet rules are up to the complex your property is in – take the time to find out and adapt your ad accordingly. Even if you’re concerned about the damage that certain pets might do to your property, it could still be worth the cost of repairs (some of which may qualify as being for the tenant’s account) at the end of the lease, in exchange for reliable tenants moving in sooner.
- There is not enough parking
One of the frequent reasons tenants don’t end up picking an otherwise gorgeous property, is because it doesn’t satisfy their parking needs. Unfortunately, this one is not always within your control. Even if you can’t offer covered parking, it may be worth asking neighbours in your complex or street if there are any vacant lots for rent. That way, if a tenant enquires about parking, you can give them some options instead of being forced to turn them away.
- The property is poorly maintained
Another reason tenants frequently cite for passing over a property is that the property appears to be poorly maintained.
If there are any defects to your property, you may be obliged under the Rental Housing Act to fix them as a landlord. If that’s the case for you, you might as well get them fixed before you snap the photos and show tenants around your property, thereby increasing the chance of them deciding to move in.
- The property description is too short or too vague
Lastly, remember that tenants very much judge the book on its cover. The more you elaborate on the property description of your advert, the better. Include things like what floor it is on, and whether it has a balcony, a view, a lift, or security. And describe the neighbourhood: is it close to any public transport or shops? In short, you’re going to want your description to amply describe anything that cannot be seen on the photos themselves.
In conclusion, properties that are well-advertised and well-priced fly off the shelves. You’ll know you’re in a good place if you’ve had at least five responses and 1-2 viewings within the first week. If not, don’t panic – try these seven tips to get more traction, and soon you’ll be able to relax for the next 12 months with the perfect tenant in your property. Best of luck!
About The Author:
Ben Shaw is the CEO and Co-founder of Proptech Company, HouseME, Winner of Seedstars World’s Best Start-Up Company in Cape Town.
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HouseME’s Co-Founders, Ben Shaw and Kyle Bradley.