How to Reduce TimewasteR New letting Enquiries – Part One of Two: the Advert
This is the first of two articles on how to reduce timewaster letting enquiries.
In this part, I explain how the inclusion of certain wording in the text of your letting advert can minimise the number of enquiries from people who are totally unsuitable as tenants for your properties.
We use OpenRent, an online letting agent, to get our adverts up on the main portals like Rightmove and Zoopla. Other online agents are available, of course.
Of course, our adverts all have good photos and work to “sell the benefits of the property”. This is an essential part of the job – you need to write good copy and good photos are a must too. But as well as the salesy stuff, you must cut out the timewasters.
With online adverts, you have unlimited space, so use it to help prevent you being submerged by a ton of enquiries that you might struggle to respond to and which will lead to nothing anyway.
In my view it is essential to have the following points covered in the text of your advert.
State what furnishings are in the property and what isn’t. Ours are furnished with just “white goods” – so we make that clear. We say, “this property comes with a fridge freezer, washing machine and cooking facilities. We provide no other furnishings.”
Number of Occupants
State the number of people for whom the property is suitable for. For our two/three bed houses, we may say something like “this property is for a single person OR a couple and one other adult OR a couple with one child over 12 OR a couple with two children under 5”.
The reason is that for most of our two/three-bedroom properties, we think they are too small for two adults and two bigger children. They are also too small for four adults.
Why? Well, we don’t want people putting up beds in the lounge. For us, as ethical landlords, that is no way to live. And we don’t want them leaving in just a year because the kids have grown and the tenants suddenly find the place is now too small for them. Also, too many people in a small space can lead to condensation, damp and mould issues – another thorny, hard to solve problem.
We state when the property is available from and when it must be let by. So, we may say “the property is only available to let from say 1st October and we want a let to start no later than 5th October”. This knocks out the many timewasters who want to move in much earlier – which is no good to us if the property is not ready yet (either because we are refurbishing it or the current tenants are still living there). Of course, the advert will (or should) state the availability date somewhere in a separate box, but it does not hurt to have this repeated in the text too.
The reason we also have a “no later than” date for the new tenancy start is because it is also no good for us someone saying they would like to start the tenancy from say three months’ time, which then leave us with say a two-month void period. We just don’t do void periods with no rent coming in! People who use crappy letting agents suffer voids, people who use good letting agents or who do the Tenant Find bit themselves do not!
Affordability and References
State “We will check references, request a deposit, proof of ID, proof of residency, proof of income/ affordability and we check affordability/ solvency by asking for proof via sight of bank statements and asking your permission to run a credit check”.
We used to add, “Your combined income must be at least 2.35 times the rent”, but we have now realised that a great many people are seemingly unable to do basic maths – and we were in fact rejecting about 30% of people who came through because their income was well below the required level. So, instead we now calculate what the actual income requirement is. So, if the rent is £1000 per month, we state that their “monthly income must be at least £2,350 and annual income must be at least £28,200″.
(Side point – We are considering upping our ratio to an income of 2.5 times the rent, more in line with what most letting agents require – to allow more headroom for tenants to cope with higher energy costs caused by NATO’s war with Russia and Net (Nut) Zero Carbon.
EPC and Council Tax
State the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating in the text too, plus also the council tax band and how much that works out at in £s per month and per annum. This is useful information for people to help with their budgeting. Of course, you will still get people asking what the electricity and gas costs – a rather dumb question, I think, that depends on how warm and light one likes things. But funny questions are what comes as standard in any public facing role.
We also state “We do not accept guarantors”. There are detailed reasons why we don’t which I have written extensively about at other posts.
Housing Benefit / Pets
One thing we don’t say in the text, (because we are now under the impression we can no longer legally do this), was to state: “No Housing benefit” and “No pets”. But we see that OpenRent still have a box that allows landlords to tick that they don’t want either of these categories.
I am not sure how they are still able to do this legally. Answers on a postcard please!
But, as the “No Pet” option is there, we do tick the No Pets box, (I see it as OpenRent’s issue not mine), but we don’t but this in the text.
We don’t tick the “No Housing Benefit” box because as far as I am concerned, if someone who is dependent on housing benefit can show they can somehow afford the property, I am happy to consider them. Saying no to people on this ground just seems unethical to me. Usually, as it happens, they can’t afford it, but if they have a load of savings, we will look at this and consider that as part of our assessment, notwithstanding the fact that they did not pass on the income requirement.
OpenRent have a facility that can be switched on in which they ask applicants a series of questions based on what you have stated as your requirements. This is helpful, but unfortunately it does not (yet) include a lot of the items I have listed here.
Even after putting all these statements in our adverts in the text, we still get a lot of enquiries from people who fail on any number of these matters. I will explain in Part Two how I deal with this.
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