The rental market in Cambridge is changing rapidly. Renting is no longer the short term stop gap it once was and tenants are becoming more demanding. If they are renting a whole property, they expect it to be maintained and presented as well as if they owned it themselves. And rooms in shared houses do not escape this weight of expectation.
Even for students, the days of damp, dirty and cramped digs are long over. Only seven percent of University of Cambridge students now live in private rented accommodation, most are housed in College-provided blocks with en-suite bathrooms and all mod cons. Anglia Ruskin University now dominates student demand in Cambridge but if you want to find the best student tenants you will need to offer standards that come close to the new purpose-built rooms on offer throughout the city.
Making initial impression count can make all the difference when it comes to attracting tenants. As a landlord, having a ‘they can take us as they find us’ attitude rarely results in you achieving your rental expectations.
So here are my top tips for the things you must check before you allow potential tenants to come round.
1. Providing fast broadband and decent cable/satellite are now basic pre-requisites for mellenials. Once upon a time services simply covered gas, electricity and water but wi-fi and digital television are just as important. If a tenant can see they are up and running, they know they won't have the hassle of sorting them out.
2. Kitchens and bathrooms are key. TV Property programmes and swanky boutique hotels have raised the bar on the quality of kitchens and bathrooms and this is changing tenant expectations. Think about installing mid range appliances in the kitchen rather than the cheapest. You don't need to lay travertine everywhere but quality tiling and worktops will make a good impression. If you cannot do anything else, at the very least make sure kitchens and bathrooms are spotless.
3. Think like a tenant. Now is the time to look at your property with fresh eyes. Check for peeling paint in the bathrooms, polish those light switches and tighten the screws to fix those rattling door knobs. You need to show your property has been looked after and is loved. Tenants will make a snap judgement about your attitude to future maintenance issues based on what they see on a viewing.
4. The entrance is the keystone of your kerb appeal. If the front door needs a lick of paint, choose a tasteful colour. Make sure the outside lights work. Even if you don't own the areas around the entrance it is in your interest to check that the path is clear and move the bins away from the front of the property. Make the entrance hall a welcoming space. Nothing ruins the first impression more than a crowded hallway where you have to fight your way past coats, shoe racks and piles of post.
5. If your property has a garden don't neglect this important space. An overgrown jungle suggests that you don't care about the property and could leave the impression that you won't sty on top of the maintenance during the tenancy. Pruning, trimming and landscaping will make sure your garden presents a positive first impression. And now is not the time to argue with the local council about who mows the verge outside your property. Swallow your pride and do it yourself (at least while viewings are taking place).
6. If the sun isn’t streaming through the windows, the right lighting can make all the difference. Poor lighting can make your home feel dark and drab so install brighter modern lights to make your home seem sunny, cheerful and up to date.
7. And keep on top of the cleaning! Even if the property has been professionally cleaned after the previous tenants moved out, you may need to do periodic top up cleans. While some potential tenants can ignore stains and dust, most cannot and will imagine themselves living in the space, as you present it. If your property looks (and smells) clean, prospective tenants will be far more likely to see the potential.