D-I-Where? Where cash works hardest in your property

Making sure your property has the wow-factor, and meets the needs of today's tenant is key to making it in today’s market.

There are some amazing technologies and interior options available to make you property stand out, and there are certainly things that are well worth investing in – not only to make your property attractive to new tenants, but to make your investment work for you long term. However, as any landlord knows, there are also some elements that need regular updating, with replacements and repairs standard practice at the end of each tenancy.

So, what exactly should you be investing in, and where should you be saving the pennies in order to be able to allow for regular replacements?


Floor coverings

No matter how carefully your tenants live, flooring is always going to take a hammering in any home.

You should consider very carefully the floor coverings you choose to lay in your property, with special consideration in certain ‘high traffic’ areas.

There are two schools of thought when it comes to flooring – you could budget to replace flooring after every tenancy, assuming that there will be a high level of wear and tear that even the best cleaning team cannot put right. In this instance, you may look to install flooring on the cheaper end of the spectrum. Alternatively, you could choose tailor flooring solutions for each room of your property, and hope that you do not need to replace regularly.

The route you choose will be highly dependent on the type of property, and tenants that you let to – if you have young children, pets, or high foot traffic (multiple occupants for example) it is more likely that you are at risk of increased wear and tear, however, if you have a single long term tenant, or couple looking to make the property their home, it is possible that you may be safer investing in higher quality with a view to it lasting the duration! Take a view depending on your situation!

As a rule, most tenants will appreciate carpets in ‘cosy’ rooms, such as bedrooms and living rooms. It is important to consider neutral colour schemes that ‘fade’ into the background but do consider wear and tear- whilst a delicate cream wool carpet might look beautiful, it may not be the most practical!

Whilst carpets are great in cosy rooms, do consider alternatives in bathrooms and kitchens. Carpeted bathrooms are highly unpopular, pretty unhygienic and date your property very quickly. Carpets in kitchens cling onto cooking smells and are prone to falling victim to spills – you may find yourself replacing them with every tenancy whether you budgeted to or not! In these rooms, a smart lino or tiled floor is a great alternative, or even consider a wood laminate – however, do be careful if you are going down this route. Some wood laminates are not waterproof, so may not be fit for purpose in these rooms.

Also, think about more durable floor coverings in areas with heavy ‘foot traffic’. Everyone who comes and goes through the property is going to have to make use of the hallway, so this area is going to take the hit of some heavy wear and tear. Combined with the potential damage caused by muddy, wet shoes, this is an are that could end up looking shabby quickly. To combat this, you could consider a more durable floor covering, such as tiles, lino or wood laminate.


Kitchen units

According to Rightmove, adverts that display an image of the property’s kitchen as their primary picture garner the most interest, so this is definitely a room you need to spend some time on making look great!

However, once you factor in all of the elements of a fully functioning kitchen, you are looking at a really hefty investment to deliver a punchy product, and with your tenants using the kitchen on a daily basis, it is understandable that there will be some wear and tear to consider, so how can you make sure that your big investments continue to deliver tenancy after tenancy?

If you are buying a new kitchen from one of the main chain DIY stores, you will be familiar with the concept of buying the base units and the door fronts separately. This can be a pain when it comes to planning, but is a dream for the residential landlord! Once you have invested and fitted your solid base units, keep a note of the sizes of door fronts that you need, and should there be any damage to a unit, you can simply replace a door (which is usually not too pricey!) to get your kitchen looking ship shape again.

Most of the large chains have a standard range of kitchens that never change, maybe consider going for one of these, so you know that your units and doors will always be in stock should you need a replacement.

There are a huge array of gadgets and gizmos available to make your kitchen fabulous, but consider that the more you add, the more potential there is for things to go wrong, and then it’s you’re responsibility to fix the issue… Providing a modern, clean kitchen, with vital appliances and key white goods (fridge, freezer, washing machine, tumble dryer and dishwasher if you choose) is a real selling point, and will be attractive to most tenants. Whilst an induction hob may look cool, anything that requires your tenants to by a whole new set of pans in order to cook dinner, probably won’t go down too well in the long run…


Good boiler

As a landlord, you have a requirement to provide your tenant with heating and hot water – and understandably so!

Making sure you have a boiler in place that is up to the job is key and is one of the elements that you should really invest in heavily in order to ensure that you don’t pay for it in the long run, after all a temperamental boiler is a perfect example of a false economy. Continuing to throw good money after bad is a real waste, whilst the outlay of a decent boiler can be significant, you’ll save yourself a lot of cash, time and hassle in the long run, and your tenants really will thank you for it!

There has never been more options available, from conventional gas boilers, to electric, oil and LPG boilers. If you’re feeling daring, you could even explore generate your own heat with a wood pellet biomass boiler (although you may find it difficult to convince tenant of the benefits of this slightly fiddlier system…)

Depending on what you need your boiler to do, and the set up of your property, you should consider the best option for you and your tenants. Take specialist advice and explore all the options.

Whatever you choose, replacing an inefficient boiler with a more effective option is only going to be a positive step, and is an investment well worth making. And it can be a shrewd financial decision too - most new boilers come with a five-year guarantee., allowing you to breathe easy for a few years. If you contrast how much an inefficient, potentially untrustworthy boiler is currently costing you in repairs, against a five-year guarantee, the initial outlay may not look so scary!

In addition, the new MEES regulations that came in on April 1st mean that every property must be a minimum EPC rating of E in order to legally let to a new tenant. This is set to rise to minimum rating of C by 2030. A new boiler is a great way to hike you rating up, especially if your current one is not performing as it should.


Easy bathroom

Bathroom’s are a very personal room, and the requirements of this space differ hugely depending on your target market. Before you spend a penny (excuse the turn of phrase!) in this room, have a real think bout the type of tenant you think your property will appeal to.

If you have a home that is perfect for families, one of the key elements is a bath. Trying to wash a small, wriggling child in a shower cubical is a task nobody wants to undertake! If your property cannot fulfil this vital element, not matter how close it is to great schools, or how perfect the garden, many families will click on to the next property without a backwards glance.

If your property is more aimed at the young professional market, you may have different considerations. Young professionals are short on time, and keen on showers – with busy lives and hectic jobs, a long soak in the bath is a luxury may desire, but few can afford day-to-day, and the ability to jump in a quick, powerful shower in the morning is a real selling point – with en-suites even better if you are selling shared accommodation.

Both markets have some thing in common though. Bathrooms that are easy to clean, well ventilated and with storage space will appeal to everyone.

But where should you spend your money? A simple white suite is an inoffensive, clean-looking backdrop to any bathroom, and is a good investment for your property. Similarly to the kitchen, most large DIY stores have simple sets, that allow you to buy the entire matching suite, and should you need to replace a cracked sink or broken cistern lid, you can do so – safe in the knowledge that it’ll match the rest of your bathroom.

Neutral tiles will help make the bathroom look clean, bright and inviting, and useful storage, such as a mirrored wall unit is an extravagance, but will be really appreciated by tenants!

You should budget to replace key items such as toilet seats, loo brushes (if you provide them) and essential maintenance such as replacing sealant around the bath/shower at the end of every tenancy.


Safety features

Whilst making sure that your property looks the part and can stand up to the rigours of everyday tenant life, one of the areas that you absolutely cannot scrimp on investing in your property is the vital safety feature you need to ensure that the home is safe for your tenants.

There are an increasing number of safety features that you as a landlord need to be responsible for, with the obvious – such as CO and smoke alarms – to some that are a little less well known.

These include legislation surrounding blinds and window coverings. Your tenants use them daily, and you may have fitted them without a second thought, however if you supply the window coverings in your property you must ensure that the device complies with the British Standards Institution published standards in February 2014 (based on European Standards). This addressed the risks posed to children by internal blinds and corded window coverings and applies to blinds which include cords or chains that have a hanging loop which could pose a hazard. This must be considered in properties where there are children aged between 0 and 42 months.

All compliant devices will be fitted with a safety measure designed to prevent accidental strangulation of a young child by the looped cord, however, if you have existing blinds or tracks in place with non-compliant cords, don’t worry – there is an answer! If they have any long dangling loops, you must fit a ‘cord tidy’ to the wall or windowsill, securing the loose cord, prevent any potential accidents.

Additionally, you should also be taking care if you let your property as a furnished rental. Many tenants, especially in large cities, love renting furnished properties, so it is understandable that you choose to do so but do have a think about the furniture that is in place in the property.

You must make sure that all furniture (including soft furnishings) is fully compliant with all up-to-date fire safety regulations Furniture and Furnishings (Fire Safety) Regulations 1988 (as amended in 1989, 1993 and 2010), and meets the following criteria:

  • Filling materials must meet specified ignition requirements
  • Upholstery composites must be cigarette resistant
  • Covers must be match resistant
  • A permanent label must be fitted to every item of new furniture (with the exception of mattresses and bed-bases)
  • A display label must be fitted to every item of new furniture at the point of sale (with the exception of mattresses, bed-bases, pillows, scatter cushions, seat pads, loose covers sold separately from the furniture and
  • stretch covers)
  • The first supplier of domestic upholstered furniture in the UK must maintain records for five years to prove compliance

If you are concerned that any of your furniture does not meet these requirements, it is wise to remove it from the property and replace it with a new item that is fully compliant. Remember, any items in the loft, or stored in the garden shed/garage also must be considered.

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