You’ve seen pictures of them on Spareroom or RightMove, the incredible low watermark of rooms which agents and landlords think will attract the right kind of tenant. You know the kind I mean – a scruffy looking blue checked divan plonked in the middle of the room complete with mattress that’s either had a two ton weight fall on it from a great height, or a fat slob use it as a permanent reclining sofa from which to gorge on Monster Munch and Pot Noodle, whilst simultaneously watching trash TV. Furniture which even the local recycling centre would reject due to it being a health hazard, and vertical blinds with an obligatory slat missing or loose, left to trail over the windowsill and onto the floor. Perhaps a stain or two in the middle of the carpet (one shaped very much like the base of an iron), and the faint shadow of a damp patch lower down in the corner of the room (don’t get too close for a sniff or you might discover what caused the damp).
As Loyd Grossman’s famously used to say ‘WHO lives in a room like this’? Well no-one actually cos he moved out to find somewhere better. Where the landlord could be bothered to undertake some basic maintenance and where he treated his tenants with some respect. And in turn the tenants treated the house with some respect.
As landlords and investors the standard that we maintain in our properties, that we are prepared to set and live by, will shape the existence of those we rent to. I am not making excuses for the fat slobs who cannot be bothered to get a job and live on tax-payer benefits. They have to live somewhere too. But the vast majority of tenants are not like that. They are decent, hardworking, perhaps a bit uneducated and ignorant, but actually like you and me, in wanting a safe, pleasant and cared-for place to call home.
But YOU are the one who sets the standards. You are the one who creates the rooms, the spaces, the places for people to live in. So it is your responsibility to set the tone, the rules, the parameters. Generally speaking, good rooms get good tenants and higher rents and less hassle. But you have to be prepared to invest well to start with, to set up systems for maintenance, repair and renewal, or to find an agent who will do this on your behalf. For without realising it, you are having an impact (albeit small) on someone else’s life. It means being responsible, aware and proactive. It doesn’t however have to mean a lot of expense.
Our mantra is ‘low cost or no-cost solutions have to be found’ before anything else is sought. The most expensive part of maintenance and repair is people power, for which you have to budget. But if you are to have rooms that will let out quickly, retain tenants for long periods, and maintain the fabric of the building, then yes the quality of your rooms DOES really matter.