As a landlord, receiving notice from tenants that they intend to leave one of your properties in December can feel like the nightmare before Christmas. The last thing you want at this expensive time is a property sitting empty over the festive period and into the New Year. What can you do about finding new tenants over the festive period? Read on to find out..
The good news about finding tenants in December
The good news is that potential tenants are out there each December. In fact, although the winter months usually see a dip in tenant enquiries, the tenant quality increases because enquiries come from people who are genuinely motivated to move.
- December is often when people take time off work to look for somewhere to live, especially parents who have to coincide house hunting with school holidays to make the most of their annual leave. If your property is suitable for a family and you have good local schools nearby then it’s worth mentioning this in any ads for your property.
- At this time of year too, people may have Christmas bonuses from work to cover their deposit or have been notified about a potential work relocation in the New Year so their thoughts turn to finding somewhere new to live.
- Generally speaking, people who are looking for a new home in December are serious about moving. If they weren’t, they’d probably put off their search until further into the New Year so that they can just enjoy some downtime with friends and family. This means that when you do receive enquiries, they probably won’t be from time wasters.
- On the flipside, be careful not to take in the first potential tenant who gets in touch without doing the proper background and credit checks first. You want a tenant who is serious about house hunting but not desperate.
- If you need to find a tenant towards the end of the month, Boxing Day and the ‘limbo’ week between Christmas and New Year might be the right time.
- Boxing Day is one of the busiest property search days of the year because people are coming down from the Christmas high and thinking about New Year’s resolutions and how to make changes to their lives. If they’ve been thinking about moving, this might be when they take action.
- Let’s not forget too that, because many landlords and property management agencies take time off over Christmas and New Year, there’s less competition when you list a property for rent.
Timing contract end dates differently
To avoid having to fill a property over Christmas, the best solution is to try and avoid a tenancy coming to an end towards the close of November and into December. If you have a tenant who’s moving in on a six-month contract in June, you might want to discuss extending the tenancy agreement to seven or eight months to ensure that no-one has to think about moving over Christmas.
Or, if someone moves in this December on a 12-month contract, you might consider making it a 13-month contract so that their tenancy is secure until the following January.
When a tenant does hand in their notice, you could even offer to extend the contract for a month or two if it would help them put off their property search until the New Year. Your tenant will probably appreciate knowing that they can enjoy the festive period without having to add house hunting and moving to their to-do list.
Planning ahead for the Christmas period
If you know that your tenant intends to leave in December or that it could be a possibility even if they haven’t discussed it with you yet, then it’s important to plan ahead and think about the following:
- Do you have the time or want to manage the tenant search, checks and referencing yourself or would you prefer to use a property management service?
- Will your chosen property management provider be open over Christmas and New Year?
- How and where will you/they market your property?
- Who will be available to take viewings?
- Does the property need cleaning or redecorating between tenants? If so, how long will this take and are there trades people that you can book for December to take care of this?
- If your property does need to sit empty for a month or two, do you have enough money saved to cover your mortgage and other outgoings? A good rule of thumb is to save at least 10% of each month’s rent to cover issues such as vacancies, evictions and non-payment of rent. Hopefully, you won’t need this money but it’s good to know there’s a back up.
Hints and tips for renting out a property over Christmas
Availability: If you decide to use a property management service then you should discuss with the agent whether they will be working over Christmas and New Year. Knowing somebody is available to take care of unexpected problems such as maintenance issues will allow landlords to relax.
Conducting viewings: If you or your property management company can offer viewings during this time, it might be worth stating ‘View this property over the Christmas period’ in your listings and ads. This protects everyone’s time. When potential tenants come for viewings, try to make sure that the heating has been on for a while and that all the lights in the property are working. A warm and light house feels much more welcoming than somewhere that is cold, dark and has obviously been sitting empty for a while.
Ensure you’re compliant: Also, remember to take steps to protect your property from frozen pipes, especially if it might be vacant in December, and ensure that your annual gas checks have been completed and the boiler is in tip-top condition.
Consider rent incentives: Some landlords consider offering an initial incentive to tenants thinking of moving during December. This might be a reduction in the first month’s rent for a quick move or even a fixed amount of money towards the first quarter’s utility bills. Another incentive is to ask whether potential tenants would like to decorate the house themselves in exchange for a small reduction in their monthly rent. We wouldn’t usually advise this course of action if it can be avoided but, for landlords who really don’t want their property sitting empty, incentives can be an option.
Get the marketing right: When it comes to marketing your property, think about features that would appeal to people who are house hunting in December. Use pictures that show the house in summer, the garden in full bloom or light streaming in through the windows. As we’ve mentioned above, mention local schools/catchment areas and family-friendly amenities – anything that will help people to imagine living in the property all year round.
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