So you have a multi-let property (HMO), you’re doing viewings but it's no one is snatching it up? This can be puzzling (and frustrating) for many landlords and agents. However, there’s usually a bit of science behind it. Let's take a look at some ideas surrounding this. Please note, these notes are specifically for the professional market.
Firstly, if you are getting relevant individuals to view, it shows your advertisements are working - so that is the first step we can tick off. If you are not even getting individuals to view, we’ll be putting up a blog post about how to change this in the future.
The next question to ask is “how many viewings should i need to do before its taken?” Well, this really depends on a number of variables:
How many viewings has it taken in the past? If letting for the first time, how quick have other similar units faired?
Has the property changed since then?
Has the market changed since then?
For question 1 (How many viewings has it taken in the past?), this can vary quite widely depending on the area. For instance, in some areas we have a ratio of 4 viewings to every 1 taken. In other areas, this can be up to around 8 viewings. If you know this room is usually taken in 4 viewings, and you are reaching double figures - this should sound alarm bells.
This brings us nicely on the Question 2 - Has the property changed since then?
We have found changes in the property to be the most likely cause of a slow letting. Most common reasons in order of likelihood:
Appearance of room has changed.
The room seems a lot smaller due to current tenant belongings. We find many rooms let immediately after a tenant has vacated. Understandably when a room is packed full of belongings, its challenging for tenants to visualise how all their own belongings will fit. This is a huge one.
The room is messy due to current tenant and can easily put off prospects.
The room has not been dressed (if it was initially or in photos).
There is room looks more dated or has had issues - e.g. signs of condensation mould, former leaks or more furniture has been added (taking away valuable ‘space’ in the room).
Appearance of house is communal areas is off-putting
Communal areas are dirty. This will deter many professional tenants, regardless of how nice the bedroom is. No one wants to live with slobs - unless they’re on themself!
Communal areas have random junk/furniture around. E.g. broken chairs, boxes, clothes racks and just random crap ‘on show’. This takes up space and makes the property look uncared for.
Similar to the section above, any signs of maintenance issues/leaks or a generally ‘worn’ property will only attract a narrower crowd.
There is a mix mash of professional and non-professional tenants. Students can still be acceptable, especially mature students. However, mixing professional tenants with DSS/LHA should be completely avoided - it's either one or the other, never combined. We haven’t had this issue in the past but just a note for those who may be considering it.
The prospective tenants either feel unwelcomed or have little idea about the housmates. Living side by side with housemates for months or years is a big deal. Therefore, its the landlords responsibility to ensure prospects feel welcome and can paint a picture of the housemates. This is why we ask all our houseshare tenants for a short bio when they move-in. This includes their profession, hobbies, interests - anything. We can then share this with prospective tenants and certainly increases conversion ratios.
Similar to the points above, if the potential housemates are of a wide ranging age or there are significant differences in employment, this can also put off prospects. Commonalities are comfortable - especially when moving to a brand new place.
Lastly, question 3 - Has the market changed since then?
We have a great example of our own for this one. We have a HMO that we’ve been managing for around 5 years. At the start, we could not fill the rooms quick enough - they were the best in the area without a doubt.
However, over the years, we had more and more investors converting properties to professional HMOs. This has now resulted in a significant surplus of high-quality rooms. In other words, over saturation. When this happens, tenants can be a lot more choosy in terms of location and rent - as there are lovely rooms everywhere. This is an example where a market change can impact your conversion ratio.