Sunday, June 29, 2014

Four Unforgettable Lessons Learned As A New Landlord

Six weeks after completion and still no offers to rent my flat. With my own rent to pay as well as the mortgage, I was getting anxious.

My flat was advertised on all of the property websites and my ad was getting hits. As weeks passed I repainted, repaired and cleaned everywhere possible. But still no offers.

I chased the letting agent for feedback and the usual comments were "it's a competitive market" or "we've had a few interested people". He was letting properties to sell themselves and his focus was the renter's pick of the lot. That way for him, the strike rate for the work is high. For me, it's another week of waiting to be picked.

I realised that when an agent doesn't give feedback specific to my flat, it's because they're not getting it for me.

Lesson 1: If asking for feedback doesn't work, switch agents or use multiple agencies.

Then I put an ad on Gumtree to push things along. Only two people replied, one who wanted a week's holiday rental and another who wanted a 2 year lease.

When I showed the second person my flat, I asked why she was so keen. She said she signed another lease earlier but it was reneged because the landlord had dementia.

She said the flat was perfect and was so agreeable to every my every word, it aroused suspicion. Especially about how much money we'd both save if I didn't use an agent. I wasn't serious but she grabbed me with excitement as soon as the words fell out of my mouth.

She wanted me to change my mind about using an agent. I said I'd think about it.

The next morning I woke up with a bad feeling. Something wasn't right and proof was when she emailed her current employment reference. It was in Word format and bizarrely discloses a number of high profile clients who she allegedly worked for. I ignored the contact details provided and found the referee on Linkedin. He hadn't worked at the said company since 2003.

Intrigued by how badly this woman was trying to fool me, I rang the referee at his current company. When I said her name there was a chuckle and a pause. "Run away. She's a nasty piece of work."

Employed at the company for only six weeks, she misappropriated funds, filed false discrimination cases and got deported. This explains her story about being transferred from their New York office.

I realised that both Gumtree respondents were potential scammers. Their circumstances were suspect. What kind of American holidayer wants to stay in an unfurnished flat? How likely is a lease is reneged because of dementia?

Lesson 2: If it's too convenient to be true, then it's probably a lie. Beware of Gumtree, aka Scumtree.

Week seven rolled on and I finally switched letting agents. I should have done it sooner.

Within three days I got an offer with a requirement for furniture. I told the agent I'll decide after the weekend in case there was a more attractive offer.

Strangely no one viewed the flat that Saturday morning. I knew this because I was waiting for a gas man to arrive and he didn't.

Later the agent rang to say the offer had increased by five pounds and there were no other offers. Interest had dried up despite numerous viewings early in the week.

While looking for that extra 10 or 20 pounds in rent is good for you, it's not much more for the agent. The agent would rather spend their time on new properties.

Lesson 3: If they think you've received a reasonable offer, they will hold off on marketing until you accept or turn it down. Be decisive on all offers.

The following Monday I accepted the offer and ordered the furniture. The tenant wanted to move in as early as Wednesday and I was happy to get off the marketing roller coaster.

The agent voluntarily offered to let in another gas man to do the gas appliance certification and the furniture delivery men in while I was at work.

When it came to signing the agency's terms and conditions, I pointed out that he previously agreed to match the first agents' rate. He was charging more now so why?

The new rate was no mistake. When he offered to match the first agency's rate, it was on the basis that I choose him as sole agent-at the time. He never told me before. I should have signed the T&Cs before he started looking for a tenant. Now that one is ready to move in, I was over a barrel.

When I proposed to meet him in the middle, he expressed how insulted he was. He could have just said no but this was the oldest negotiation trick in the book. When all else fails, proclaim indignity.

He said I was unappreciative of his efforts, waiting all day for workmen which should have been my responsibility.

He argued that after finding a tenant so quickly, I shouldn't be paying him the rate of a "one man band", namely the agent I chose over him. He knew I had no offers for six weeks.

I was kicking myself for disclosing too much information. Despite what agents tell you, they are not on your side. And if that wasn't enough to get his point across, he went on further to say that "our company will be bigger than Foxtons next year". Like I give a toss.

Lesson 4: Never tell the agent more than they need to know. It can be used against you. 

So I signed the terms and conditions and the lease. Two days later I emailed the agent to ask when the rent and deposit will be paid to my account. That was yesterday and I'm still waiting for the answer.

I'm a first time home owner and now a landlord. It feels like I've aged ten years and this is the beginning of landlord life.

Had similar stories happen to you? Share your experiences!

Monday, June 2, 2014

DIY Painting the Bank Holiday Weekend

The bedroom of my newly acquired flat is sky blue and the kitchen is lime green. The walls have as much character as white filler so they had to be repainted.
On the bank holiday weekend Grant and I bought our equipment and painted. Firstly we washed down the walls with sugar soap and let me tell you the stuff is amazing. After that, the walls looks so clean we almost decided not to paint at all.

I've never painted before and thanks to the encouragement of my girlfriend, I decided to DIY. Here's a few tips I've learned from the experience:

1) It takes longer than you think. Mistakes will be made. You have to clean them up as you go or otherwise someone's going to walk on the carpet with wet paint on their shoes.

2) You have to be really organised. Have all equipment ready and jobs assigned. A step ladder makes painting easier even if you're tall, Put masking tape on all edges where you don't want to paint. Have no more than two people painting in a room so you're not interrupted by anyone else's work and you're not in their way.

3) You will probably buy more paint and equipment than you need. But that's good because you have it all on hand as long and you can return what you don't use later.

We were knackered by the end of the weekend. The night before the last day of painting I sent a "please help" text to my super trooper girlfriend Kim who woke me the next morning to say she would help out.

We eventually decided the living room did'nt need to be repainted but Kim got straight into painting the kitchen like a trojen. That's the way to paint. No faffing, as she says. Goodbye lime green walls.

It was a fun project and very messy. The flat looks a hundred times better now!