Let’s get one thing straight: the market, not the landlord, dictates the rent. Forget about asking £100 a month more just because your mortgage rate is up. Laid-back tenants who have stayed on for years without a rent rise might oblige, but the rest will take their business elsewhere. Beware, too, of letting agents who butter you up with inflated rents to win the business. Your property will simply languish empty until you drop the price. There is too much competition out there for you to try your luck.
However, with a bit of research you can estimate the monthly rent you’ll achieve to within £50:
Find comparables online. On Rightmove or Zoopla, look for properties to rent nearby of the same size and quality. Search for the same number of bedrooms as your property within ¼ mile of its postcode, sort in price order and click into the results to see how they compare with yours. Also tick the box to view ‘let agreed’ properties, which will show you how long they were advertised. If you come up blank, first look at homes with one more or one less bedroom nearby, then widen your search radius. This should give you an idea of the price range. Bear in mind, though,
that these are all asking rents, not achieved rents; unfortunately, there is no nationwide database of past rents.
Call local agents. Ask the agents who advertised comparable properties what they ended up letting for. You can also ask them to send you details of similar properties they have let recently.
London lettings differ. In central London, rents depend more on square footage than the number of bedrooms. This is the only area with a database of past rents: good agents here have access to the LonRes network that includes up-to- the-minute lettings figures.
Be honest with yourself. We all think our children are the prettiest, but being blind to your property’s faults will cost you.
Listen to your agent. If you trust your agent, take their advice.
Act when you need to. No viewings after two weeks? Then the rent is too high. Don’t wait for your agent to contact you but lower it decisively – not just by £10.
This valuation process will also show you whether the property will rent at all. You’ll be able to gauge the local demand and how much competition there is. The same sort of quirks that put off buyers (weird layouts, poky rooms) will limit its appeal to tenants. If it’s going to be too tough to let out, and you can’t do anything to change that, it might be time to say goodbye.
» Market, not mortgage, sets the rent
Jack and Karen had a hefty mortgage to pay on their swish one-bedroom flat in Kingston, southwest London. So when they decided to travel around the world, they put the flat up for rent at £1,350 a month – £50 above the highest market rate advised by their lettings agent. After one initial viewing, things went quiet for three weeks. No interest whatsoever. On their agent’s advice, they lowered the price to the going rate of £1,275, and, hey presto, three viewings took place the next day. Two of the viewers offered and the deal was done with the more suitable tenant. Because the couple acted in time, they had no void period, which would have cost them almost £300 a week.