How did we ever manage to find homes before the internet? These days more than 90% of property searches start online, and two-thirds of them are via mobile devices, says Zoopla. Local lettings agents, once the first port of call, are no longer the gatekeepers linking tenants and landlords. Nowadays tenants can even do virtual viewings.
Britain’s main property portals are Rightmove, Zoopla and OnTheMarket. You cannot list directly on these portals but can access them via online agents (See How to choose an online agent). Whether you use this route or a high-street agent, ensure that your property is on two of the big portals. You can also list for free on websites such as gumtree.com, but Swift, my lettings agency, has stopped using this after the quality of applicants dropped.
Just being on the right websites is not enough. Make your advert stand out by a mile with:
- Professional photos
- A floorplan
- Well-written copy.
We’ll cover floorplans and copy in the next two blog posts; first we’ll look at photos.
Get ahead with professional photos
Isn’t it amazing that 1p screws and 18p bananas are advertised with professional photos, but properties worth hundreds of thousands of pounds will be snapped on a lazy estate agent’s smartphone, complete with a pig sleeping in the corner, a toilet in a boiler cupboard or what looks suspiciously like a trail of blood all across the garage floor? (See terriblerealestateagentphotos.com for these and other real-life shockers.)
The right photographs can bring your home to life. At £50–£125 for a set, engage a professional photographer if you can. Not only will they get the best shots, they will also edit them to make sure the sky is blue, rooms are bright and frames cropped correctly. By investing in a set of excellent photos before you start renting out your property, you can keep them on file to re-use every time you advertise in future.
Failing that, use a digital SLR camera with a wide-angle lens and a flashgun to shoot as much of each room as possible. One or two ‘lifestyle’ images of the Aga or the bistro set in the garden can work well, too, but don’t overdo it. Move aside cars and bins in front of the house, put away the laundry and wait for the sun to be at the right angle to show off your property to best effect. Shoot when the house is still furnished; empty properties don’t photograph well.
What if there are tenants in the property? Such photos are not ideal but you may have no choice. Always arrange with them first, but ask to go when they are out. This will allow you to move any dirty dishes, drying laundry and personal photographs out of the picture to protect their privacy and avoid clutter. You could even add a few homely touches of your own. Take a photo before you move things around (within limits) to ensure you return them to the right places. Also, once the tenancy is over and before the next one starts, return to take a new set of photos that you can keep for future use. That said, some tenants’ décor is so tasteful that you might be far better off shooting with it in place than without.
Make sure the best photo – usually the living room (for flats) or the exterior – is the main image on the property portal. If your flat’s best feature is its view over a private garden square, don’t let the galley kitchen facing the fire escape be the first thing that online users see.