Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Who is your market audience?

When considering renting out your property it is all too easy to forget the most obvious factor which will determine the whole process to follow; who is going to be living in my property?
This consideration brings to light two key factors. What market are you aiming for, and how can you best adapt and promote your property to appeal to that market?

At Scott-Bates and Coles we like to simplify things for landlords as much as we can. We therefore offer straight forward and cost effective ideas on how best to prepare your home to appeal to the most tenants, at the optimum rental price. We do this by asking three key questions;

Is the property versatile and ‘neutral? Your property needs to be able to adapt to whatever style your potential tenant may have. You need to cater for all, from the ‘beige people’ to the ‘bright pink people’. So get out the magnolia paint and make your home a clean and fresh canvas for the taste and style of whoever is to live there. We also need to make sure that rooms appear ‘versatile’, i.e. a downstairs study could be an additional bedroom. In this case, a de-clutter will most property be required!

The aim is to show off the space and possibilities that the room can offer.
Is it safe? The most important question of all.
How does your property rate against the competition? This will affect your rental price and timescales of being able to let your property.

With a little work, and very few pennies it is possible to increase not only the rental price but ‘lettability’ of your property.

If you need any advice, please email us!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Devon based agency happy to earn an honest wage. Should this really be a refreshing change to the norm?

Last week there was much media focus on the cost of moving house faced by tenants. This focus was targeting often unfair and unregulated administration fees charged by letting agents.

The homelessness charity ‘Shelter’ surveyed almost 60 letting agents across the UK finding the average administration fee to be £350. (This was on top of any deposit and rent in advance). These monies were also often non refundable even if the tenancy failed to proceed due to no fault of the tenant.
The industry therefore continues to be let down by agents happy to charge unfair rates for poor service, and sometimes no service at all.

Fierce competition for rental property leaves tenants with little choice but accept the agent (and their terms) that come with the property in which they wish to live. Affordable, decent places to live are in short supply, so are often snapped up very quickly. Tenants find themselves with little choice but to accept unexpected fees or an unacceptably bad service. What makes this situation even more unfair is that landlords are usually totally unaware about the fees charged by their lettings agent. Landlords are still failing to ask about what their tenant will face during the referencing process, and indeed tenancy to come. Some landlords will be losing good tenants due to unacceptable agency fees and/or service.
The long term answer will undoubtedly come with the government stepping in and forcing all agents to become part of a regulated scheme, however in the meantime, it is up to landlords to confirm with their agent the exact fee structure their tenant will face. This includes the duration of the tenancy with some agents charging up to £100 to renew a tenancy agreement, and up to £120 to "check out" the property at the end of the tenancy.

At Scott-Bates & Coles Lettings & Estates, we operate a totally transparent pricing system. Quite simply; there are no hidden or unexpected costs. Tenants only pay for the referencing process required to ensure they are suitable quality tenants for our landlords. We do not take ‘holding fees’, and we pride ourselves on providing both landlords and tenants with quality service at the best price possible. Part of our success criteria is to have happy landlords and tenants, enabling all to enjoy longer tenancies. We do not even charge to renew contracts should our fully managed landlords and tenants wish to secure their property for another 6 months. We are more than happy to renew such contracts every 6 months with no charge to landlord or tenant. We view this as part of our managed service giving all parties the peace of mind often neglected within the lettings industry, but which we view as paramount.

This approach puts us in a stronger position to negotiate the best rental returns for our landlords, helping, we feel, to restore a healthy competition to the Devon property market and providing quality property and services to all involved in our residential lettings process.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Exeter - The buy-to-let property hotspot of the South West?

Recently revealed at number 3 in The Daily Telegraph's Top 10 Places to buy in the UK, it's not hard to see why Exeter's popularity is steadily increasing, making the cities buy-to-let market especially buoyant.

Here at Scott-Bates & Coles Lettings & Estates we have long espoused Exeter for its excellent transport links, top University and vibrant nightlife, but recent developments around the city have elevated its desirability to new levels. The steady development of Exeter International Airport has significantly increased the destinations available, while the new Flybe Training Centre, Hampton by Hilton Hotel, Science Park and of course the now well established Princesshay Shopping Centre, have only added further credence to the view that Exeter is one of the most desirable small cities in which to live and indeed invest.

Since SBC Lettings launched into the property lettings market in Devon & Somerset nearly 3 years ago, we have retained a number of buy-to-let investors, keen to establish long term and substantial property portfolios in Exeter. Since the start of 2013, we have been assisting these clients in the acquisition of further investment properties in and around the city centre. It did not take long to notice that despite the travails of the UK economy, prices, and therefore competition for the type of residential property offering the significant rental yields we aim to achieve for our clients, have remained extremely strong.

It seems we are not alone in recognising the many advantages of Exeter for buy-to-let investment, and are happy to guide any would-be investors looking to buy into one of the regions foremost property hotspots.

Monday, October 29, 2012

What is it like to be your tenant?

Something rarely asked by landlords is ‘what procedure does my tenant have to go through to secure my house for let?’

Property Agents are thorough in promoting their means of marketing, but rarely offer a full explanation of what they expect from potential tenants, nor what they charge them to secure your house for rent!
 As a landlord you may ask ‘why would this concern me?’ but would you wish your property to be less attractive to a tenant than the competition due to high agency fees or poor service?

Tenant referencing is very important. Successful referencing will confirm that your tenant can afford to rent your property, and not have any adverse credit or previous landlord history.  A fee will be requested from your tenant for this, and it is important that you make sure references have indeed been cleared before your tenant moves in. At Scott-Bates & Coles we provide landlords with proof that referencing has been completed, without compromising any data protection laws. These references are paid for by the tenant.
‘Other costs?!?’  You are perfectly entitled to know what charge the agent makes for processing references as well as what ‘other’ costs your tenant may find themselves paying out for. One Exeter tenant reported fees of up to £400! This particular agency charging for things such as deposit submission, something that all agents can do for free should they chose to use The Deposit Protection Service (DPS) as we do. Hence, at Scott-Bates & Coles your tenant incurs no further costs to move into your property.

‘Holding fees’, (where tenants pay for the period they hold the property off the market before they move in) are a matter of contention. Agents have the potential here to charge your tenant for doing nothing at all. What you should be asking is ‘if my tenant cannot move in for a certain period of time, what protection do I have if they then fail to do so?’ Like we do at Scott-Bates & Coles, all agents should have a system in place to cover this area of concern. Our procedure costs nothing to your tenant as long as they move in on the agreed date. If they do not, you as landlord is reimbursed for the time wasted. This procedure is agreed in writing, and is fair and transparent to all parties.

Once a tenant has been found and successfully processed through referencing, you may choose that your agent manage your property for you. Make sure you are clear on how they mean to do so. Ask questions such as ‘when will my property be inspected?’, ‘Who does my tenant contact in the case of an emergency?’ and ‘What happens at the end of the tenancy?’ It is vital that your tenant feels that someone is available to them at all times. It is often the damage that has been left to get worse, through lack of property inspections and tenant contact, that bring about a large number of deposit disputes. At Scott-Bates & Coles we schedule regular property visits with your tenant, and provide them with a 24 hour 7 day a week emergency contact number. 

Scott Bates & Coles Estate Agents, pride ourselves on the fact we have never had a deposit return disputed. We owe this to clear property management and thorough check out procedures. Feel free to email us to find out what we can do for you.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Time to invest in the buy to let market

With the UK's current economic difficulties now undoubtedly affecting even the previously buoyant property sales market in the South West, now is certainly a good time to consider investing in the buy to let market as rentals have remained strong throughout the recession.

Therefore, when we were approached recently by a local businessman tired of earning very little interest on his savings and keen to establish a rental portfolio in the Exeter area, we were only too happy to help.
After a lengthy meeting at our clients home, we were able to establish a search criteria including areas of interest in the Exeter area (predominately St Leonards, Pennsylvania and Haven Banks, although East Devon villages such as Lympstone, Woodbury and Exton etc would be considered), property type and size (ideally houses, 2-3 bedrooms), budget (up to £250,000 per house) and desired % yield from each investment property.

Then began the lengthy process of establishing a list of potential properties, speaking to the agents dealing with their marketing before finally establishing a shortlist of 12 houses to view.
When viewing a property to let, perhaps the most important factor to consider is the potential amount of ongoing maintenance that can be required with certain house types. Painted render finishes and timber windows will need ongoing maintenance every 3-5 years and we were keen to keep this type of costly external maintenance to a minimum for our client.
For this reason we selected largely brick built properties with uPVC double glazed window units and well finished interiors.

The fact that our client was a cash buyer put us in a strong negotiating position, and within 5 weeks weeks of our initial meeting we had 3 terraced properties in St Leonards and one in Pennsylvania under contract at very competitive prices.

Once the puchases had been completed, we immediately marketed the houses to let and quickly secured reliable tenants for all 4 properties, achieving percentage yields in excess of 5 % on each.

While the sales market in Exeter continues to struggle, rental prices are bucking the trend and steadily rising, making long term buy to let investment in popular city locations an increasingly attractive proposition.

If you would like Scott-Bates & Coles Lettings & Estates to help with your investment purchase, please don't hesitate to contact us on 0845 3016618.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Scott Bates & Coles with Drew Pearce

Having provided advice and lettings services to a number of clients introduced to us by Drew Pearce in Exeter, when the opportunity arose to take an office in their impressive premises on Cathedral Close in the heart of the city and work in association with them, we knew that it was too good an opportunity to miss.
Now entering our third year of trading as lettings specialists in Devon & Somerset, Scott Bates & Coles could see that cooperation with such a well known company could only prove beneficial to both of us.

Having been established since 1748, Drew Pearce is believed to be the oldest firm of surveyors still trading in the West Country. Working and qualified in all aspects of the property industry from Building Surveying to Residential Sales, their old fashioned values and forward thinking practices were important factors when we decided they were the right company for us to work alongside.

James Askew-Coles of Scott-Bates & Coles Lettings & Estates has now been working from the Exeter office for approaching 3 months and the decision to make the move has already been proven to be the right one. Our first floor office is ideal for meeting with clients, so whether you're a landlord, tenant, or you just want some advice on the lettings process, give us a call on 0845 3016618 and we'll arrange a day and time for you to come in for a chat.
Our full postal address is -

14 Cathedral Close

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

What safety aspects should I be considering as a landlord? (part 1)

Letting property comes with many obligations from the landlord and here are some main areas Scott Bates and Coles thinks you consider:
  • Interested potential tenants must be provided with a copy of the property Energy Performance Certificate at the earliest opportunity, usually within any written details which they may be provided with.
  • Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998
This regulation applies to all landlords who let property with any gas installations in place, be it in the form of a boiler, gas fire, oven, hob or portable heater etc. (LPG included)
To comply with this regulation, all gas appliances must be serviced annually and any repairs necessary to bring the appliance(s) up to standard, carried out immediately. The gas engineer must also provide a record of their inspection, a part of which is given to the tenant.
You must ensure that any contractor used is sufficiently qualified to carry out this service.
  • Fire and Furnishings (Fire)(Safety)(Amendment) Regulations 1993
These regulations have been in place since early in 1993 and require that all upholstery, upholstered furnishings and soft furnishings (beds, sofas etc) must comply with the fire safety regulations that have been in place for some time now and have governed the sale of such items. They must conform with the three tests used to measure the flame retardant properties of such furnishings, namely The Cigarette Test, The Match Test and the Ignitability Test.
N.B.  You cannot loan, give, sell, or store within the property, any upholstery, upholstered furnishings or soft furnishings (beds, sofas etc) that do not comply with theses fire safety regulations.
  • Fire Alarms
                Scott-Bates and Coles INSISTS that smoke detectors be fitted within all property for rent as a basic safety feature.                               
                  Scott-Bates and Coles also recommend that, as well as smoke detectors, Carbon Monoxide detectors be fitted within all property for rent where appropriate. (Where there are gas or open fires, or in the location of the boiler if so recommended by the gas engineer).
Properties that come under HMO licensing will have additional fire safety requirements that must be adhered to.
  • Electrical equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994
The Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations state that any electrical equipment in excess of 50 volts must be both safe and satisfy requirements relating to colour coding of main leads, sleeving of pins on plugs and fusing information. The best, and arguably only way, to protect yourself from any possible prosecution as the landlord is to have all the appliances tested (PAT) annually, or between tenancies, by a qualified electrician.
For the same reasons Scott-Bates and Coles cannot recommend enough obtaining a full electrical safety certificate for your property, as this is the only way to help ensure that your tenant is as safe as they should be.
N.B.  You cannot loan, give, sell or store within the property any electrical equipment that does not satisfy the requirements of these regulations.