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It’s Not Rocket Science

Property managers are often perplexed by the seemingly long list of requests from tenants, however, as Kathryn Massey explains, working out what tenants really want and need is a matter of common sense – no rocket science required, just good old fashioned customer service.

Property managers are often perplexed by the seemingly long list of requests from tenants, however, as Kathryn Massey explains, working out what tenants really want and need is a matter of common sense – no rocket science required, just good old fashioned customer service.

People rent properties for many different reasons – they may be young and just moving out of their parents’ home on their own; country folk may need city accommodation for study purposes; unfortunate marriage difficulties; they may be building a home of their own and enter the rental market for a relatively short period of time; or they simply choose to lease property, rather than having the commitment of owning their own home. With these factors in mind, it is easy to see that prospective tenants have a vast array of differing wants, needs and expectations.

Statistics show the majority of potential tenants are people who are middle aged or younger and are not interested in mansions with top of the range fittings and sky high weekly rents. The properties that appear most attractive to tenants and consequently produce the lowest vacancy rates, materialise to be those that most would consider quite average. These properties are priced to suit the bulk of the tenant pool and include standard fittings and fixtures. There are, however, a few key areas that tenants almost always take into consideration when seeking rental accommodation.

Location, location, location
The location of a property is the tenant’s top priority. Proximity to work places, schools, family, public transport and local amenities form the basis for this priority. If the property is close to a major city it usually rents very easily. Out in the suburbs it is important for the property to be close to shopping centres, schools and public transport. Properties located on busy roads tend to take a little longer to rent due to noise and particularly if there is not enough off-street parking. Those properties backing onto major roads are not so desirable if the outdoor entertaining area is affected by traffic noise.

Bedroom behaviour
The number of bedrooms in a property is a close second to location. Of course, the more bedrooms a property has, the more people can live there. This is important for tenants sharing the costs of living and also to families with children. The size of the bedrooms can also play a role in how attractive the property is, particularly with shared households. More often than not, the master bedroom is significantly larger than the remaining bedrooms in the property and may also feature built in wardrobes whereas the secondary bedrooms do not. This scenario may suit families with small children, however is definitely less attractive to single people sharing.

When the heat is on
With our diverse seasons, the first question asked by most prospective tenants is “Does the property have heating and/or cooling facilities?” A property that has air conditioning, particularly ducted throughout the whole home, will rent more easily than one without this feature. Facilities must be offered for the occupants’ comfort and wellbeing to make the property attractive.

Leisurely living
Living areas, and their location in the home, play another important factor when tenants are deciding on the suitability of a property. Once again, who is living in the house will be the factor that determines their needs. Families with small children prefer two living areas to allow separation of adults and children, however the second living area is required to be close enough to the adults to ensure supervision. With shared houses, it is more desirable to have living areas located away from each other to ensure noise doesn’t become an issue.

Bathroom basics
The number of bathrooms in a property is perhaps not as important as the aspects mentioned above, however, will still affect a property’s desirability. While it is almost essential to have two bathrooms for a four bedroom home, one bathroom will suffice with three bedrooms or less if the bathroom is centrally located in the home. If one of the bathrooms acts as an ensuite to the master bedroom, it will be more suitable for families than shared households. While families with children prefer a bath, this feature is not so important to singles. It is also desirable to have plenty of cupboard and bench space in place, particularly if the prospective tenants are female.

The great outdoors
With our love of outdoor entertaining, courtyards and rear yards are important to most tenants. Enough room should be provided to accommodate an outdoor entertaining setting with further room for a BBQ area. Tenants with families will enjoy swimming pools, while smaller properties can feature spas. A pleasant outdoor area can be a high priority for some tenants, depending on their lifestyle. Low maintenance gardens are also a high priority for today’s busy executives who are, without exception, time poor.

The role of the property manager
Tenants “wants” do not end once they have found a suitable property to rent. Tenants want honesty and integrity in a landlord/tenant relationship. Treating them as a lesser party to the relationship causes tenants to feel like the unimportant party to the essential connection and breeds dissension.

I can’t stress the importance of tenant education at the inception of an agreement to lease. If the tenants are not fully informed of the landlord’s expectations, how on earth are they supposed to meet them and deliver the outcomes? Likewise, landlords need to understand their obligations when leasing properties. Delivery on promises made at the inception of the tenancy is paramount to nurturing a long term relationship and, of course, the agent’s role to maintain this is to under promise and over deliver.

Delayed response to repairs and maintenance issues are more prevalent than any other complaint received by tenants. They have entered into an agreement with the landlord and their expectation is that repairs reported are rectified in a satisfactory period of time. Frustration mounts when repairs are not carried out, particularly where there is no communication between the landlord and tenant.

The end of a tenancy is also an area that landlords need to pay close attention to. The landlord is usually in control of the time it takes to release bond monies and this can become confrontational if not completed as quickly as possible. The tenant has more than likely paid another bond amount on their new property and delaying the release of these funds unnecessarily impacts significantly on the tenant’s finances.

A happy tenant makes for a happy landlord. Once you have a good tenant, it is even more important to look after them to ensure longevity of the tenancy and, in return, a higher revenue on the property. It is important to remember that on many occasions, tenants become owners and investors themselves who will remember the agent whose performance impressed them.

Kathryn Massey is Client Liaison Manager for Michael Johnson & Co’s three property management departments and controls the management of 1,000 properties and 14 staff members. Recently she was awarded the REIWA Property Manager of the Year, then went on to win REIA’s National Residential Property Manager of the Year for 2010.

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