One of the biggest – and most lasting – changes brought about by the last two years has been the evolution of modern living spaces. Today’s homes are expected to fulfill far more functions than ever before, including workspace, social hub, and physical and emotional sanctuary.

According to Jacqui Savage, National Rentals Manager for the Rawson Property Group, re-evaluating rental properties in light of tenant’s evolving needs is a great way to attract and retain quality occupants.

If you’re struggling to fill a vacant property, these are the areas she recommends you focus on to improve your rental’s appeal quickly, easily and cost-effectively.

Aim for a rental sweet spot

With supply still outstripping demand, and affordability an ongoing issue for cash-strapped South Africans, competitive rental rates are essential. According to Savage, cheaper isn’t always better, however. In fact, there’s a very definite sweet spot in terms of rental brackets that has both high demand and an excellent tenant payment behaviour record.

“The latest statistics from TPN show that the current rental sweet spot is between R7000 and R12 000 per month,” she says. “22.4% of tenants fall into this bracket, with 86.32% of them in good standing – that’s the highest payment performance of any rental price bracket at the moment.”

There are, of course, great opportunities for rentals outside this price bracket, too.

“No matter where you fit in the market, it’s always a good idea to partner with an experienced rental agent who can analyse your specific local conditions and find the rental sweet spot for your particular property,” says Savage.

Help tenants minimise additional costs

Affordability isn’t just about competitive rental. Savage says a lot of today’s tenants are looking for features that help minimise their daily living costs, too.

“Installing water and power-saving devices like geyser blankets and timers, LED lights and low-flow showerheads is a quick and easy update that really can make a difference to tenants,” she says. “If you have a garden, a rainwater and/or greywater harvesting system is also a big drawcard. Tenants love green spaces, but don’t love big bills for their basic maintenance.”

Create a functional space

Most rental properties weren’t designed with modern concepts like work-from-home in mind. However, accommodating these new necessities doesn’t have to be a major overhaul.

According to Savage, installing a fast internet connection and a simple workspace in an unused corner, under a flight of stairs, or even in a converted cupboard, can take a rental from “no-go” to “must-have” for a lot of tenants.

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Get pet friendly

According to Savage, a lot of rental properties are not pet friendly – not because the properties themselves can’t handle pets, but because four-legged furkids get a bad rap with landlords.

“The thing is, pets are family for a lot of people. By not allowing them in your rental property, you’re potentially excluding a significant portion of your target market,” she says. “Adjusting these limitations – within reason and in line with body corporate restrictions of course – is a great way to broaden your tenant pool and differentiate yourself from the competition.”

Market through the right channels

Even the best properties struggle to secure good tenants if they’re not marketed well, or in the right places.

“Don’t underestimate the value of an experienced rental agent when it comes to marketing,” says Savage. “A professional will use their knowledge of tenant trends and behaviour to craft and strategically distribute your listing. This almost always generates quality leads faster and more effectively than if you go it alone. Plus, all the vetting work is done for you. All you need to do is take your pick of qualified applicants.”

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Bonus tip: Don’t ignore red flags

Having a qualified rental agent to vet applicants is also a good way to avoid the increasing number of scammers on the rental market. Savage urges landlords not to let the stress of vacant properties tempt them into cutting corners.

“You really need to go the whole hog on tenant vetting – do the credit checks, call the references, and double check every document for authenticity,” she says. “Today’s scammers and crooks have sophisticated methods, including offering several months of rental payments up front. Generally, if anything feels off or unusual, it’s best to trust your instincts and err on the side of caution.”

With a little bit of patience, creativity, a few minor property updates and a professional to guide you, however, Savage says it’s only a matter of time before your property is happily tenanted once again.

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