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UK buy to let Landlords can save thousands using social media to find tenants
A growing number of landlords are avoiding lettings agents' fees by advertising properties on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn
Savvy landlords are saving thousands of pounds by ditching their lettings agent and using social media to find tenants.
Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn offer landlords a free public platform to advertise to prospective tenants, cutting out unnecessary costs and boosting overall returns.
High street letting services generally fall into two categories. There are “let-only” services, where agents find and vet tenant and set up the tenancy. This usually costs 10pc of the annual rental income. Ongoing management services – where the tenant calls the agent if there is a problem – typically costs 15pc of the annual rental income.
For a property with a monthly rental income of £750 - or £9,000 a year - these add up to £900 and £1,350 respectively.
Sanjay Aggarwal, 31, of Birmingham, manages his father’s portfolio of 20 buy-to-let properties. He was paying thousands of pounds to high street letting agents to find tenants.
Mr Aggarwal works in recruitment, and realised he could use his connections on corporate social networking service LinkedIn instead.
“As a recruiter, I have more than 2,500 contacts on LinkedIn. They’re all working professionals so are exactly the type of tenants I’m after. All I need to do is send a message to my online contacts with a description of the property and a link to the full posting on a listings website like Gumtree. There they can find pictures and videos of the property. I've been doing it for two years now and have found it’s a fantastic way of finding good quality, professional tenants completely free of charge.
“I’ve also started using Twitter to send pictures of vacant properties to my followers in case anyone is looking to move or knows of someone in their professional circles who is.”
Mr Aggarwal said he has tried Facebook but finds it’s less useful because his network of “friends” is mainly located in other areas of the UK and abroad.
But Michelle McCann, 35, (above) has found Facebook a useful tool to find lodgers for a room in her property in Brighton.
She owns the house with her sister but lives there with her husband Gavin, and two young children. They have a spare room that they’ve let to around eight different lodgers on and off for the past 12 years to help make ends meet.
Mrs McCann, who is a social media consultant, said Facebook has been a great way to advertise the room to friends, family, work colleagues and friends of friends.
“I put together a photo album with pictures of the bedroom, plus the communal areas like the lounge and bathroom, and shared it on Facebook. We made sure our privacy settings only allowed the album to be shared with ‘friends’ and ‘friends of friends’ so that someone in our social circle could always vouch for prospective lodgers. It’s worked really well for us and we’ve always ended up with trustworthy, like-minded people.”
Choose your platform
Decide what type of tenant you want in your property and choose a social media platform that best targets that demographic. Look at your Facebook “friends”, your Twitter “followers” and your LinkedIn connections to determine which group will give you the best chance of finding reliable tenants.
- Create a page (not a profile) about your property. This will act as your own website which you can control, monitor and, more importantly, share
- Post lots of good quality internal and external pictures of the property that show it in its best light
- Create a Facebook event and host an open house for potential tenants. Don't post the exact address on the page - give it to people over email so you can control how many people show up
- Check your security settings. You might want to make it so that only friends, or friends of friends, can see your page
- Create a light hearted hashtag that you can use to generate momentum and use it in every tweet
- Add images to all posts to attract attention. They should be a mix of the property itself, the rough location (but not the exact address), recommended local restaurants, etc
- Regular engagement is crucial so make sure to upload or tweet as much varied content as possible
- You'll be advertising to professionals so it could pay to be a bit more formal than on other social media sites
- Start conversations and respond quickly to any enquiries you receive about the property
- Create an account and upload a series of videos of the property, the garden and surrounding area.
- At the end of each video, include contact details or a web address where people can find more information
Don’t forget tenant checks and a formal contract
Just because someone is an acquaintance, or comes recommended by a friend or colleague, doesn’t mean you can skip these steps.
Lettings agents charge up to £200 for credit and reference checks, but the National Landlords Association offers basic checks from as little as £8.95 for members, and £12.95 for non-members.
You’ll also need a tenancy contract, but these can be downloaded and customised online from a number of websites for free, while others charge a small fee. The Residential Landlords Association offers members free downloadable contracts. They cost £9.50 for non-members.
There is a range of paperwork you must obtain before letting your property such as a gas safety certificate and energy performance certificate. You can find a list of your responsibilities as a landlord on the Citizens Advice Bureau’s website.
Protect the deposit
You’re required by law to put your tenant’s deposit into a government-backed tenancy deposit scheme for all typical assured shorthold tenancy agreements. In England and Wales these include the Deposit Protection Service, MyDeposits and the Tenancy Deposit Scheme.
There are separate schemes in Scotland and Northern Ireland. In Scotland these are the Letting Protection Service Scotland, SafeDeposits Scotland and MyDeposits Scotland.
In Northern Ireland the approved schemes are the Tenancy Deposit Scheme Northern Ireland, MyDeposits Northern Ireland and the Letting Protection Service NI.
Online estate agents
If you want to handle some aspects of your buy-to-let property but not others, online estate agents can be a good middle ground. Sites such as easyProperty.com, part of the easyJet group, and theonlinelettingagents.co.uk allow landlords to pick and mix the services they want to pay for.
This means you can take your own photographs or host your own viewings, for example, but pay someone else to arrange the gas safety checks and the tenant referencing.
This gives you more flexibility than traditional letting agent services and means you only pay for what you need.
EasyProperty.com says its prices are also lower than traditional estate agents' fees. It says it charges £80 to arrange a gas safety certificate compared with up to £149 on the high street, or £100 for an electrical equipment certificate as opposed to around £185 from high street agents.