Landlords, you need to get on to Facebook. Not to post a selfie — unless you are a teenager — but to use it as a totally free way to find tenants, tradespeople and all sorts of other stuff.
Three or four landlords I know have found tenants by posting a message to their mates on the social media site. They put the details of their rental on their "status" on the site, their "friends" shared the information on their timelines, and their friends passed the details on to their FB friends. Within hours the ad had reached an audience of thousands.
Another advantage of advertising in this way is that your tenant is likely to be a friend of a friend of a friend who might be able to vouch for them. Also, they will be more inclined to behave themselves if you've got a friend in common.
It is a good idea to post an ad with one of the online letting agents, too. Then you can just cut and paste the link to your FB status.
Several of my own tenants have used Facebook to find flatmates rather than, for example, advertising on Gumtree or the housesharing website Spareroom. They tell me they feel more comfortable living with someone they have met through a closed group of friends rather than sharing with a random stranger.
I tried advertising a vacant room in one of my rental flats on Facebook. I just wrote: "Room to Rent, give me a shout if you know anyone interested." Ten minutes later the mother of my son's schoolfriend called and, once I had reassured her that it wasn't a joke and I wasn't kicking my son out of the house, she said someone her neighbour knew was interested in the room.
Of course, just because a tenant is recommended by someone who knows someone you know, you mustn't be lured into a false sense of security. Whether they come via Facebook or from a word-of-mouth recommendation, whether they are an old university friend of your old classmate or they play squash with someone you used to work with, you should still carry out all the usual referencing and credit checks.
Don't be tempted to dispense with a formal, written tenancy agreement either. In fact, I would say it's even more important to have everything written down in black and white when letting to friends than to strangers. That way, everyone knows where they stand and there will be less likelihood of misunderstandings of the "Oh, I didn't think I needed to do that because we're mates" variety.
I suppose one of the downsides of letting to someone from your own social circle is that if things don't work out, it could be pretty awkward. For this reason, I wouldn't let to a friend — or a friend of a friend — if I didn't feel I could trust them 100 per cent. Better to let to a stranger who ticks all the boxes than to a Facebook friend you are not sure about.
Facebook has also replaced Mybuilder as my go-to site for personal recommendations for everything from local decorators to damp-proofing experts. I have found that by plugging into local FB groups you can find just about anything you want. In fact, one landlord I know was able to furnish her entire rental property from items advertised as "free to a good home" on Facebook.
So you see, social media can be very useful for landlords, even for those who — like me — will never take a selfie.
Victoria Whitlock lets three properties in south London. To contact Victoria with your ideas and views, tweet @vicwhitlock Find many more homes to rent at homesandproperty.co.uk/lettings
Find many more homes to rent at www.homesandproperty.co.uk/lettings