WANTED: a short, bald person with poor personal hygiene to rent a compact one-bedroom conversion flat with period features, including Victorian plumbing and an Art Deco boiler.
I am joking, the boiler is not that old, it's probably from the Eighties, but I am serious about the sort of tenant I am looking for. Not that I have anything against tall, hairy people and, for the record, I think they make just as good tenants as the smaller, hairless variety. It's just that they wouldn't be ideal for the little flat I am helping a friend to re-let.
He bought it as an investment after the briefest of viewings, having fallen in love with its convenient location in Zone 2, along with the view of the London skyline from the living room and the lovely period features, such as Victorian sashes and wooden floors.
He was oblivious, however, to the less desirable period features, such as the 20th-century boiler and the old pipes, which have caused a stream of complaints from the tenants.
The main problem is that the water pressure is so low the shower is little more than a drizzle. My plumber tells me this is not unusual in Victorian houses converted into flats back in the Seventies. They were done in a hurry and on the cheap, he says, using narrow pipes that were never fit for purpose. I don't know if this is true, but whatever the cause of it, he can't offer a cost-effective solution. So, to avoid getting earache from the next tenants, we will have to be upfront with them and explain that if they like to get more than a little damp in the shower, they will have to chuck a bucket of water over their heads.
The water pressure isn't the only problem. Those wretched narrow pipes easily become clogged with hair — so I need to find a tenant who is less than hirsute. It would also help if they don't want to take very long showers, as the old combi boiler conks every 15 minutes or so.
As an added difficulty, the ceilings throughout this top-floor flat are so low that anyone taller than average would feel like Alice in Wonderland after she ate the cake that made her swell. Worse though, there's a step up into the shower that brings it alarmingly close to the ceiling and anyone above 5ft 10 would find it difficult to squeeze in. Hence the need for a vertically challenged tenant. On a more serious note, this shows how important it is to consider more than just the location, price and style of property when buying to let. You need to look at it from a practical point of view and consider not just how it looks, but how it will function.
Don't rely on a survey to tell you whether the property is sound. It is unlikely to highlight problems such as weak water pressure, so you need to do your own checks.
Poke around a bit, check the age of the boiler and turn on the taps. I am not suggesting you take a shower to test it, that would be odd, but you should at least turn on the shower, and a sniff around any plugholes should tell you if the drains are blocked.
Don't expect the vendor to fill you in on the property's foibles either. The previous owner of my pal's flat must have been aware of the plumbing problems but unfortunately didn't mention them to him, and he is now the one left with a tricky place to let.
Victoria Whitlock lets three properties in south London. To contact Victoria with your ideas and views, tweet @vicwhitlock.