The accidental landlord susses out the competition

The accidental landlord realises it's time to drop the rent or stage a makeover for her roomy old flat to take on smaller, smarter new builds.
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This is not the best time of year to be looking for new tenants. It has been six weeks since I first placed an ad online for my one bedroom flat, which will be vacant at the end of the month, and I have had just two enquiries.

These calls have led to only one viewing, which was a total waste of time as the guy was in and out of the flat in about three and a half seconds, which I thought was a bit rude. The current tenant had gone to a lot of trouble to make the place look nice — she had even lit a few scented candles — and I thought he could have at least feigned a bit of interest, for her sake.

The other call was from a young woman who had dropped out of university to have her baby, which was due any day. She intended to live alone with the child but had no job and no obvious means of paying the rent.

My heart wanted to give her a break, but my head said I shouldn't be a fool. After a bit of a tussle with my conscience, I decided not to waste her time or mine showing her the flat.

I know that might seem heartless but I just couldn't risk the worst-case scenario of this mother-to-be failing to pay the rent and me being forced to evict her, that would be just horrible. I would rather the property was empty for a few weeks while I try to find a more suitable tenant.

It is possible that a local letting agent would be able to drum up more interest in the flat, but those I have spoken to so far admit that the market still hasn't recovered from the post-Christmas slump, so I might just have to sit tight until demand picks up.

One agent I contacted, who has found me tenants in the past, suggested I drop the rent to just below what I was getting two years ago. She said that, despite media reports to the contrary, rents in my area have been falling over the past few months.

Looking at asking prices for similar properties on top websites including Zoopla, I think she is right. This might be something to do with the fact that quite a few new apartment blocks have sprung up since the last time my property was on the market, including a rather snazzy complex right across the road.

These new builds have smartened up the area a little, which is good, but there suddenly appears to be a glut of good-quality accommodation, which is bound to put pressure on rents.

When I compare my period property to these new apartments, it doesn't look good. My place is much larger — some of these new flats are like shoeboxes — but they have shiny new appliances and swish bathrooms including, in some cases, fancy-pants Rainmaker showers and so forth. Some of the new blocks even have porters.

I realise that I am going to have to smarten up my flat a little if I am going to compete on rent, or I can leave it as it is but ask for less. I am tempted to go with the latter option as whatever I spend will take years to recoup, but I am worried that I will attract less-desirable tenants if I let the standard of my property slip. Whatever I decide to do, I will have to act fast if I want to avoid my first void period in 10 years.

To contact Victoria with your ideas and views, tweet @vicwhitlock 

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