The accidental landlord: how to find a match made in heaven

Victoria Whitlock says you'll never regret time spent ensuring the right tenants are paired off with the right property
I learned today that when a letting agent tells you a viewer has made an offer for a property, that isn't necessarily the case. What they might mean is that someone has expressed a vague interest in the place and they may or may not take it, so better to wait until the tenant has signed the lease agreement before you dash out to celebrate.

My Rottweiler of a letting agent persuaded me last week that a young woman had put down a deposit on my flat, but before I'd put the beers in the fridge (oh yes, we know how to celebrate in our house) it became apparent that what the viewer had actually said is that she'd like to come back for a second look, the next time with her flatmate.

When I went to show the pair around it was perfectly obvious to anyone who wasn't deluded that the flatmate wasn't at all keen on the property. From the way she gingerly stepped over the threshold to the way she tried (but failed) to arrange her face into a smile when I asked her if she liked it, I knew the answer was definitely 'no'.

However, the agent appeared oblivious to her negative body language and tried to wow her with the double-glazing and extra-large storage cupboard, glossing over the fact that the property was on a housing estate, something which was clearly making the poor girl very nervous.

TIP: if a viewer's first question is “is it dodgy around here?” there's no point showing them inside the wardrobe, unless it's big enough to hide in. Let them go and concentrate on finding someone else.

This brings me to the second lesson of the day: no letting agent, no matter how experienced they are, will ever know your property as well as you do, especially if you've lived there. It's an important point because I think landlords should give agents very clear instructions about who they feel would make the ideal renter and who they would like living in their property.

Perhaps there's no such thing as the perfect tenant but there is the right tenant for the right home. Don't let an over-zealous agent bulldoze someone into renting your place if you can see they're not suited to it because you're the one who will have to deal with their complaints later on.

If you're letting out your family home, you might prefer to rent to another family because the property will be geared up for kids, you'll be able to promote all the child-friendly features and you'll probably feel comfortable dealing with them as tenants, so don't let an agent cram four or five sharers into the place or you'll have sleepless nights stressing about the wear and tear.

On the other hand, if you've got a property with lots of bedrooms but not much living space, it will be better for sharers than families, but if it's in a rough area or far from public transport, it might not be ideal for young women.

Remember that the agent isn't working for you, they're working for their commission, which means that they're predisposed to let every property to the first and highest bidder.

If this isn't what you want, tell them at the outset. In my experience they generally don't listen (they nod in agreement while metaphorically sticking their fingers in their ears), so imagine you're talking to a foreigner visiting the Olympics and speak s.l.o.w.l.y and loudly if necessary to make sure you get your point across and they find you the sort of tenant you want.

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