Following on from the mid-April story in Harare News on the dramatic drop in rentals causing panic among landlords, we spoke to some leading Harare estate agents on how to improve your chances of securing a lease in a market weighted heavily in favour of the tenants.
Tom Spicer of Pam Golding Properties reports that rents have dropped 20% this year on average, compounding reductions from 2016. He advises that landlords need to adjust their expectations accordingly.
“Many properties are not properly maintained and yet landlords are still asking above market rates from prospective tenants. As such, their properties will continue to lie vacant,” says Spicer.
“Maintenance is key – not only does a well-maintained property appeal to tenants, but it shows that the landlord will take an interest when problems arise. When a prospective tenant is viewing a house or flat they are not just looking at the property but are also trying to gauge their landlord.”
As a property owner it is your duty to ensure your rates are up to date, and with the recent determined effort by council to collect outstanding dues from residents, Spicer reports that many tenants are requesting to see rates bills to ensure they won’t face harassment over previously unpaid rates.
Spicer advises that even when money is tight, it is important to allow for basics like keeping the driveway and garden clear of weeds, mowing the lawn, and if paint is too pricey, at least washing the walls of the house and laundering the curtains will give it a fresh and clean appeal. Cleaning the house thoroughly after previous tenants have vacated will dramatically improve your odds of enticing new tenants.
“Another usually cheap measure is keeping the gutters and drains clear and operational – not only for the comfort of the tenant, but to minimise expensive repair bills later on.”
Other cheap fixes include ensuring all light bulbs and fittings are working – again, this will make your property feel light, fresh, and cared for. “In general, if it’s broken, fix it,” suggests Spicer.
If you have a bit of money to spend, Spicer advises painting your walls in neutral colours that will appeal to the widest number of people. Focus on the living areas first. “New tiles in the kitchen are relatively cheap and add a lot to the appeal.”
And then of course, there is the provision for plugging the gap where council services have failed. “If your property is in an area with intermittent water supply from council then getting a water tank is a necessity,” says Spicer.
At a time when crime is on the rise, security is also a growing concern. “Tenants almost always ask about security. Alarm systems, burglar bars and sensor lights for the house and improving perimeter security are wise long and short term investments for any landlord,” he says.
Marje Kennan of Kennan Properties highlights security as critical to attracting the much-coveted expatriate tenants whose salaries are unfettered by the local economy. She also suggests that attracting such tenants requires extra effort in ensuring regular water , electricity, and fast internet.
“A property with a good borehole – well plumbed in, an inverter system or generator and solar geysers would be a big plusses. If your home is in an area served by fiber optics then this is a big positive and commercial advantage, not too expensive these days to put the connectivity in place for the tenant to simply use and pay for,” says Kennan.
Kennan also highlights the preference among foreign tenants for more modern fittings, which are fairly rare among Harare’s ageing suburban homes.
“The vast majority of homes in Zimbabwe are rather old fashioned by international standards and most appliances leave much to be desired. Prospects of a rewarding lease are greatly enhanced if your home is tastefully refurbished and fitted with the latest electrical gadgets,” she advises.
Citing a recent survey of expats living here or planning to live here, Kennan highlights their enthusiasm for our wide spaces and sunny skies. A well maintained garden will help them feel like they are getting the most out of this offering.
Among their various concerns is, in particular, proximity to an International School. Ours is in Mount Pleasant, making this a very desirable suburb to live in for embassy staff from all over the world. Something to consider when investing in a property that you plan to rent out!