215: How to Boost Your Rental Advert Success with James Davies, CEO of uPad

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James Davies

James started his career in the world of radio after setting up his own station at university and being awarded best student station of the year by BBC Radio one.  Whilst scaling the corporate ladder after graduating though he began to grow his own property portfolio, and then 10 years ago founded what has gone on to become the largest online lettings agency in the UK.

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How it started

As an experienced Landlord himself, James grew frustrated with the current offerings for marketing his property. He wanted to manage his own portfolio, and specifically he wanted to meet the tenants at viewings, but without instructing an agent it meant he couldn’t advertise on RightMove, and sites like Gumtree weren’t proving successful at getting quality tenants through the door.

After watching other industries start to flourish in the online space, he realised that the rental market was lagging behind, and spotted a gap that uPad could fill.

James’ Portfolio

James’ main advice when it comes to building a portfolio is to understand your market, and be clear on what you want to achieve. After building his own HMO portfolio, James realised that the demands of self managing meant he was having to sacrifice more time than he wanted, and that where he was operating in London he was able to achieve similar yields just be renting out the whole property.

Insights into the market

Sharing some insight into the current market place, James talks about the two biggest tenant groups at the moment, and how landlords should be aware of them, and tailor their product accordingly.
For example, for HMO tenants one of the biggest priorities should be high speed WiFi, whereas for families there is  a real lack of quality accommodation that is pet friendly. Over half of UK tenants have a pet of some description, however hardly any landlords allow pets, and most of the big property platforms have no functionality allowing for specific pet related searches. By making your property pet friendly, not only could you find a tenant quicker, but in some instances charge a higher rent.
James believes the UK is moving towards a more European model of renting vs owning. There are currently 3.75 million rental properties in the UK, a figure predicted to rise by 20% over the coming 5 years, and James thinks it is becoming more and more acceptable for people to rent long term without the same pressure to own a home.

You can check out the uPad blog for more information relating to demographics and trends in the rental market.

Tips on marketing

With such competition in the market place, our conversation quickly turns to how landlords can remain competitive, and what tips James can share when it comes to marketing.
Some of them might seem obvious, such as paying for professional photographs or investing in a good SLR camera (tax deductible!) yourself, making sure the property is tidy, and taking photos on a sunny day.

However, James highlights some tips that perhaps traditional agents might be quick to overlook. For example, RightMove and Zoopla have recently updated their algorithm and instead of the most expensive property in a bracket now being featured at the top, instead tenants will see the property most recently added. This brings about two discussion points, firstly price, a common strategy used to be to price at £499 in “Under  £500” category (as an example) so that the property would show up first. This is now less relevant, and landlords should price accordingly vs their competition. Secondly, ensuring the listing is perfect before it hits the portals is more important than ever, as it will quickly drop down the listings so we need to be making a strong first impression.

A common technique seen over the years is for agents to market the property before photos are ready with a “coming soon” image. James points out that this strategy simply wont work with the new algorithm as tenants will dismiss adverts without images (and with two-thirds of searching tenants having alerts set up, likely delete the notification) and the opportunity to market your finished property to them has been missed.

James Davies Links & Resources

uPad – visit the uPad website

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