When setting your buying criteria for your next real estate acquisition, please include 'Unit Configuration' into your decision making. There are few factors that drive down vacancy more than unit configuration; You could have a great configuration in a not so great location and still rent the unit. But if you have a terrible unit configuration, even a decent location will be hard pressed to rent that unit out.
There are 2 primary factors to include in your unit configuration: Livability and Strategy.
The livability of a rental property is the sum of the factors that add up to a community's quality of life. In other words, suitable for living in; habitable; comfortable.
A mantra I use to ensure the Livability of my rental properties is "Safe, Clean, Warm." These 3 words remind me that everyone wants to feel safe, clean and warm in their own homes; As a housing provider, doing our best to maintain these basic standards is essential to success. From this foundation, I want to create ease and comfort where possible. Below are some questions to help you get in the mind of your customers and allow you to create homes that they want to live in for a long time:
As you can tell, I personally maintain a broad appeal. Most anyone would appreciate the guiding principle of home design to be "safe, clean, warm with an emphasis on ease and comfort." Much like vanilla ice cream, everyone likes it.. but few would choose it in a line up.
My preferred unit configuration is:
The property itself should be located conveniently to either a major bus line and/or the freeway and within 2 miles of at least 1 grocery store. Most tenants are working class or students, the most annoying part of their day is their commute, and if it’s too annoying, they will be inspired to move.
When looking at upgrades, I focus on low cost rental grade improvements that increase the comfort and ease of living in the property, such as installing ceiling fans, USB outlets, or slightly above average shower head. These little details added up over time create properties people enjoy calling home.
The items listed above are my criteria, based off my experience and my preferred strategy. There are plenty of ways to skin this cat, so by all means, adjust accordingly to whatever strategy you choose. Your goal is to create a 'target tenant base' and acquire properties that meet the primary needs of this target base. For example, I’ve worked with clients and colleagues with the following unit configurations with specific population targets:
Whatever strategy you choose, the point is to have one. You want reasons for your criteria, what subgroup are you attracting? Focusing in on a specific target tenant group will help you make decisions later on.
All of these little, low cost items added together will reduce your vacancy time. Anyone with 1 or 2 dogs looking for a home in your neighborhood will not hesitate to apply. On top of that, they will be hard pressed to move because their dog(s) (aka vital member of their family) is so comfortable.
Look for properties and units that people actually want to live in. Everyone wants to feel safe in their home. Everyone appreciates a home that feels clean and is easy to keep warm. Over time, reduce everyday hassles of living with cost effective upgrades to your properties; These little details added up over time create properties people enjoy calling home, which reduces vacancy loss (and makes the world a little bit better at the same time).