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What makes a rental property attractive to families?

Young family of 4 having fun on a big sofa in an attractive rental property

Families make up almost one third of households in the private rented sector in England, or 1.3 million households, yet some landlords are reluctant to let to families. Not this landlord. I specifically market my buy to lets to families by making my properties family-friendly, as I see them as a very attractive segment of long-term tenants.

In this blog post, I look at what makes a property family-friendly and how you can attract families to your rental property. In writing this post, I draw on my experience as a landlord who has deliberately built up a portfolio of three-bedroomed terraced houses for families to live in.

Why families are a good choice for landlords

Smiling happy mixed race family of four outside attractive rental property
Families often make great long term renters

First of all, why should you consider letting to families?

The best thing about letting to families is that they usually stay longer than younger renters, who are more mobile. Younger renters are more likely to leave to move in with partners, relocate for another job, or buy their own property.

Moving home is simply a lot more hassle for families. All the more so if the children are settled in local schools or nurseries. They have more furniture and belongings to pack up, and they tend to put down roots in the community. The potential disruption to children’s lives of changing schools and finding new friends, is something many families wish to avoid.

Why is this good for landlords? Long-term renters means fewer voids, less management time in finding new renters and less all-round hassle. I’ve also found families often form a deeper connection with a property, particularly if it’s been nicely refurbished. They also tend to look after it as if it were their own property.

A single let to a family is also considerably easier to manage than an HMO, where renters are continually moving in and out, and there are the HMO Management Regulations and possibly licensing conditions to comply with. Although rents may be higher for HMOs, the costs and management time are significantly more. As a self-managing landlord, I’d rather have a little less profit than all the headaches that come with HMOs.

>> Related Post: Landlord guide to successful HMO management

What do family tenants look for in rental properties?

Not every property will be suitable for families as some are too small. However, here are 7 features that, in my experience, attract families as renters.

1. Family-friendly layout

gay couple with young children eating pasta at the kitchen table to show property features attractive to families
Space for a proper table makes feeding young children so much easier

As I know myself, family life is often quite chaotic. And being on top of each other in cramped accommodation makes life difficult.

I want my rental properties to be comfortable for families to live in, so that they stay longer. This means I have very specific criteria when I’m looking to buy a Victorian house (my specialty), specifically for the family market.

The floor plan below is from a rental house I bought in 2022, and the layout was very popular with families.

Floorplan showing an ideal layout that is attractive for families in a Victorian house
Floor plan of one of my rental properties, which has proved an ideal layout for families

These are the specific features of layouts that make a rental property great for families:

  • Two reception rooms or a double reception room, plus a kitchen – this allows plenty of space for a family room with a TV, a dining room with a big table for meals or homework, that leads to a kitchen out the back. I won’t buy houses that have the kitchen in the second reception room and the bathroom at the back, as that doesn’t give much ‘living’ space for family life. As there’s not a huge amount of difference in the price between houses with different layouts, I’d rather wait for one that has the right layout for families. Having that extra space makes it more likely the family will stay.
  • Three bedrooms – having three bedrooms makes the house a viable option for families for up to 3 children, and for smaller families, 3 bedrooms means there’s a spare room. The problem with a 2 bedroom house is that families will outgrow it, and move on.
  • Upstairs family bathroom and downstairs loo/shower room – an upstairs bathroom is very popular with families as it’s easy for the children to go to the loo in the night. It’s also convenient if there’s a downstairs loo, especially when children are potty-training. The house in the floor plan above has a separate shower room downstairs, as well as a family bathroom upstairs, which really helped me get a top rent for the property.

2. Family-friendly appliances

dishwasher with toddler in front of it showing dishwashers are popular with families

Here are some tips about what to include appliance-wise for a house to be family-friendly:

  • Dishwasher / plumbing for dishwasher
    • Families increasingly do expect a dishwasher or at least plumbing for a dishwasher.
    • One of the houses I bought did not have dishwasher plumbing. I’d already spent a lot on the refurb, so I crossed my fingers and hoped it would be OK. The family who rented it contacted me after a couple of months and asked if I would take out a kitchen unit and install plumbing. I did this at my expense (although they bought their own dishwasher).
    • Why? Because I knew this would improve their quality of life and make the property better for families.
    • As an aside, I don’t provide washing machines or dishwashers for renters, unless I bought the property with integrated appliances. Appliances regularly go wrong and it’s another cost. Also, renters in my area expect to bring their own. Take a look at my blog post on what landlords should provide in unfurnished properties for more information.
  • Tall, family-sized fridge
    • A family needs a decent sized fridge-freezer so they can do a big shop and have somewhere to put it.
    • Unlike washing machines and dishwashers, they are less likely to go wrong and need repair, so I sometimes buy them for my rental properties.

3. Garden

Before and after of Victorian garden to make it appeal to family renters
In a recent project, I transformed the grotty backyard into a nice low maintenance outdoor living space

Outdoor space became very important for all renters, not just families, in the pandemic. Families particularly appreciate having a low maintenance but nice outdoor space with a patio area and some grass for the children to play on.

In a recent project, I transformed a grotty back yard into a lovely outdoor space that is low maintenance yet nice for the family to use. I put in a patio, high quality turf and raised beds with wood chip and easy shrubs. (Nothing prickly, invasive or poisonous). It made a huge difference and was very popular with the families that came to view the property.

It is handy if the garden has rear or side access, so that bikes and other things don’t need to be brought through the house.

4. Parking

Off-street parking is a huge bonus, but difficult to come by in town centres. A garage is even more popular with renters.

Only one of my houses has off-street parking, but the rest are in residents’ parking areas. Sometimes my renters complain it can be hard to find somewhere to park in the area. There’s not much I can do about it, but the upside of the location is that they are within walking distance of the train station to London, bus station and town centre.

If you can get off-street parking, that is a great attraction for your family rental property.

5. Good storage

As a mother, I know how difficult it is to over-estimate the amount of general paraphernalia that comes with children. From buggies and high-chairs, to bikes and scooters. And then there’s all the clothes, shoes and coats they need, and which you keep to pass on.

In other words, storage space is really important for families, especially somewhere convenient to put the buggy and the bikes.

Houses with extra storage, eg a bike shed, cellar or even a boarded loft, make family life so much easier. I speak from experience here! Victorian houses tend to have cellars, but if there’s no cellar, the garden might be big enough to fit a small shed. Either way, when wanting to attract and keep families as renters, think storage!

6. Location

Fictitious suburb with school, bank, post office, restaurant, café, supermarket, train station within easy reach
Examples of what makes an area popular with families

Families value being near good schools and nurseries, and nice places to visit like a nearby park. The advantages of being in a town or suburb is that many amenities are nearby, such as a supermarket, post office, bank, and restaurants. It’s particularly handy when these things are within walking distance.

>> Related Post: How to find the best location for your rental properties

7. Accepting pets

As soon as my children were able to talk, they started asking for a dog, and we had two labradors when they were growing up. It’s wonderful for children to have a dog or cat when they are young. Sadly, because of the five week rent cap on deposits, and the undeniable fact that dogs and cats can do more than 5 weeks’ rent’s worth of damage, means that landlords don’t like letting to renters with pets.

I can understand this, and am nervous myself about letting to anyone with a pet. But it’s something I’ve decided to allow for the greater good, and I now have two sets of tenants with a dog.

Now I’m a convert, I can see that landlords who welcome pets have a massive advantage in terms of attracting families. Provided the property is suitable (and I’d say most Victorian houses with a garden are suitable for a small dog or cat), it’s something landlords should consider for single lets.

It does however make sense to do more regular inspections to make sure the dog isn’t chewing the skirting boards, and the cat isn’t scratching up the carpet. But it’s a good idea to do six monthly inspections anyway to spot maintenance issues, and nip any problems in the bud.

To find out more, take a look at my detailed blog post, which explains how to be a pet-friendly landlord, whilst managing the risks.

Family of four with a Golden Retriever inside a house
Landlords who welcome pets are few and far between, and make those properties very popular with families

8. Being flexible

If you’re wanting a family to make a long-term home in your rental property, it’s important to be a bit flexible. For instance, I let them make small changes, eg put TVs, pictures and coat hooks etc on the walls.

However, I also make it clear that they need to make good the hole and repaint when they eventually leave. As all the walls are painted white, this isn’t difficult, and I leave a pot of paint for them in the cellar.

Being flexible is part of the give and take involved as a good landlord. If you’d like to understand how to be a good landlord, take a look at the 5 hallmarks of a good landlord.

Tips for managing family rental properties

1. Keep the decor neutral

Bedroom of Victorian house painted white with mid-grey carpet
Keeping the walls white and carpets mid-grey is very durable and versatile

The more people who live in a property, the higher the wear and tear. I make maintenance easy by painting all the walls white. This means it’s always easy to colour match, and the paint won’t be discontinued. I leave a spare pot in the cellar for the renters to touch up scuffs.

I know white walls might be boring, but they are an excellent blank canvas for renters’ belongings.

I also choose a hard-wearing polypropylene carpet in mid-grey, so it should last 10 years and can be easily cleaned up. NRLA members can get a 15% discount off : click here for more information on the Carpetright discount.

2. Arrange an inventory report before move-in day

I highly recommend getting an inventory done by a professional inventory clerk the day before the family move in. They will take detailed photos of every room with descriptions and photos of every scuff mark. Click here to see an extract from an inventory report prepared in June 2022 before a family moved into the property.

An inventory report makes it easy to see at the end of the tenancy to see what the property was like before they move in. Worth every penny.

3. Regular inspections

Prevention is better than cure, and a way to check in to see if the wear and tear is excessive is to do regular inspections. I do inspections every six months or so. It’s important to give at least 24 hours’ notice as the renters have the right to ‘quiet enjoyment’. I tend to ask a week in advance and give slots for when I’m free.

As well as checking the condition of the property, it’s a great opportunity for them to mention little repair jobs. You’d be surprised how reluctant some tenants are to report them. My view is that it’s always best to keep on top of them, before they become major issues. Also, you can chat about what they can put on the walls.

I’ve always self-managed, partly because of cost, but also because I like to see the property myself and make the decisions. It’s a valuable investment, and I want to look after it.

>> Related Post: Landlord guide to successful mid-tenancy inspections

Final thoughts

In the rush to improve yields by converting large houses to HMOs, the family rental property is often neglected. Families are the fastest growing segment of renters, and make great long-term renters.

Assuming the property is large enough, it’s possible to make the property family-friendly, to attract the best family renters.

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