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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

With families making up almost one third of households in the private rented sector in England*, or 1.3 million households, they have become an increasingly valued segment of renters. What makes a buy to let family-friendly? How can you attract families to your rental property?

What makes families 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? After all, there is a common belief there’s more wear and tear with families. But that’s not always the case in practice.

The best thing about letting to families is that they tend to 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’re more likely have 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. Consequently, it’s easier to self-manage a family single let than an HMO, which keeps down your on-going costs.

7 property features that attract family renters

Not every property is suitable for families due to its size. However, these are 7 things that, in my experience, attract families as renters.

1. 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 them 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 the last rental house I bought, 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 earlier this year 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. 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 to be able to do a big shop and have somewhere to put it.
    • They are relatively inexpensive these days, especially through companies like AO, who offer special ranges to NRLA members. Unlike washing machines and dishwashers, they are less likely to go wrong and need repair, so I do 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 has become increasingly important for all renters, not just families, following the Covid lockdowns. 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.

None of my houses have off-street parking, but are in residents’ parking areas, as they are near a mainline station to London. 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 station and town centre.

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

5. Good storage

bike shed in garden
Storage space is popular with all renters, especially families

As a mother, I know how difficult it is to over-estimate the amount of general paraphernalia that come 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 modern houses might have bigger gardens that can 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.

For more details on what makes a great location, click on this link for my blog post.

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 growing up. 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 my last letting was to a family with a small well-behaved dog. I’ve also recently agreed to let existing tenants get 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.

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 living in a property, the higher the wear and tear. I make maintenance easy by painting all the walls white. It 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.

White walls are the classic blank canvas for the 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.

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.

Inventory clerk taking detailed photos of a property's condition inside before renters move in
An inventory clerk takes detailed photos of a property’s condition inside and out

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 every six months or so. It’s important to give at lease 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.

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.

Let me know in the comments if you’ve got any further tips to attract families to rental properties that you’d like to share.


*According to the English Private Landlord Survey

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