Prospective tenants will rarely rent a property on the basis of its outside space, but a shabby, unkempt exterior will make them think that the inside will be equally neglected. By improving the outside space, landlords can get the outside of their properties working as hard as the inside to attract and retain good, reliable tenants.
Many of the plots around properties in Brixton and Battersea either have small gardens or no garden to speak of. There can be little space to work with, and the shape of the plot may be awkward. But don't let this deter you – a neat, prepossessing outdoor area which requires little maintenance will help boost the appeal of the property in the eyes of tenants.
First get the structure right
1. Don't forget the essentials
Bin storage is a must, but what about bikes and buggies? What else might your tenants need?
2. Design the space so that it looks good from inside
For most of the year, people in the UK only look at their gardens through a window. Plan the outside space so that its key features can be enjoyed from inside the property.
Throw out the traditional idea of shrubs round a patch of lawn. As plants struggle for light, they rapidly grow too tall, making the space look tatty and tired.
1. Focus on hard landscaping
Start by painting the walls a pale colour that will reflect the light and bounce it into the interior. Take the idea further by installing a strategically-placed mirror or two. As well as brightening the place up, they'll make it feel much bigger.
Unless the space is large, avoid decking. Not only do weeds grow up between the planks, but if the plot doesn't get much sun, the wood may rot. Instead, continue the theme of light and bright by paving the ground with pale slabs or covering it with cream shingle.
2. Fill the space
To plant or not to plant? Plants are appealing, but they need watering and require maintenance. Unless you are happy to retain a gardener, leave putting plants in the outside space to green-fingered tenants.
Concentrate on furnishings
Buy in or build some stylish seating to entice your tenants outside. Invest in a chiminea that will extend the season when they can use the spot. And, of course, install a nifty unit that camouflages the wheelie bins.
Artificial plants are a possibility, but how about sculptures? They look great outdoors, last longer than plants and can hang on walls as well as standing free. Shiny sculptures would augment the light created by the mirrors and pale paint. Alternatively, darker sculptures would offer much-needed contrast. See what bargains you can unearth in Brixton and Battersea's vintage and antique markets.
Gardens are places of recreation and, from the garden gnome onwards, people have had fun with them. Look out for tasteful items which will make your tenants laugh. Or even simply supply hooks on which the tenants can hang items of their own choosing.
Rest on your laurels
By jazzing up your property's outside space, you'll find you've cut down on the maintenance costs and you may be able to charge a little more per month in rent simply because the property has become an even more appealing prospect for tenants. Any money you have spent on the outside space you should then be able to recoup through the rent.