There are a number of practical tips set out here on how to maximise your buy to let investment. The common theme through all of these is that you need to have an eye on your costs at all times. Remember that, first and foremost, a buy to let property is a long term investment and your goal is to maximise your income from it. Always see it as a business rather than getting emotionally involved.
Avoid paying too much for the property
It's easy to get carried away when you find a property you love and get drawn into paying more than you planned. Remember every extra penny you pay reduces your ultimate yield and makes it harder to generate a profit.
Do not overspend on repairs and refurbishments
Keep in mind that you're not living in the property so it does not need to be finished to the standard you expect in your own home. You should know your target tenants and refurbish your property accordingly. If you're going to be charging a premium rent then tenants will expect a premium finish, whereas students will generally expect it to be fairly basic. Consider whether your tenants are likely to keep the property in good condition as you want to avoid paying for expensive furniture and finishings that you will have to replace regularly. Keeping your décor simple also cuts initial costs as well as reducing upkeep costs. Use a neutral, off the shelf, paint and buy it in bulk so you have enough to easily touch up the paintwork.
Keep your rent reasonable
In general, most tenants will do their research and have a good idea about what is a reasonable rent for your property. If you set your rent too high you are likely to have an empty property, which means losing money.
If you are using an agent, choose them well
You should never just go with the cheapest agent. Do your homework, speak to other landlords and get an idea of which agents provide the best service. It may be worth spending a bit extra. If you hire the cheapest agent but end up having to look after the property yourself then their fees are just money down the drain.
Build up a good working relationship with your tenants or agent
If you get on well with your tenants and treat them reasonably, they are far less likely to cause you problems. It is in your interests for your tenants to keep the property in good condition and having a good relationship with them encourages this. The same goes with agents. don't underestimate the value and benefit of having an agent who is prepared to go the extra mile for you.
Keep good records
This is essential for tax purposes. You want to have records of all the money you spend on the property so you are able to account for the tax due properly and claim all available tax reliefs when preparing your tax returns. In the case of Capital Gains Tax, these records may not be required until much further down the line when you eventually sell the property, so it's important to ensure that you retain these records.
Carry out regular maintenance and inspections
Problems are usually far cheaper to fix if you discover them early, and you can only do this if you make sure you inspect the property regularly. Having a good relationship with your tenants will come in handy here too as they are more likely to report any issues to you. When an issue does arise, ensure you deal with it straight away. Regular and minor maintenance will cost you less in the long run than waiting until problems become so big you are forced to fix them.
If you keep all these tips in mind you are putting yourself in the best position to maximise your income. Buy to let properties can be an excellent investment and, if managed sensibly, can provide you with an excellent long term return, so it's worth ensuring you get the most from them.