How to Sell a Tenanted Property
Selling an investment property while your tenants are still living in there often makes financial sense for investors. Timing your market move to ensure you are selling at the right time is important, but also having the consistency of the rental income right up until you sell the property, can make a big difference to your financial stability, especially if you need to make home loan repayments.
Additionally, other investors often prefer to purchase a property that has reliable tenants in it and, in some cases, can help push the sale over the line.
However, having tenants in your property adds a level of complication. In many cases, tenants facing the sale of their ‘home’ are likely to not be very happy. They may have to find and move into a new place which is both time-consuming and costly. This can include searching for a new property – and this can take some time; pay for removalists, cleaners, utility connections and find the bond for their new place. Tenants can expect to pay $2000 - $3000 which is a lot of money! And a lot of reasons not to be over the moon about it.
How can you keep your tenants happy and sell your property at the same time?
1. Open communication with your tenants
Open and early communication is key. It’s important that you let your tenants know you are going to sell the property BEFORE you put the property on the market. Many tenants love their 'home' and in many cases if they are in a financial position to do so, may like to buy your property. So ring the tenants first and offer them the opportunity to purchase it. Keep in mind if the first time they hear about the sale is when the signboard is going up, you’ll find they may not be that willing to work with you to help you sell your property – and you need them on side.
Additionally, in many states and territories you need to abide by legislative requirements and notice periods and be reasonable about the number of inspections that are held each week. In some states such as NSW, if you don’t let your tenants know that you are planning on selling your property when they sign the lease, and you go on to sell, they have the right to give notice to vacate the property whether they are on a lease or not. Make sure you talk to your property manager about your specific state and territory legislation.
2. Open homes and inspections
If the property has tenants, you have less control over how well the property will be presented to potential buyers. Most tenants will do the right thing and ensure the property is tidy and in a reasonable state for inspections, however overflowing garbage, a smelly bedroom or an unmade bed can have a negative impression on buyers. If the property is presented very poorly this can directly affect the sales price.
Again open communication is key here. In most states and territories, written notice must be provided to the tenants at least 24 hours before the property will be shown to a potential buyer. To help ease tension over last minute requests, it is a good idea to organise 2 set times per week for open home viewings as this gives your tenants enough time to tidy up the property and make plans if possible to be out of the premises. There is no official requirement for tenants to be out of the property but by giving them notice they are often happy to go out for the duration of the inspections.
3. Offer incentives to your tenants
Having income coming in from your tenants during the sale period is important to many investors and they find offering an incentive to their tenants can make all the difference to how willing they are to keep the property clean and tidy and vacant for inspections. Here are some incentives you could offer your tenants during the sales period:
- Taking $50-$100 off the weekly rent in return for the tenants presenting the property as nicely as possible for viewings and staying away during open homes
- Consider offering a week’s free when the property sells to help them pay for the relocation costs
- A small fee for open for inspections if they tidy and prepare the property for sale
- A reference for their future rental property applications
4. Offer the chance to break the lease
If your tenants are really unhappy it may be better to offer them an early release from the tenancy. While you will miss out on the rental income during the sales process, having them out of the property offers benefits too. You can get into the property easily and fix anything that needs to be repaired, things that you couldn’t do while the tenants were living there. Do the walls need a repaint, how is the carpet looking, does the bathroom or kitchen need a refresh? These changes can often bring in more money when you sell than if you had the tenant in place collecting rent. Plus, you don’t have to worry about access and considering them at open inspections.
A few points to consider though – if they are on a fixed term lease you cannot ask them to leave unless they choose to break the lease themselves. If you can’t wait until the end of the lease to sell, then your property manager can try to negotiate with them and perhaps offer an incentive for them to break the lease.
If your tenant is still living in your property past the end date of your fixed term lease they are protected under what is called a Continuing Agreement Tenancy. You can terminate this lease if you give them 90 day’s notice, or advise them that you plan on selling the property and give them 30 day’s notice when the sales contract is signed. Of course, you need to make sure the tenants are out of the property before the settlement date.
5. Pay for a clean up
A well-presented property has a direct impact on how many people are interested in your property, how quickly it sells and how much it sells for. Relying on your tenants to prepare your property for sale is a bad idea. Hire a cleaner (and gardener if you have an outside space) to do a thorough clean and garden tidy up before you take any photos or open the property for inspections. First impressions matter, so spending some money on making your property look its best can really pay off, plus the cost of this is tax deductible and your tenants will be happier living in a fresh, clean and tidy home.
6. Staging your property to sell
As we move into a competitive and turbulent housing market, it’s vital to do everything you can to make your property stand out. One of the things that can help is property styling. This allows potential buyers to better envision themselves living in the property. Of course, this will be difficult while your current tenants are still living in the property, however, there are some staging tips that can entice buyers to come in for an inspection and make an offer. Some quick and easy ways to stage your property for selling include enhancing the home’s curb appeal by tidying the exterior and landscaping, along with temporarily moving personal possessions into a storage box (with the current tenant/s permission).
7. Get professional help
A professional real estate agent or your dedicated property manager can help you when selling a rented property. They can provide you with a guide to selling a tenanted property and the steps to take to ensure you comply with any local and federal laws. Our agents know the market and the legalities around tenancy agreements and can guide you to achieving the best sale outcome for your property while navigating the complexities of selling property with tenants.
- Landlords/agents have the right to access the property to show it to prospective buyers. However, they must give the tenant a written notice at least 14 days beforehand.
- Tenants are within their right to request a rent reduction during the period that the property is being shown and prepared to sell. However, there is no requirement for the landlord to agree.
- Tenants have the right to remain at the premises while the property is being shown.
- Landlords/agents can take photos/videos of the property to market it for sale. However, they can only do this once in the 28 days before marketing starts or the agreement ends. The landlord/agent must also give reasonable notice of the access and give the tenant a reasonable opportunity to move their possessions.
- Landlords must obtain the tenant/s consent to put a ‘for sale’ sign on the premises if the property is a house. However, if the property is in a strata scheme, the landlord/agent can put a for-sale sign or hold an auction on the common property without tenant consent.
- If the rented property for sale is a house, the landlord/agent cannot hold an auction on-site without the tenant/s consent.
Once the rental property sells
If the landlord doesn’t terminate the lease agreement, the tenant should be given a written notice that states the buyer’s name and address and include direction for the tenant on how to make future rental payments to the new buyer. If the tenant's agreement is up and they are moving out, it’s a good idea for landlords to remain considerate and courteous and to part ways on a positive note. Be aware that an unhappy tenant could affect the sale price for an owner, so it’s always crucial to build a good relationship with your tenants throughout the entire sale process.
DISCLAIMER - The information provided is for guidance and informational purposes only and does not replace independent business, legal and financial advice which we strongly recommend. Whilst the information is considered true and correct at the date of publication, changes in circumstances after the time of publication may impact the accuracy of the information provided. LJ Hooker will not accept responsibility or liability for any reliance on the blog information, including but not limited to, the accuracy, currency or completeness of any information or links.