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What Should You Look For When Buying A HMO?

10th September 2020

Given the right area, investing in a HMO can be a great way to increase the yield of a property, and a way to boost your portfolio. But whether you are new to the property game, or are a seasoned landlord looking for a different route, what should you be thinking about when you are looking for a HMO?

About HMO’s

There are many reasons why landlords are attracted to the HMO market – in the right location, they can give a much larger return than a general family property, because they are leased as individual rooms or spaces rather than as a whole. This means that you are in effect renting out several dwellings in a property, rather than just one.

Generally, there will be two routes to get you there. You can either look at purchasing a property which is already set up as a HMO, in which case the layout is much less, or, you can look for a property where you can convert a property from a single dwelling/single use into a HMO. If you’ve got the money to put down in doing this, you are able to create the space however it works for you, geared towards a specific market, and can potentially make some more money selling it on as a HMO.

Traditionally thought of as student accommodation, HMO’s are also becoming more popular in affluent city centre locations, where rents are higher, and young professionals are looking to keep costs down by house-sharing.

So areas surrounding universities are still very popular, but also consider areas where young people are starting their careers, and perhaps might be searching out house shares while they are still single and forging their own paths. This also has the additional benefit of allowing landlords to seek out more expensive properties, which are more likely to have a higher yield as a HMO than as a family home.

What type of property makes the best HMO?

If you have no experience in the HMO market, you might think that you have to seek out a specific type of property for you HMO – something large, with a minimum number of rooms of bathrooms – but actually, that’s not necessarily the case. In fact, almost any type of property can be converted into a HMO.

Under law, a HMO is defined as being a home rented by three or more tenants who are not part of the same household/family. So in theory, even a small bungalow, for example, could be considered as a HMO, if shared by three people, providing the correct criteria are met.

The main things you’ll need to think about are choosing the correct location, and whether you have the vision and skill to make your property work as a HMO. Location should always be the key factor.

Do I need a HMO licence?

In most cases, yes, you will need to apply for a HMO licence. Currently, the criteria are:

  • If your property is rented to five or more people who form more than one household, or;
  • Any of your tenants share bathroom, toilet or kitchen facilities, or;
  • At least one tenant pays rent.

Any of these will require you to hold a HMO licence, although you should always check with your local authority, as some areas have slightly different rules.

Are HMO’s harder to maintain?

HMO’s are usually rented by students or young professionals who typically are looking for short-term accommodation, whether that’s based on the academic year, or the term of a work contract etc. As such, you will normally find that your HMO turnover, in terms of tenants, is higher than it would be for a normal dwelling.

While that might mean that you’re more likely to fill the property quicker, it also means that due to the temporary status of the accommodation, your tenants are less inclined to put their efforts into general maintenance of the property, and this means that you will have to put more time, effort, and money into cleaning up after they vacate.

As well as this, the shared areas, such as kitchens, bathrooms etc. will have a much higher general usage than in a normal house, so there will be much more wear and tear on things like carpets and flooring, furnishings, and appliances.

It’s worth considering, if you’re thinking about taking on a HMO, that they do require more upkeep on a regular basis, and so those expenses need to be taken into consideration.

Converting into a HMO – is it worth it?

If you are in an area where demand for shared accommodation is high, and you’re thinking about converting a property into a HMO, there are some factors to consider.

You will need to ensure that the property has adequate space for your tenants, and is safe, clean and habitable. You will be subject to spot-checks by the local authority, and any failures in standard could lead to your licence being revoked, as well as a hefty fine.

Also consider whether you will want to make use of spaces such as living rooms as additional bedrooms – many landlords do this to maximise the rooms they can rent, but it’s also important to consider the communal areas – is there adequate living space to allow for an area for your tenants to gather and sit? If you have a kitchen diner, you might want to use the dining space for a lounge or seating area for them to relax.

If there is a garage attached to the property, there is possibly scope to add another room/bedroom. But you will have to seek planning permission, so get advice from your local council before doing this.

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