I’ve been a professional decorator for most of my working life, and self-employed for over 12 years. In that time, I’ve worked on many different types of job for many different types of clients.
Decorating for a landlord is a bit of a strange situation. They don’t live in the property themselves and they always have an eye on profit margin. I’ll explain why this is a problem;
The average tenant may rent a house for say 18 months before moving on. Ideally, every time a tenant moves out, a landlord would want a full redecoration, as well as changing any tired looking carpets, blinds, curtains and anything else. It would normally cost in the region of £3,500 for a decorator to come in and paint a full house.
The landlord might also have to fork out another £1000 on carpets and anything else that needs replacing. So, by those calculations, a landlord could conceivably spend £4,500 every 18 months on maintenance. That’s £250 per month lost in renovation costs!! By the time they’ve paid their monthly mortgage repayments, they could easily be losing money, rather than making it.
Those renovation costs need to come right down and often the decorating budget is cut from a few grand, to a few hundred quid.
A Landlord’s Standards
You may think a landlord’s budget is unrealistic, but if a decorator understands the situation, it’s fine. Stop looking at it as a full redecoration and start thinking of it as a “quick freshen up”. That normally means minimal prep and one coat on everything. Sometimes not even that!!
As a decorator, you should take your client through each room and have a detailed chat about the level of work you’re going to carry out. You may decide between you that some ceilings or the odd wall is fine and doesn’t need painting.
Or you might do a little bit of filling, spot prime, then apply one big coat on a wall. Woodwork often just gets one coat of satinwood.
Materials are cheap too!! We’re talking contract matt and either Crown Trade satinwood or Dulux Once!! One good tip is to try and use the same materials as the landlord used on the last freshen up. By doing this you have more chance of getting away with one coat.
Quoting for a Landlord
As mentioned above, you must have a detailed chat about the level decorating they expect you to carry out. Write a detailed spec, number of coats, which walls, which products etc. Go into as much detail as possible at the quoting stage when decorating for a landlord. Fire it all across via email and make sure it’s all agreed before you touch a paintbrush. That way, if your client isn’t 100% happy, as long as you’ve completed what you said you would, you’ll be covered.
You can offer them different levels of services for different budges too. The easiest way I find to do this is by saying, “I can spend 4 days in here for £x and get this done. Or for another £y amount, you can also have this, this and this.” This does two things: 1 – you’re putting the landlord in complete control. 2 – you’re managing the landlord’s expectations. If they decide to go for the cheaper option, they know the quality of finish will be diminished.
Is Decorating for a Landlord even worth it?
I’ve worked on some spectacular houses, but I still love decorating for landlords. It’s easy because you don’t need to be as anal about your work. Come in, wally a big thick coat on everything, then leave. It doesn’t take much in the way of skill, you just get on with it.
How to Find This Type of Work
If you fancy this sort of work, it’s easy to find it. Start by calling into local estate agents, introduce yourself, and then offer to leave them a card. If they manage properties for landlords, they often advise their clients to decorate before putting it on the market. You will also get the odd higher-end job from people who want to sell their house. Some estate agents take a commission, so just be weary. Price can be very tight to begin with, so giving a commission on this type of work can be difficult.
I know that decorating for landlords isn’t for every professional tradesman, but I enjoy it occasionally. It offers a different type of challenge than working for a homeowner. It takes a better understanding and communication with the client
Decorating for a Landlord – by Mike Cupit