Running a successful buy-to-let business is dependent on a number of factors. Your property, its location and your reputation as a landlord all come heavily into play. But ultimately it's the tenants who can make or break your business.

Of course, the priority is to fill your properties and keep them that way, but the quality - and reliability - of the tenant is also crucial. This is where having a clear idea of the type of tenant you're trying to attract can make all the difference.

Consider the area you wish to invest in and the tenant demand and make sure your property matches up - should you invest in family homes, two-bedroom flats, student houses or professional HMOs (Houses in Multiple Occupation) for example? And always remember to do the maths to ensure you're buy-to-let investment will turn a profit.

Whether you're just starting up your buy-to-let business or having to replace a tenant in a hurry, it can be daunting knowing where to start looking for the right people to rent your properties.

Here's our quick guide to finding your next tenant.

It's good to talk

Running a buy-to-let portfolio needn't be an isolated affair. True, you're working for yourself, but property is a people business and you'll need to build strong relationships and a solid network of contacts if you want your business to thrive. If you've done this well, then you may have many unobvious leads to follow. Is your buy-to-let property currently undergoing refurbishment and do your builders know any tenants? Can you utilise any landlord networks you are a part of, such as accreditation schemes or forums, and ask for their advice?

Try your tenants

Take the opportunity to discuss your vacancies with your existing tenants - do they know anyone looking for somewhere to live? Remember, recommendations go both ways - so if you've got a tenant ready to sing your praises to their social and professional networks, let them spread the word. If it doesn't fill this property it might put you at the forefront of their minds next time. This is especially useful if you have HMOs in your portfolio, but be mindful you don't fill a property with too many 'friends of friends' and always complete the proper referencing and paperwork.

Enlist an agent

Estate and letting agents aren't just there to find you properties and manage them for you, but they can also source good tenants. If there's a sense of urgency, then this is an appealing option as they will most likely have a database of waiting tenants and can handle the lot - from advertising the property and showing people around to handling the correspondence. Don't go for the 'bargain' option though and assess what they offer for their fee. And give them a clear brief on the type of tenant you're after. Consider online and high street agents and compare their services to find the one that works for you. If you want to get onto Rightmove or Zoopla you'll need a letting agent. You can pick up one online for as little as £50 if you just want them to handle these influential property portals.

Employment hubs

If you carefully chose your buy-to-let investment location because of its abundance of local employers, it's worth contacting them to see if you can advertise on their noticeboards, in their newsletters or on their intranet. If they're relocating people from out of town, you could provide a very welcome service in offering suitable local accommodation. Contact their HR department or internal communications team. If your existing tenants work for a reasonably sized corporation, get them on the case too.

Cast your net

If leads from your social circles have gone cold, the internet is an ideal place to get advertising locally, widely and free of charge in many cases. You may have to spend more time managing enquiries but for the immediacy and ease of spreading the word on Gumtree, Facebook, LinkedIn and the like, it's worth the effort - even if just to boost awareness for next time. Most importantly, make sure your rooms or properties are advertised on specialist websites like SpareRoom and Easy Roommate. Free to use, but with additional paid for features, these sites will give you instant access to millions - yes millions - of members and you can even contact potential tenants with a profile directly if you think you're property matches their requirements.

Put it in print

Don't disregard traditional media, from community circulars and noticeboards to the local rag. By placing your advert in these places, you're putting yourself right in front of local people. An ad in the newsagent's window might prompt enquiries or catch the attention of someone who knows someone, even if they are looking to move from out of the area. Another idea would be to put a 'for rent' sign in the window of your property. It won't reach the masses but might catch the eye of someone checking out the area ahead of a move.

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From this top-line tour of the potential avenues you can explore to fill a property, it's clear there are various ways to find prospective tenants. If you know the sort of tenant you are targeting, it's best to focus on approaching the places they are likely to be, network in their communities and highlight the benefits they'll be looking for.

The most important point to remember is how damaging it can be to a rental return if the property lays vacant for too long. So make sure you have a strategy in place to market your property so you can get to work as soon as a tenant hands in their notice.

How you tackle the situation when it arises may depend on the circumstances but don't discount the options out there and remember to think outside of the box - your dream tenant might just be closer than you think.

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Whether you’re keen to find out more about Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs), or want information on the latest lettings legislation, you’ll find it here on the blog.