1. Research the area. Where are the schools and amenities? do people want to live there? If you're looking at family properties a good school nearby will be essential, if you're looking to rent to young professionals, consider transport links.
Don't just research the town, look closely at the actual area within the town. Getting this wrong will lead to disaster.
2. Do the maths. Know your numbers in detail and treat the investment like a business. If the property is empty for a month or two can you still pay the mortgage and associated bills? Work out that if the boiler packs up and you need to get a new one, you can afford to do this.
3. Think of your target tenant - if it's young professional, go for modern and stylish fixtures and fittings.
4. How hands on do you want to be? A good agent is likely to get you a quality, fully referenced tenant quickly and will deal with everything for you from collecting the rent to seeing to maintenance problems. You will pay a commission, but often it's worth it so that you don't have to spend your free time advertising, checking out your proposed tenant, conducting viewings, answering phone calls and sorting out repairs.
4. Really consider how much rent to charge - Tenants are likely to stay longer in the property if they know they are getting a good deal which means less voids for you. Think of how much money you could lose if your property is empty for just 3 or 4 weeks because you're asking for £50 more.
5. See to maintenance issues quickly - This is the area that frustrates tenants more than any other. If an issue is reported do your best to get the matter sorted as quickly as possible.
6. Make sure you have the correct insurance - not having the right insurance can be costly. Landlord insurance is a specialist area so be sure to research this in detail.