You’ll have noticed by now that I’m often recommending that you find a good letting agent to represent your property. Well as an agent myself, I would, wouldn’t I?
I’m not going to lie – I want to pay my mortgage at the end of the month as much as you do, but one of the big reasons I got into this market was due to poor service from other agents. I’ve had it as a tenant, where I was charged outrageous renewal fees, and I’ve had it as a landlord where they’ve sent an electrician to fix a water leak. It was coming through the light fitting, you see?.....
So after patching up the hole in the wall where my forehead hit it (I was a good tenant), I sat down with Matt and Jasmine, who had had similar issues, and we set out exactly what we wanted from a good lettings agent, and then we set about delivering that standard of service to our customers. So here are the things that I think you need to look for:
- Quick response rate.
- You’re paying these people to make your life easier, and to keep you on the right side of a raft of legislation. Prompt responses to your questions should be a minimum level of service.
- If you’re contacting and agent, it’s fair to expect a call back within 24 hours at most – less if you’re clear that it is urgent.
- You’re not always going to like the news an agent has to bring you. Tenants causing damage, moving out, or just on-going property maintenance issues will happen, and your approval may be needed to resolve the issue. But realistic timelines for getting things done and great communication will ease the pain – and ensure that you don’t expect the impossible.
- Mistakes happen. When dealing with my own rental property, I had an agent who failed to pass on a message to my tenant, resulting in £2000 of accidental damage to the property. I was understandably upset, but within 24 hours, the agency had investigated the mistake, accepted blame, and arranged to pay all of my costs. I can’t fault that – and as a result I know that I can trust them with my property, and my money.
- Levels of service.
- A good agent will have many levels of service available, from fully managed to tenant find only. Each will be priced accordingly, allowing you to tailor the service to your needs and budget.
- By law, every agent is required to display their fees in the office, and on their website so that it is totally transparent what you will be paying. If they don’t have this, don’t use them.
- They should also be able to provide or arrange every service a landlord needs – from comprehensive referencing, to arranging reliable maintenance work at fair prices. If you end up needing to do some of it yourself, you need a better agent.
- They will find you the right tenant, not the first applicant.
- As an agent, I only get paid when I put a tenant into the landlord’s property. SO you’d think that I would just do that as fast as possible – except I don’t. Everyone gets a thorough referencing, and we try to make sure that the type of tenant matches the landlord’s requests and expectations.
- Some other agents, looking for a quick payday, will promise to have someone in your place by the end of the week – these are people to beware of! An unsuspecting landlord faced with a choice between my honest promise that I’ll get the right person in ASAP (but with no fixed timeline), and the chancer who has “Catastrophe Colin” on the books again because he keeps getting evicted by other landlords, might choose the faster payday and live to regret it. I keep saying; this is your biggest investment, and it is worth doing properly and looking after it!
- A good agent takes time to understand your needs, and will be able to explain the pros and cons of DSS tenants, pet owners, families, students and more. You can then make an informed decision, and the agent should find someone to match. Remember – you should always be given the final veto over any tenant before they move in.
- Only use a registered agent!
- Since the 1st of October 2014, all lettings agents have been required by law to be a member of one of the three approved lettings schemes. These are:
- These schemes require agents to abide by a code of conduct, and provide customers with a means of redressing bad service. Your agent should be prominently displaying their scheme membership, and if they are not members then they could be reported and prosecuted.
- Not only should you ask around about the service provided by agents, these days the internet should be able to show you reviews pretty quickly. A good agency should have several good reviews to back it up, giving you confidence in what you’ll get.
- Presence on major advertising sites.
- A good agent should be present on at least one major portal like Rightmove, as well as their own website. If they are not then it will massively restrict your potential market.
In short, the kind of agent you want is honest, professional and prepared to tailor their services to your needs. You want someone who is going to take all the difficult and boring bits off you, but who will give those areas the same care and attention that you would have if you had the knowledge, time and/or inclination! Those are the principles that Matt, Jasmine and I have built our business on, and you should expect no less.
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