Finding The Right Letting Agent

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The difference between making the right and wrong decision with which agent to leave your property in the hands of, could bite you if you make the wrong decision.

Who said owning a rental property was easy? No one! But choose the right people to guide you through and it’ll make your life a lot easier.

The commonly looked for traits in an estate agent are good communication, high-quality marketing strategies, willingness to help, approachability for any queries, and more. Depending on what type of landlord you are, you may have your own expectations on how you’d like to be dealt with.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions, they are there to serve you and your property to the best of their abilities and should be able to showcase exactly that. Pay particular attention to an agent that turns the tables and asks what ‘you’ are looking for in an agent, it shows their eagerness to please and willingness to deliver exactly what you ask for.

What services do I need?

From just a tenant-find, rent collection, up to full property management.

The Tenant-find usually refers to marketing, paperwork up till the tenant moves in for you to then take over managing the tenancy for the remainder of time it’s tenanted.

Additionally, to the services above for a small monthly fee a rent collection service could be available. The agent will handle the money coming in, and get it paid to you every month.

The option for full property management includes the above, as well as liaising with the tenants regularly, dealing with general queries from tenants, arrange contractors to deal with logged issues, and even conduct period inspections to ensure the property is being maintained well.

The option you choose should depend on your skill set, competence, and most importantly time. Being situated a distance away from the rental property, working long hours or days, or frequently being out of the country should be considerations for what route you take.

What research should I do?

Research is subjective as most people have different expectations and requirements. List questions you have, no matter how small or trivial they may seem, it’s best to get them answered so there’s no confusion going forward.

Starting with an online search of ‘estate agents in my area’, the best ones will usually be listed on the first page. With plenty of information of what platforms they’re on, as well as impartial reviews left by the public on how useful they found the company for their services. Also, keep an eye on dedicated landlord forums for opinions from like minded individuals.

Speaking with the agents themselves, ask questions relating to the average time their properties get tenanted, their rate of arrears, and whether they have a database of potential tenants lined up to get first viewings.

What about the fees?

Keeping the best profit margin is obviously going to be at the forefront of your mind, fees will vary amongst different agents and it’s best to speak to a few to get a good idea. But remember a fee will generally correlate the level of service you receive, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. We’d suggest not signing up to the cheapest agent without being sure that they’ll provide you with all you’d need going forward.

Do letting agents get regulated within their field?

Check the agency is registered with the Property Redress Scheme or the Property Ombudsman Service, as it is a legal requirement. Any agents that aren’t, walk away.

How about deposits being registered?

It’s in everyone’s best interests to have the deposit secured with a regulated scheme that is unbiased. The UK has specific Client Protection Money schemes that a letting agent must register the funds to for the duration of any tenancy. Ask the letting agent what scheme they use, and whether it is under an insured or custodial scheme.

How do I know whether they’d market my property well or not?

This step is based upon personal opinion, but find listed properties online of the agent you’re considering and compare them side by side.

Things such as,

  • Quality and quantity of information shown and offered
  • Quality of media, such as clarity in pictures and videos
  • How much media they produce, ideally, they should offer pictures, video tours and floorplans

Also, a sneaky but potentially helpful tip, give them a call as a ‘mystery shopper’ and see how useful and forthcoming they are with helping.

Anything else?

Yes, things you may find trivial but could essentially frustrate you in the future.

  • What are their opening hours?A higher likelihood of getting hold of your agent swiftly will please both you and any prospective tenant.
  • Will the final say be passed by me?As a landlord you have the most financial interest in the property and ensuring that you know the prospective tenants inside and out could prove useful to making a final decision.
  • How do they deal with maintenance?Time scales, priorities and how long they’ve used their contractors will provide peace of mind that they aren’t slackers.
  • When will I get paid?What initial payments do they take off the tenants, how does the money get handled, how and when will you get paid going forward? The last thing you want is to be chasing your own money, it would be good to get a grasp on how they deal with money.
  • How much notice do I have to give?Some agencies have a period in which you must notify them you’d like to terminate their services; in the unlikely case you’re dissatisfied with their service it’d be good to know how easy it is to get rid of them.

Right, I’ve chosen who I want to market my property.

Great! It’s probably been a long road, but you’re there now.

Read the agency agreement from them carefully. Pay particular attention to any clauses, and additional fees they charge. There is no rush with this, take it home to read over if necessary before submitting it.

With any paperwork going forward, agency terms, tenancy agreements, deposit registrations, invoices for work and receipts for parts, everything. Ensure they supply you with copies of everything for your own records.

Landlord Advice