The internet is saturated with letting agents in any local area you look at, with a good mix between agencies that you’d have heard of as a child, to up-and-coming ones, proving themselves as being just as capable as the long-established!
An independent agent usually tends to have 1-5 offices in total and close to each other, although there are many independents with many more offices. Independents are privately owned and mostly owner run. (like Dyson)
A corporate agent on the other hand tends to a much higher number of offices and employ a larger number of people. They aren’t privately owned, instead they have board of directors, and shareholders. (like Amazon)
They both have pros and cons. Let’s explore this whilst remaining unbiased.
- Established usually for a longer time.
- Divided departments such as marketing, photography, management, customer services, admin, and accounts. These make the initial process efficient for the agent.
- Not flexible. Often, they are very fixed in there way and not easy to make a one-off change if you need it.
- Lack of personalised service. As there are multiple teams overseeing different processes, you will end up dealing with a different person when comes to maintenance, another person for accounts, another person for management. For example, management of the property will be done from a remote office and not by someone who is local to the area, and it’s extremely unlike they’ve visited your property in the past hence will know only a limited amount about your property from what is based on paper.
- More expensive. Corporates have shareholders who are after profits from dividends each year hence prices inflate often to keep up with the pressure.
- Slow to adjust. Could be out-dated in the way they market and find you a tenant as consumer habits are changing fast each year. A good indication of this is to compare a corporate, against an independent’s website. Make comparisons of the quality of information given for their properties, the quality of photography, and whether they include videography and floor plans. Preferably 2D and 3D.
- Lack of accountability. Staff are incentivised on getting properties rent fast, but this can be at the detriment of finding the least hassle tenant as the property management will be carried out by another staff, hence the buck would be passed along and away from the staff member who found the tenant.
- Corporates claim that to have larger marketing exposure leading to a larger audience to show your property to. This isn’t true as corporate and independent agents all advertise on the same portals (websites such as Rightmove, Zoopla, OnTheMarket etc) and have access to the same pool. The difference is in the execution.
- Corporates claim that more offices equal more exposure. Again, there is nothing to show that this is true. Lettings is a very hyperlocal industry. To say that a tenant looking for a property in London will go to their local agent in Birmingham is very illogical in today’s modern world where 99% of the public will turn straight to the internet to find a property on the portals, or contact an agent based in the desired location to see what’s available. What would you do if you were looking for a property 50 miles away from you, would you contact your local agent or the agent local to the desired location? Most likely the latter.
- Owner run, so higher attention to detail is given at every stage.
- Smaller Team means better communication between the team and the client (you) because there aren’t separate teams to do the work.
- Personal service. There is only one point of contact for you regardless of marketing, management, maintenance, or accounting. You only speak with your account manager to solve an issue and no one else.
- Better marketing skill. Independents do a lot to stand out, and this is one area they well. Compare the marketing quality between the two to see for yourself.
- Higher competence levels and foresight. A negotiators job is to rent the property fast. The property managers job is to minimise issues and rent arrears. If you have to do both roles, you will think twice on who to choose as a tenant. Which brings me onto my next point…
- Higher accountability. Each staff knows if they bring on a bad tenant they have to now deal with that tenant until he’s left, hence in their best interest to find the least hassle tenant.
- New start-ups can have a problem with keeping up with the workload, especially if they lack someone senior. However, the ones who have been established for over 5 years done tend to have this problem.
- May be a one-man team. Although newcomers deserve to be given a chance, you don’t want that to happen at the risk of falling short on compliance. Make sure the agent knows exactly what he is doing and that he has extensive experience from before. You don’t want your property to be an experiment gone wrong. You want to decide on a company that has at least 3 staff members.
- May not be well recognised. You will need to see their online presence and their google reviews to gauge their reliability. See what others have to say and what their experience was like with this company.
Well, it’s all down to personal opinion. There isn’t a right or wrong answer and doing the relevant research will help you find what you are after from your property, and the agent marketing it.
When selecting a company, it’s best to go with quality over cost. Compare the services offered to you. Once you’ve done your research see whether you feel the company and the representative is a good fit for you.
Have you seen our “Finding The Perfect Letting Agent Check List“? It a really handle check list with all the non-negotiables that you must have in a letting otherwise you’ll set yourself up for misery. The information in the checklist is weather you choose a corporate on an independent letting agent. Be sure to check it out.