Finding the perfect partner has never been easier. Or so we are told...
In love, you can download an app and find your dream date with the swipe of a finger. Looking for the best home insurance deal to suit you? Comparison sites have got you covered.
But choosing the right letting agent? There’s no app for that (yet).
Last month, we explored why a landlord might need to use a letting agent to manage the load. We looked at how the right agent can save you time, money and provide peace of mind. (For a recap on the benefits of working with a letting agent, take a look at last month’s blog post here - Do I need a letting agent? 6 reasons why you might).
There are over 13,500 estate agents in the UK and the majority of these manage lettings. So how on earth can you tell which is the right letting agent for you?
Finding the right letting agent is a lot like meeting ‘the one’. They always pick up the phone when you call. They’re there to help you out of a pickle. And, they always have your best interests at heart.
But for the relationship to work, it’s best to make sure your values align. After all, the perfect partner gets on with your friends. Just as your agent needs to have a good relationship with potential tenants in the area. They need to be consistent in the level of service they provide. In an age of fingertip-information internet searches, check out their history online like you would with a potential partner.
Don’t let the pizzaz dazzle you to what matters most. Corporate agents may have all the swagger, but it's what's inside that matters.
It’s important to get to know an agent before you get carried away and sign up to a deal.
Larger agents will carry out the same services as smaller, independent letting agents. Yes, it's true. But the manner in which the agents provide these services can be like chalk and cheese.
Larger, corporate brand agents can often have many, many clients to balance. To operate successfully, it is only right that they need to have highly structured processes in place. The question is, can their occasionally-inflexible processes and procedures bend to you and your individual needs?
Independent letting agents tend to have customer service at their core. You can recognise them by their cosy offices, local dial codes, just-boiled kettles and friendly smiles. Client-focused, they are happy to adapt to best serve your individual needs.
As in any new relationship, take it one step at a time and weigh up your options before making any big decisions, such as signing up to a letting arrangement deal.
#1: Local area experts
The dream letting agent should know your town like the back of their hand. We’re not saying they have to be ‘born and bred’ local, but to serve you well, they need to know their way around town.
Can this agent pass the lightening round test? Potential tenants want to know everything. Transport links, amenities, good schools...
Understanding the area is key to drafting in the best tenants.
After all, attracting the right tenants to your property is in every landlord’s best interest.
Independent agents often have local links to the area. In some cases, they are family run throughout the generations. With good local knowledge, letting agents will be able to match the right tenant to your home.
#2: Consistency of service
There’s no denying the wow factor of some of the larger brand estate agents. They have big shiny offices. They have offices across several locations. Their logos are catchy and their professionalism stands out. Impressive? Undeniably. But don’t let sparkly branding blind you to what matters most: consistency of service.
What could be more frustrating than getting lost in the ether? Getting cut off on phone transfers or passed around between departments. Nobody likes hold music. When the chips are down and you need your letting agent’s help, it’s nice to know their name. It’s helpful to deal with the same person each time you call. It’s reassuring to be able to put a face to the name.
#3: Part of the ‘in crowd’
Choosing an agent who is the ‘expert in the area’ means as a landlord, you will have the best pick of the tenants. This is because your ‘local expert’ agent has all the bases covered. They know everything about the locale; which are the best schools, which supermarkets deliver, the tastiest takeaways and they know something else besides. They know everyone.
Independent letting agents are part of the local scenery. You might bump into them at the post office. You might share a hurried nod on the school run. You probably drink in the same pub.
Other people in the neighbourhood know them too. Knowing faces is the business of local estate agents. With their expert local knowledge, they tend to attract more tenants. After all, they've got to know lots of different renters over the years.
Chances are, they already have the perfect tenant for your property on their books.
Friendly independent agents like to chat to you. They take the time to pick up the phone to possible tenants to let them know about new properties coming up.
#4: Quality of service
Money matters. But the fee isn’t always the best driving force when searching for the best letting agent.
Price, whilst important, is no guarantee of quality of service. Instead, consider what your letting agent is offering for that fee.
Quality of service also includes their turnaround time. Ask letting agents the time taken on average from putting a property on the market to successfully letting it out.
Watch out for false promises. Some larger agents may guarantee you a timescale of two weeks. However, sometimes it’s worth taking a little longer to search out the perfect tenant.
Balance out cost and time, after all – your time is money.
#5: Rave reviews
Here comes the fun part…review time!
A letting agent’s website will give you a great idea of who they are and their achievements. But for the real truth, it’s best to do your own independent research. Trawl Google Reviews and Facebook to find out what others are saying about letting agents in your area.
Watch out for ‘fake reviews’ - volume doesn’t always reflect success and service. Impersonal avatars are a giveaway. Vague reviews lacking in detail can also be the work of paid professionals.
How knowledgeable is this agent? What is their customer service like?
When you’ve narrowed your list down to the top three, it’s time for a mystery shop.
Call up your prospective letting agent and put them to the test. Ask them some basic questions, such as “how much would you expect my property to fetch in monthly rent”, “how will you go about attracting a tenant for my property” or “what checks do you put in place to ensure you are recruiting quality tenants for my home”?
Step #6: Endorsements and accolades
By now you may have a potential agent in your sights. Before finalising your choice, check out their qualifications. Just as you would hire a qualified electrician to rewire your home, or go to a qualified dentist for root canal surgery, your property rental should also be in the hands of an expert.
Is your letting agent registered with a trade body or ombudsman? Look out for key logos such as NAEA or ARLA Propertymark or the purple RICS emblem (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors).
Such agencies’ mission statements are to reassure and safeguard the public by encouraging their members to sign up to membership rules that include clear codes of conduct and who enforce disciplinary measures for those who fall short of expectations.
A good letting agent is open, transparent and moving forward with the times.
Step #7: Philosophy…
One final point to consider is a letting agent’s philosophy.
Values-led letting agents focus on care and customer service, rather than smashing targets. After all, you are a person, not a number, right?
Whether the property you are letting is yours or a loved one’s, be sure to seek out a letting agent with a reputation for honesty and great customer service. Some agents may tell you everything you want to hear. Follow your gut. Take the time to do your research in order to investigate whether or not they have your best interests at heart.
Don’t forget, in some cases the agent with the longer turnaround time is the one making sure you have the right tenant for your property. Remember, with thousands of letting agents out there, finding the best fit for you is the most important factor.
A top quality letting agent can help ensure your property stays let for the long term. And once you’ve found your ideal letting agent, it’s time to set your sights on the dream tenant.
Join me again next month as I reveal: "How to attract the perfect tenant"
For more information on how the right letting agent could help you better run your properties better why not call us on 01364 652652 or drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let us handle the now so you can look to the future.