How to choose the right letting agent
Many landlords use the services of letting agents to manage (wholly or in part) their property portfolios. In fact, according to our research, 79% of landlords work with agents in some capacity.
Of course, some landlords still prefer to manage their properties themselves, but as we can see a large proportion choose to employ letting agents. We found that 61% of almost 4,000 landlords we surveyed opt for full management, while 30% use agents purely for finding tenants.
Handing over control of your rental properties to a letting agent represents a significant business move, so it's important you work with a firm that you trust. Agents can be extremely useful for landlords and also in many cases represent excellent value for money for the services they provide.
Many landlords feel they need agents for time and money saving purposes as well as their local market knowledge, relationships with contractors, pool of prospective tenants, ability to carry out viewings and much more.
But with a high number of agents to choose from, just how do you go about choosing the right letting agent for you?
Your requirements are all-important
The first thing you need to decide is whether you are looking for a full management, let only or tenant find only service as this will have a significant impact on the agency you choose to work with.
When working out which letting agency to instruct, it's vital that you think about what is important to you and what kind of service you are looking for. Is price your number one priority or are you more bothered about customer service or local market knowledge?
You'll also need to consider whether things like opening hours, office space, online presence and experience are valuable to you as a landlord.
Once you've thought about your requirements, this might help you to determine the type of agent you need to work with. There are now plenty of business models for you to choose from, including traditional full service high street agents, hybrid agents with local representatives and solely online operators with low up-front fees.
Reviews and research
These days, there are a plethora of ways you can research and compare letting agents via the internet. One increasingly popular method is reviews. As well as Google reviews and agents' own testimonials, websites like AllAgents and Feefo can give you a good idea of an agent's track record and customer satisfaction levels.
On top of this, it can be beneficial to check an agent's social media activity and website. How frequently are these channels updated and how much care does the agency give to how it is perceived by the public? If the answers to these questions are ‘infrequently’ and ‘not much’, then you might decide to look elsewhere.
It’s also worth carrying out a Google search of any letting agents you are considering. By doing this, you can unearth any positive or negative press the business has received as well as determining its general online presence.
Other things to consider
Industry bodies and redress
There are several trade bodies that letting agents can be members of; two of the best-known are ARLA Propertymark and the National Approved Letting Scheme (NALS). If an agent is a member of one of these organisations, it could be an indication that they take customer service and transparency more seriously.
What’s more, since 2014 all agents have been legally required to be a member of one of three Government-approved redress schemes – in no situation should you work with a firm that is not a member of one of these organisations:
o Ombudsman Services Property (www.ombudsman-services.org/property)
o Property Redress Scheme (www.theprs.co.uk)
o The Property Ombudsman (www.tpos.co.uk)
Marketing strategy and coverage
The marketing of your property is of course all-important and therefore you must consider an agent's advertising strategy and principles before instructing them to let your property.
You'll need to consider which property portals they advertise on and whether they offer print marketing solutions such as leaflets. It's generally considered that a mix of digital and traditional marketing techniques gets the best results.
- Additional products and services
As well as advertising and management, many letting agents offer landlords a whole host of additional products from insurance and referencing, through to rent protection, inventories and buy-to-let mortgage advice. If there are certain products or add-ons you’re particularly interested in, ask the letting agency you are considering if they offer any of these products.
Once you've researched and spoken to a few letting agents, it's likely that you'll know which one is best for you. As well as criteria like cost and services, it is also crucial to trust your gut instinct with such an important decision.
Consider how the agent approaches you, as this may be an indicator of how they may look after your rental properties and tenants when managing your portfolio in the future.