The festive season is well and truly upon us. Christmas parties, seeing old friends, a packed social schedule and strategically planned shopping trips, many letting agents will be thinking – as they always do – about how to look after their portfolio of landlords.
These clients are the most important factor to an agency's bottom line and at a time of reflection, it's not uncommon for agents to ask themselves 'are my landlords happy?'
Of course, the most important criteria determining a landlord's happiness with their agent will be the service offered. As in all types of business, good customer service is the key to a happy client base.
However, on top of this, an agent could extend a bit of Christmas cheer to their most valuable clients. When presented with some free time in the office, using it to handwrite some Christmas cards to valuable clients is a strategy executed by many firms.
What's more, many businesses dedicate time and money to send gifts to their clients – be it chocolates, wine or a hamper full of gifts.
These ideas can of course work for letting agents – and most agents are likely to already have a tried and trusted Christmas routine. But for those that don't have one in place, it's something worth thinking about.
On the other side of the rental transaction, these sort of overtures are perhaps less straight-forward between landlords and their tenants.
However, the results of a survey released earlier this year found that gifts do change hands between the two parties. Over a third of landlords admitted to having given a welcome or farewell gift to a tenant and 30% of tenants claimed to have received an act of kindness from their landlord.
The research also suggested that those tenants who had received a gift from their landlord were more inclined to stay in the property for longer. Some 70% of tenants who said they received an act of kindness from their landlord stayed in their property for 24 months or more. This is compared to just 53% of those who didn’t – something for agents to consider, perhaps.
As well as a time of reflection, the festive period is also one to look ahead to the next twelve months – setting goals and thinking about what you want to achieve.
Many agents will no doubt be thinking about how they can maintain their business relationships and keep their landlord clients happy for the long-term. Thoughts will also inevitably turn to business growth. Taking on new landlords is key and rewarding, albeit challenging.
How will you engage with prospective landlords in the New Year? Will you be offering a special reduced rate for the month of January? Will you be offering them something for nothing? These are all things you can consider over the next few weeks.
There are also always good opportunities to turn perceived negatives into positives. The changes to the stamp duty system announced in the Autumn Statement will come as a bit of a blow to many buy-to-let investors but there is an opportunity for letting agents to spin this news on its head.
Those landlords who want to expand their portfolio are more likely to do so before next April – in order to spend less on stamp duty costs. This means there could be increased opportunities for letting agents to get more properties under management in the next few months.
Do your landlords know about the additional stamp duty they will have to pay on a buy-to-let property purchase from April? Probably – but some won't and some will probably be seeking advice on the matter – which provides a great business opportunity for letting agents.