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Choosing a Letting Agent – What to Look Out For

Finding the right agent to assist with your investment can be tricky.

It can be even harder if you’ve had a bad run with letting agents in the past, as you might find it harder to trust them in the future.

Agents can be great. We’re not saying all agents are great, but there are a few gems out there and it can be relatively easy to find them if you know what you’re looking for.

But what exactly should you be looking for? Hopefully, this blog can help you find those diamonds in the dirt with a steady set criteria that you can use to find the best agents.

Choosing an Estate Agent

What does a Letting Agent do?

Lettings agent(s), also known as real estate agents, property managers or even rental agents are professionals who are committed to managing your properties.

They can take on many aspects of your day to day property management, freeing up your time to focus on growing your portfolio.

What does a Letting Agent cover?

Letting agents typically cover all aspects of property management, however, what they can provide can often vary depending on a Landlord/ladies needs.

Common duties of letting agents consist of…

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Letting agencies will usually list your property on various advertising platforms like Zoopla, RightMove and OnTheMarket.com.

Some agencies hold a higher level of experience when it comes to these types of sites and how to list your property, knowing what might attract tenants & what might put them off. 

If you’re a private Landlord, you might want to use OpenRent too. As Landlords ourselves, this is something we regularly use and find useful. Unfortunately, OpenRent doesn’t accept letting agencies on their platform at this moment in time.

Viewings

Once the property has garnered interest from the sites the agent has listed them on, the agent may schedule a viewing with any prospective tenants that show interest in the property.

This is so they can answer any questions whilst simultaneously highlighting your properties amenities.

If the tenant is pleased? Happy days! However, it isn’t over yet…

The agent will then have to use their due diligence and effectively screen the tenant. (This doesn’t always have to be done post viewing. 

Some agents will even screen their tenants before they let them set foot through the door for a viewing!

Tenant Screening

Properly screening a tenant is arguably one of the most important processes to follow within the whole letting process. 

I’ll admit, relying on an agent’s experience at this point can be relatively risky. We like to believe agents always act in a Landlord’s best interest, but it’s worth noting that they also need to generate income too. 

Issuing a Rent Increase to a Tenant

A large portion of Landlords & ladies argue that it’s probably better to do this part yourself if you know what red flags to look out for. If you don’t? We’d recommend using an agent.

If you’re anxious about this part and you’d rather do it yourself, it’s worth noting that we have a full renter’s application form template that you can download to make this part a breeze.

This document should outline everything you’d need to ask a tenant in order for you to make a full decision.

Negotiation

When you’re happy with the tenant eventually and you’re good to go ahead, you’re going to want to start drafting an agreement. You’ll need to ensure that the lease agreement you’re providing your tenant is both fair and legally sound.

You may or may not get push backs on certain parts of the agreement, so it’s down to you to settle on terms that both yourself and your tenant are comfortable with.

Rent Collection

One reason why a lot of Landlords turn to agents is to deal with the rent collection side of running a property business. 

Many property professionals don’t feel like chasing overdue payments or dealing with the hassle it causes, and we don’t blame them.

Property Management

General property management can be covered by a letting agent too. This can cover important tasks like property inspections, inventories and other bits and pieces.

Again, if you’re more comfortable with doing these yourself, we also have free templates for inspections and inventories that you can easily access!

Usually, maintenance, repair and other issues are covered by letting agencies unless specified otherwise, so we recommend running this conversation by the agency of your choice before you choose to take them on.

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What Should I Look Out For?

When selecting your letting agent, you need to use your due diligence to make sure they’re up for the task. Some of the best letting agents have the following attributes:

Experience & Expertise

Some of the best letting agents out there have been round for years, and with good reason. They’re good at what they do!

Your agent might know a trick or two, but it all boils down to reputation. Are they known within the industry? 

Do they have a good track record when it comes to managing other people’s properties? Checking out well-known review sites can be super helpful when vetting an agent.

Clear Communication Skills

An easy one. Choose an agent that isn’t afraid to be upfront with you, as this is key to successful property management. You need an agent who is not only available, but actively listens and responds to concerns you might have.

If you’re good at judging people, you should be able to gauge how communicative an agent is from your first interaction!

Letting Agent

A Keen Eye

You don’t need to be a perfectionist to effectively manage a property, but it sure helps. Those with attention to detail tend to do better within the industry as they’re able to manage the finite details better than others.

Bigger maintenance issues can be spotted way ahead of time if you’ve got a keen eye, and that’s the type of agent you want!

How Flexible Are They?

And by this, we’re not asking you to find out if the agent you’re going to choose can do the crab or other varied yoga poses.

Great agents should be adaptive and their schedules should be malleable to prioritise you. Look for an agent who is willing to respond quickly to queries or concerns and isn’t afraid to get stuck in out of hours.

Can You Trust Them?

Probably the biggest factor here. Trustworthiness is crucial when taking on letting agents. Your property is your investment, and at the end of the day, you wouldn’t leave a quarter or even half of a million pounds in the hands of someone you simply don’t trust.

You need to have faith that the agent you’re entrusting isn’t going to play favourites and leave your property in a sad state. 

If you’re letting your agent take the reins on tenant selection, having a level of trust is even more important! You don’t want an agency sticking just about anyone in your property so they can cash a cheque.

Industry Accreditations & Memberships

It’s crucial to note that all letting agents in the UK must belong to a government-approved redress scheme. Essentially, each estate agent has one of two to choose from, one being The Property Ombudsman (also known as the TPO) or the Property Redress Scheme (PRS.)

Letting Agent PRS or Property Ombudsman

The whole reason why letting agents must join either of the two redress schemes is to provide fair and impartial resolutions to problems raised against the letting agent by members of the general public/consumers.

Industry Accreditations & Memberships

Some of the best letting agents are part of ARLA, or the Association of Residential Letting Agents.

Members of ARLA are held to some of the highest standards within the industry, with regular examinations, audits & training courses provided to ensure that they perform way above industry standards.

ARLA members are governed by a pretty in-depth Code of Practice, ensuring they follow both professional and ethical standards set by the association.

When it comes to complaints, ARLA has its own framework for this too with disciplinary procedures and sanctions to those who don’t operate within their regulatory standards.

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