There are so many letting agents out there (especially in London!) so it can be very easy to be overwhelmed in your search. However, agencies come in all shapes and sizes and there are several key questions to ask before you commit to an agent who will help you find good tenants for your investment property.
You need to find a trustworthy agency who will ensure you receive your best price, and ensure your property remains profitable month on month. Here are the tips you need to make the best choice:
Get a recommendation
There’s nothing more powerful than a personal recommendation. If you know others who are landlords or have had to use a letting agent at any point, or even someone who had a particularly good experience as a renter, it’s worth investigating these leads.
Choose a member of an National Approved Letting Scheme
Though anyone can register as an agent (technically speaking!) it can help if they are a member of an approved body. The Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) in particular is a voluntary scheme that requires agencies to have proper insurance, and adhere to professional minimum standards. Other similar bodies include The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and The National Association of Estate Agents. Add a little peace of mind by ensuring your choice is a member of one of these!
Check their professional indemnity insurance
In follow on from the previous tip, you should ensure they have the right insurance. This covers them against being sued, and having client money protection in place is important to avoid losing out on unpaid rent. Of course, if they are a member of one of the above, they will generally be forced to have the proper insurance anyway, but it is worth being 100% certain.
Check where they list their properties
It will make a big difference if your selected agency advertises with all the major sites (i.e. Zoopla, Rightmove, PrimeLocation, etc) rather than simply one or two. This ensures your property will get the maximum online exposure possible, giving you a better chance of finding a good tenant.
Investigate their listing style
Once you know where they list, the next question is simple: How well do they actually write and display these listings ? This is all about knowing how you want your property to be portrayed. This means it should feature a clear write up and good photography. Take a look at similar listings to your property from the agency to figure out the effort and quality the agency will put into advertising your estate.
Ring the agency, then visit physically (if possible!)
Once you ring around and receive a few ideas of what price the agency feels you could get for your property, visit in the flesh. This gives you a chance to pose as a potential tenant – see what process they quote you in person, and see if these match up with what you were told. This is also an opportunity to check on how professional they are in person. Do they try to direct you to relevant properties in a timely fashion? Remember, don’t be taken in by statements such as “we have lots of tenants waiting!” This is a throw-away line that won’t mean much – visiting as a prospective tenant will give you a much better notion of the reality of things.
Review management contracts carefully
Check what commissions on renewals they ask for, what charges there are when the property is vacant, any admin or services charges (e.g. inventories, etc) will come along for you and your potential tenants. Don’t be too obsessed with their fees upfront – this shouldn’t be your top priority. Many agents will be flexible on prices if they are being provided long term business. However, it’s important to know what will be charged and what is included. In particular, do you just want them to find you a tenant or do you want them to manage the property as well? Once you know what would be charged in each case, you can make the best decisions for your needs.
Consider a specialist letting agent rather than a sales and lettings agency
If an agency specialises in lettings alone, rather than also providing sales, they are likely to be a lot more serious about that service. This isn’t always the case, of course, but it could be worth considering a specialist agency. Sales are always more valuable than rental for an agency, which means some may not take as much time and energy for the lettings division of their team (who are ultimately less profitable). You will get a good sense of this when you visit, but keep specialist agencies on the radar if you’re struggling to find an agency that seems committed.
Check they care about safety and repairs
You may not require them to organise repairs etc. (i.e. they may not be managing your property), however, it will be helpful to know that they can advise on all requisite standards. They should be in the know about safety checks, and may even be able to organise things like gas safety checks on your behalf. If you don’t have time to keep up with all the checkboxes, this is particularly valuable. See what their policy is, and make sure you do right as a landlord.
Finding the right lettings agent can be tricky. Start with these tips and ensure you set out on the right foot as a landlord. Good luck!