How to choose an agent?   Choosing the right Letting Agent?  The quest to find a reputable and trusted property agent.  Is the Biggest the Best?  Why Big Doesn’t always Mean Best?

Mia is forever listening to her friends telling her about their dreadful experiences when letting their properties….she wanted to find out whether her friends had exaggerated the problems and whether there was any way to avoid these problems (i.e did they really have to pay for the damage caused, did the letting agent really not check the references, was the property really turned into a brothel?). 

Mia set about trying to answer some questions:

Why choose a Letting Agency?   What Does a Letting Agent Do?

For a busy landlord, getting the best letting agent is critical to safeguarding a property investment.

Many landlords let properties through an agent, as they hope to achieve peace of mind that all legal requirements are fulfilled, a tenant is found quickly and rent is collected on time. 

The first thing to consider is that some letting agents are good, but some offer a very poor service. There is nothing to say a tenant found by an agent will be any better than one you interview yourself but there are clearly many advantages to finding one that works well for you.

If you decide to use a letting agent, please consider the following tips:

Try to use a member of the National Approved Letting Scheme or other relevant professional body, such as the Association of Residential Lettings Agents (ARLA).  You can ask whether they are accredited members of The Ombudsman for Estate/Letting Agents, The National Association of Estate Agents and whether they adhere to their strict code of conduct.  Consider if you want the agent to deal with tenancy deposit protection (TDP) and discuss arrangements. Check which scheme they use and that the deposit is actually protected.

Decide what you want the agent to do and what kind of arrangement this will be; do you simply want the agency to find you a tenant or manage the property while it is let.

Check the agent has professional indemnity insurance against being sued and client money protection. Please note that if the agent runs off with the tenancy deposit, you will still be responsible for repaying it to the tenant and if you do not receive rent money, you cannot ask the tenant to pay it again.

Read the management contract very carefully. If there are sections you do not understand, take advice before signing up.

Check the letting agent is responsible for arranging the annual gas safety certificate and keeping all necessary records.

Make sure the agent will ensure your property meets other standards. For example, that furniture and fittings comply with regulations.

Ensure queries from the tenant are dealt with by the agent and they arrange routine repairs and maintenance but only with your prior approval.

Finally, make sure you keep copies of all correspondence (particularly if any special requests have been made regarding the management of your property), including your contract and any other paperwork.

Is the Biggest the Best?  Why Big Doesn’t always Mean Best?

Deciding on who is best to rent your home can be a challenging process.  Estate agents advertise market similar services and so it’s a minefield to find the best one to suit your needs in a market that promises the same thing ‘We can let your property quickly’ and ‘We have the best, most experienced, well-trained team to manage your property’.  

Mia has been on a mission to find the best way to find an agent who stands out and breaks the mould and the (often bad) reputation and offers a tailored, professional, and knowledgeable service.

Should I choose a big or small agency? Both small, local agencies and big, national agencies come with pros and cons.

Whether you are a landlord with a large portfolio or with a single dwelling to let, you really do want to find the right tenants, for the right price, at the right time, all of whom are fully referenced through a professional, highly reputable referencing company.

Should I choose a big or small agency? Both small, local agencies and big, national agencies come with pros and cons.

A smaller agency will know the area, and the local renting market – and may perhaps even have similar properties on their books – and can get to the property quickly if they ever need to.

The industry is awash with both big multi branch agencies and smaller independents.

Mia discovered that her friends had been attracted by brands but a well-known brand, may not be the ‘best’ for you.  Large corporates will tell you that their staff training and development programmes and customer service teams will equip them with the best focused people for your property but does this really substitute for providing the best service to the client?

Small independent businesses should be a viable consideration and as somewhere to put your trust and money.  If there are several agents who appear equally competent, you may want to consider the independent letting agent who has operated in your area for the longest. They will probably have exceptional local knowledge of the market and surrounding areas and offer you expert advice and knowledge of the residential lettings and also dedicated contractors to ensure excellent property management.

When you work with a small independent letting agent, what you are getting is that personal, bespoke customer service. You are getting the flexibility and availability of your contact. There are no ‘offshore’ call centres to chase your rent arrears.  You can rest assured that the company you have chosen has actually seen your property and knows exactly what they are ‘selling’ and how to best advise you. You get the same person and the same team every time you call. Then there’s the price. You can negotiate your fee that’s fair to all and have a candid discussion with the person you are dealing with. There’s no waiting for decisions and sign-off from senior managers that are not even working in the same town and certainly not aware of the customer you are dealing with.

An independent letting agent can offer a personalised approach and clear communication, understanding a client’s needs and goals and possibly exceeding client’s expectations during their property quest.

Mia’s friend said that she had stayed with her letting agent because he had consistently and professionally maintained their long term relationship by providing a very individual service to suit her requirements and offered total back up when she was met with tenants who were preparing to sublet the property.  In her words, she had been “reassured and had complete peace of mind that they would leave no stone unturned in looking after me and my property.”

Mia understood that how important it is to find an agent whose priority is to build a relationship with their client paying attention to the finer details and considering the client’s needs and exceeding their expectations whilst striving to provide an outstanding service, sometimes in the most complex situations.   

So when choosing your next letting agent, be mindful who you choose….Big does not always mean best!!

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