As a property investor or landlord, one of the most important decisions you have to make is which letting agent to choose. When you hand over the keys to your property, you need to feel confident. You need to be assured that your appointed letting agent can produce the goods. That they’re going to find the right tenants and take care of any maintenance issues that may arise and pay your rental money on time. But how do you choose a letting agent you can trust?
Ian Speirs, our lettings and property management officer, with 10 years' experience in the property sector, shares the questions any landlord needs to ask when choosing a letting agent:
1. What level of service does the letting agent provide?
Not all agents are equal -- some agents will only offer to find tenants, to collect rent or just to market your property. If you're looking for a hands-off solution as a landlord, you need a letting agent who will provide you with a full property management service. This is where you can hand the keys of your property over to them and allow them to take full control. Of course, they'll take a percentage of the rent as their fee, but you can sit back and let them do the work. If you don't live locally to your property, full property management is going to be your best option. Generally, good lettings agents will offer all three levels of management: tenant find, rent collection and full property management. The crucial thing here is to get a good understanding what is included in each of the packages, and more importantly, what isn't included. Be sure to understand exactly what you need your letting agent to do on your behalf.
2. What fees do the letting agent charge?
With most things in life, you get what you pay for, and more often than not, paying cheap fees can mean paying twice. Property management is no exception. In your search for a letting agent, don't be influenced solely by cost. Letting agent fees for landlords do vary but you can expect to anything up to 15 per cent for full property management. You just need to make sure you're comparing like for like. The fees you're paying should reflect the level of service you're receiving, so double check what's included in your package.
3. Is this letting agent compliant?
You need to be absolutely certain the team that manages your property is doing things by the book. Essentially, you want to be sure that you and your tenant are protected if something were to go wrong. Ensure your letting agent is credible and part of all relevant schemes. Here are a couple of things to consider:
- Which tenancy deposit scheme is the letting agent a part of?
- Which redress scheme is the letting agent a part of?
- Is the letting agent registered with the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO)?
You should be able to find out this information by browsing the letting agent's website, but if you can't find the answers to the above questions, ask them for peace of mind.
4. Will the letting agent check your property is compliant?
Your tenant's safety and welfare is of the utmost important. Your property, therefore, needs to comply with legislation. As a landlord, you'll most likely know this already, however, we do have first-hand experience where new and existing landlords need our guidance with getting their property compliant. A good letting agent will check that the property is gas safe and that there is an electrical safety certificate.
5. Is the letting agent moving with the times?
Your letting agent should embrace new technology. From virtual viewings to online reporting and digital signatures, everything should be ready and easier to handle than it ever has before. This will translate to processes and procedures happening quickly and slickly, minimising margins of error.
6. How does the letting agent intend to market your property?
When looking for a new home, prospective tenants will often head to Rightmove, the biggest property portal in the UK. Your letting agent should be advertising here to attract the most interest in your property. On top of this, an experienced letting agent will have a database of prospective new tenants on their books who are ready and raring to have a look at your property.
7. Is the letting agent located near to your property?
If you're a landlord who lives a long way from your property, it's tricky to visit on a regular basis. That's why it's a great idea to choose a letting agent that is within a few miles of your property, so that they can keep on top of things, if you choose this level of service. From routine visits, smoke and fire alarm tests, maintenance issues and tenant lockouts--these are all the things a nearby agent needs to be close at hand for. It also means that they'll have excellent local property knowledge, which is crucial in securing you the right tenant at the right rental price.
8. Does the letting agent have a good reputation?
Your letting agent's reputation should precede them. Both landlords and tenants should be saying positive things about them. They should have a reputation for being able to find good tenants, deliver rent payments at the agreed times and be able to deal with issues promptly. It's also a good sign if your agent can show you positive feedback and be able to demonstrate that their properties are full.
9. Is the letting agent approachable?
It's all about relationship, relationship, relationship. After all, you want confidence in your letting agent being able to confidently and succinctly acting in your best interests. It's worth noting that issues do crop up. It is much easier all around to overcome these obstacles if you get along with your letting agent. You'll no doubt call a few agents before deciding on the right one to manage your property So, when you do speak to them, how do they come across? Are they approachable? Do they have time for you? Do they fill you with confidence? You must, at all costs, choose a letting agent you can trust.
10. How will the letting agent handle your rent payments?
Receiving your rent in a prompt and timely manner is a priority. If your letting agent hasn't got a handle on collecting and sending your rent, you'll be very concerned. make sure you get a good understanding on how you are going to receive your rent. Do they pay once a month? Weekly? It's also important to have a good understanding on how additional costs like maintenance will be deducted.
11. Is the letting agent transparent in their Ts&Cs?
When you've decided on a managing agent, you will have to sign terms of business with them. Be sure to read through this thoroughly. Double check you're not being charged for minor tasks such as deposit registration, rent reviews, serving section 21 notices etc. It's also worth taking a close look if you're able to walk away if the letting agent isn't performing as expected. Don't overlook the small print!
Get in touch with Three Sixty Living if you have a property in Greater Manchester that needs managing. Test us on everything above; you won't be disappointed.