5 Killer Questions to Choose a Letting Agent

5 Killer Questions to Choose a Letting Agent

18:06 PM, 6th August 2014, About 7 years ago 60

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I am keen to hone the “Killer Questions” that we can advise landlords to ask when choosing a Letting Agent. I have five as a starter, but if any of you have others that you would rate in the top five please let me know!! 5 Killer Questions to Choose a Letting Agent

  1. What is your average void period across your managed portfolio? And you non-managed?
  2. What stock do you have available to let as an average, and how many lettings negotiators do you have to let them?
  3. What percentage of tenants deposit do you return as an average across the last year? And what is the biggest area of contention?
  4. How many clients have you lost to a competitor over the last 12 months, and what was the principal reason for their defection?
  5. Why should I instruct you rather than any other letting agent in this area?

I would be very keen to hear from landlords, or others, to improve my list ….. thanks!


by Mark Crampton Smith

8:10 AM, 7th August 2014, About 7 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Fred Jones" at "06/08/2014 - 23:10":

Yes Fred..... I think we would all agree that we want our agent to act professionally...... What I am trying to do is come up with a list of questions that might expose any failings towards this end. BTW research by the Property Academy and the Portals would indicate that most landlords put quality of service above cost of service. I believe the question about void periods is an important one..... Many agents in order to reduce "window shopping" from people at the front end of their search for a rental property, do not put property to market until 3 or 4 weeks before it falls vacant despite the fact that they might have known that it would be available at least two months before (In order to serve an effective S21) This practice, whilst in the interests of the agent, might not be so for the L/L. Our experience is that any property will let if it is offered to market at the right price and time..... and with over 400 under management, our average void period is less than 3 days per year. This makes a big difference when we are persuading potential clients that our fees are justifiable!

by Mark Lynham

9:07 AM, 7th August 2014, About 7 years ago

quite an interesting thread, albeit i find it a little 'agent bashing', but i guess as a very small letting agent i pride myself on service and rarely find myself in the situation where im competing with other agents as I tend to find in this situation the landlord goes to the agent who quotes the highest rent and the lowest fee..

by Joe Bloggs

9:29 AM, 7th August 2014, About 7 years ago

as someone who hasnt used agents for many years, all this selection and monitoring seems a lot of work... if people bought locally they would be more able to self-manage.

by Mike W

11:47 AM, 7th August 2014, About 7 years ago

An interesting thread but I have to agree with Mark L. The thread shows some clear bias. I am not an agent but I would not expect an agent to answer commercially sensitive questions. After all the inquirer may actually be from another agent!! I do agree the need to establish potential conflicts of interest. I decided against handing the management of my portfolio to an agent in my town when I discovered that he had his own substantial portfolio under management. When buying a new flat last year I rapidly discovered certain agents were advertising property at lowish prices that were not actually available. A tactic to suck people in. You learn very rapidly to avoid such agents. I complained to the regulator but was told that the property was under offer but not sold. So why did the agent not mark it as 'under offer' - for over a year!! I agree there should be professional standards, but where do we stop? Shops regularly fluctuate prices to manipulate perceptions .... Biggest problem I experienced with an agent - a conflict of interest with another supplier of services. Difficult to establish until something goes wrong.

by NewYorkie

11:53 AM, 7th August 2014, About 7 years ago

A detailed check list is always useful. You need to decide which of the questions are helpful to your selection process. Fred ...some constructive contributions please. Joe ...true, but many landlords, especially smaller ones, do not own close by, so let's help them.

My suggestions:

Will you charge me if my tenant decides to buy my property?
Will you charge me and my tenant for moving to a Periodic Tenancy?
What is your credit referencing process e.g. do you use LandlordReferencing.co.uk?
If not, would you have any objection to me doing my own referencing in addition?

by Jill Lucas

12:06 PM, 7th August 2014, About 7 years ago

I think we all need to be mindful that the lettings business is a 'service' business and the meter is always running. Even if you just have one property it is still a business and you need to be in control in the driving seat and run it as such. Agents often have a portfolio of hundreds of properties which are often run by back office staff - as managers are out looking for new business. Every part of the service has a cost attached and its up to you to know what you can and can't manage. If you take it on it has to be professionally done.

As regards property maintenance - over time I have found in our properties that it's beneficial to install quality fittings, i.e. Worcester Bosch or similar boilers (Neff/AEG cookers quality showers and taps. You can buy these new or second hand from a well known on-line auction site! Plus you can set these costs off against tax. This helps to reduce maintenance problems - tenants like this and it helps to increase the length of the tenancy and lower the costs of expensive changeovers, especially over the Christmas/New Year period which is the most expensive time of all!

I have British Gas contracts which includes Dynarod service on Victorian and older properties - they do a gas safety check and they email a copy of the Gas Safe certificate direct to you! and on other properties I have one plumber who looks after the boilers and does a job lot of gas safety checks for approx £40 plus VAT - all dependant on volume and distance and negotiation.

This has really helped the smooth running of the portfolio so I can focus on other issues including the tax return! Most important you need to be in control and not spend your time constantly chasing an agent when they should be calling you.

by Jill Lucas

12:31 PM, 7th August 2014, About 7 years ago

The lettings business is market driven by supply & demand. Agents can't whistle up tenants at the drop of a hat. I have found it is generally a good partnership between landlord and agent. A bit 'pick and mix' in terms of the service offerings. They will all say they are wonderful and produce statistics! but we are in the real world. It took time to find the right agent with a few hiccups along the way. My agent produces a short list of prospective tenants and we discuss the pros and cons between us. I prefer an unbroken tenancy of approx 2 years. I have had to serve a couple of notices along the way - I used a solicitor but went out to about 6 for quotes! you have to do the paperwork precisely or it can be v costly - and you need to budget for this in your business - but it is a rare event. This all comes down to experience and the more groundwork and the more in control you are the better your business and profitability! which is the bottom line!!

by Mark Crampton Smith

12:50 PM, 7th August 2014, About 7 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Jill Lucas" at "07/08/2014 - 12:06":

Jill many thanks..... most useful to maintain our focus on the service side. I like to think the agent is working in partnership with the landlord; the client determines the parameters of "who does what", but in my experience, once a level of trust is built up, Landlords are happy to hand over tenant management, and in time property management so that they can get on with either growing their portfolio, or enjoying the fruits of their investment.
So what questions might you add to the list to help Landlords be certain that they are choosing the right dance partner?

by Mark Crampton Smith

13:03 PM, 7th August 2014, About 7 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Lou Valdini" at "07/08/2014 - 11:53":

Thanks Lou..... The old OFT (office of fair trading) advised the professional bodies that charging a fee when tenants purchase a property would be difficult to justify especially if little negotiation had taken place. Standard clauses in terms of business would be difficult to enforce. Now that the FCA has taken on the mantle it will be interesting to see if there are any stronger guidelines handed down.
Good question on the charges to go periodic...... again I would be very suspicious of any agent seeking to charge for this, unless of course they were going to re-issue prescribed information and re-register the deposit on their clients behalf, in which case a small charge may be justifiable. Here in Oxford, it is very seldom advisable to allow an fixed term agreement to go periodic because the rental market is so closely linked to the academic year, there are certain months when it is risky to have a property fall vacant.

by Jill Lucas

14:48 PM, 7th August 2014, About 7 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Mark Crampton Smith" at "07/08/2014 - 12:50":

Thanks Mark

I would like to see a rating system rather like ebay, Amazon, checkatrade that landlords can refer to. The criteria can be based on some of the issues raised. I guess this is one for the future. I would also like to see a tariff of charges including should the property be sold to the tenant etc clearly identified so there are no surprises.

I would like to know the rental turnover split drilled down between types of properties, 1 bed, 2 bed, 3 bed houses v flats identified v Q1, Q2, Q3 & Q4. Quarter 4 & Q1 being the slowest generally. In terms of volume & value - doubt if they would provide that!? but if they are a limited company there should be information that you can find out.

I would also like to know what their USP(s) Unique selling propositions are? There are a lot of Franchises and chains in the market - and they tend to lose individual 'personality' that is why I tend to prefer the more independent local companies, who like cab drivers know the area, by property type, road by road, location by location!

I would like to know the average length of tenancy across the property spectrum but doubt if they would offer this? The average rental values achieved?

I would like to know who is the point of contact - as the large chains I have dealt with say he or she is not in the office I will get them to call back which does not happen. The smaller companies are immediately on your case.

Our 'dancing partner' is excellent and we could pass everything over to him - however as we refurb Victorian properties we are able to deal with our own maintenance issues, although tend not to get involved in gas issues. It is important to ensure you are compliant on gas safety, electrical compliance etc.

In line with rental trends the Letting market is a major growth area and it needs to adapt to the needs of landlords who expect transparency in terms of the delivery of the range of services. It is up to us as landlords to help create change.

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