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 Mike

0:24 AM, 16th August 2014, About 7 years ago

Have I stumbled across the Best Lettings Agents in the Universe?

7% fully Managed.
Guaranteed Rent if vacant
Free Inventory
No setting up fees for Landlords
(not sure but I believe no fee for tenants either for setting up tenancy)
tenants fully vetted and all records checked.
seek permission before carrying out any repairs over £150
Visit premises every 3 months and check against any damage compared with Inventory list.

What can go wrong?

Nothing, really Nothing, the Lettings agents are established since 1991, and have many franchises, so I might be renting my Harlow property through them. Makes more sense at just 7% offer ends 31st August, and offer is on going for as long as I stay with them, not like some broadband or mobile phones who offer discount half price for the first 6 months and then start charging you full price after 6 months, so 7% is for life.
Life couldn't be any more simpler!

Who are they? well I am sure I am not allowed to tell, but clue is they are getting stronger and stronger in Harlow area. Sure with this rate and offers they are going to kill the competition .

by Mandy Thomson

9:02 AM, 16th August 2014, About 7 years ago

From my experience of using a small independent agent to manage my property when I first started out and knew only that I wanted good tenants (which thankfully, was the one thing he did manage):

1) which agent body do you belong to?
2) can you show me your insurance policy - and what are you covered for?
3) who do you use for maintenance jobs (& check their credentials)
4) will you cover me for non rent payment (if it's a market where good tenants are hard to find)
5) and finally, who is your solicitor and are they any good...? :T

In the case of the agent I used the answers were:

1) None
2) Most likely none or he would have paid me back for his incompetent builder
3) A rude, chain smoking alcoholic Albanian builder, covered in tattoos and jewellery, who deliberately did a total bodge job then disappeared...
4) Luckily, with good tenants in London I wasn't ever put in that position, but I can imagine what would have happened if I was...
5) Didn't need a solicitor, just ignored emails, said he was "going to take builder to task" and did nothing.... Foolishly, I didn't pursue (but I still might, if only to teach him a lesson...) unbelievably, he's still in business, still doesn't belong to an agent redress scheme, and my former neighbours, who are also landlords, and know exactly what happened, are still using him... :/

by All BankersAreBarstewards Smith

9:20 AM, 16th August 2014, About 7 years ago

My wonderful agent of 10 years is moving on to a different agency..... and I am moving with her. She has an instinct about people which is uncanny - and she has saved me from terrible tenants just based on her gut instinct more than once. She has always been right. She knows a short void is better than a tenant from hell.

I left her company for a while and went to another agent who refused to show me anything the prospective tenant had put on their tenancy application form, other than their name, under the guise of "Data Protection" - she could not understand why I wanted to see all forms and why it was not an issue under DP. I didn't use her again.

by Mark Crampton Smith

17:46 PM, 16th August 2014, About 7 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Mandy Thomson" at "16/08/2014 - 09:02":

Oh dear Mandy, sounds like a nightmare..... still presumably you have honed your questions a little after that experience.....? Sadly it is the same in Oxford; there are some excellent agents, and some very poor ones; indeed, there are some who do not even know some of the basic legal requirements that might serve to keep their clients safe. Builders and maintenance contractors are critical to the services we can provide. We ensure that all our contractors whom we instruct on our client's behalf, not only have all the requisite insurances, but sign to agree to our code of practice, and adhere strictly to key points such as timings of arrival and risk assessment for site safety etc.

by Mark Crampton Smith

17:53 PM, 16th August 2014, About 7 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Mike " at "16/08/2014 - 00:24":

Thanks Mike...... sounds like you have a deal that is too good to be true? How long have you been with them? Have you got any Killer questions that might allow other readers to find the jewels in the high street near them? There are a couple of agents in our area who offer similar discounted services.......generally they are seeking to build a portfolio, and gain market share; in doing so, there is a risk that they take on more that the team can effectively manage... the risk then is that there may be high staff turnover, and a consequential drop in service that could impact on margins for clients.
Still, sounds great.....long may it last!!

by Mandy Thomson

12:19 PM, 17th August 2014, About 7 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Mark Crampton Smith" at "16/08/2014 - 17:46":

Thanks, Mark. On balance, I did also have an extremely positive letting agent experience with large well known agents. I was getting plenty of interest from prospective tenants, but no one was prepared to meet my price. The agent, who is an excellent negotiator, managed to get me really good tenants AND the rent I needed!

However, after the experience with the first agent, I have never used an agent again for management, but I see from what you've said that this might be a mistake, certainly with a property (like one of mine) that's high maintenance.

by Mark Crampton Smith

14:14 PM, 17th August 2014, About 7 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Mandy Thomson" at "17/08/2014 - 12:19":

It is a difficult one........... in reality, if you are close and know the property well, it is probably best to do your own property management. We have many clients who do that.
I always say that what it says on our tin is not the whole story........Letting and Property Management is not quite accurate...... If there were no tenants, the property would not require any management; it is in fact the tenants that need management! so what a good agent actually does is manage the tenant(s). I believe there are savings for Landlords who opt for letting and tenant management services which would include first port of call for maintenance including 24hr out of hours cover (should be in house) and helping the tenant to understand what living in a tenant like manner really means. Many of the calls that our property management team receive are about issues that the tenant can resolve themselves.... Blocked u bends under the sink, tripped circuits on a consumer unit and "the heating is not working" when they really need a hand to understand the relationship between the room stat and the controls.
Ultimately, respected tenants will be more likely to respect your property; but the maxim that the more you do for some people the more they would want you to do also holds true, so the relationship between LL and tenant often benefits from a professional intermediary.

by Mandy Thomson

16:04 PM, 17th August 2014, About 7 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Mark Crampton Smith" at "17/08/2014 - 14:14":

I'm lucky insofar as my tenants only call me when they really need to, in fact one set tend to sit on very minor things, and only call me for real emergencies - I sometimes wish they would let me know more often if something isn't quite right, because they're paying a high London rent.

They are all extremely capable self sufficient people - two worked their way up to become managers, despite having English as a second language, and another runs his own successful business and works for very prestigious clients. So in short, they're not calling every time a bulb needs changing or a fuse blows.

I've said before that in my experience, as a small landlord, like all home owners, you're at the mercy of cowboy tradesmen. If anything, as a landlord, you're even more likely to become a victim. They know you're under more pressure to get repairs done quickly, and there is a false perception that landlords are always well off. Compound this with the fact that you often can't be there while the work is being done, or sometimes even check it immediately afterwards.

Good tradesmen are in particular short supply in London. As well as the "work" done by the Albanian builder, I was unlucky enough to employ a less than stellar local damp firm who also did a totally shoddy job. After ignoring my emails and not taking any action after I spoke to them on the phone, I sent them a letter before action and they had the cheek to say they would then come out - if I paid them to check their own work (5 minutes from their office)!!

I'm in the middle of preparing a MCOL claim, but have given them one last chance to refund my money - they're still talking about how I agreed in the T&Cs to their stupid fee - I can't wait to hear what the judge has to say to them....

by Steve From Leicester

10:25 AM, 27th August 2014, About 7 years ago

I'm a bit late to this forum but if anyone is still reading here's my thoughts.

Some of the additional questions in later postings are really good, but of the original five only one is truly worth asking.

Q1 In answer to "How long are your voids?" I'd reply "Only a couple of weeks IF the landlord follows our advice in terms of pricing and presentation. Much longer if the landlord disregards our advice". That's absolutely true but doesn't really help you decide if I'm the right agent.

Q2: Stock vs number of negotiators:
Meaningless as there's far too many variables, not least about how you define a "negotiator". In a small lettings office the "negotiators" are often also the property managers, the administrators and the inventory clerks too. Stock level is meaningless too - my average might be 30, but I may have those 30 in stock all month and shift none, or I might shift the whole lot and replace them with another 30 within a few days.

Q3 - I don't return any deposits (other than in the very literal sense of carrying out the administration work). I offer an impartial opinion but landlords and tenants decide between themselves how the deposit should be apportioned and if they cannot agree then it goes to independent arbitration as per Housing Act 2004.

Q4 - My honest answer would be "very few". Anything more than that is commercially confidential.

Q5 - This is the real killer question. Can an agent articulate why you should choose him or her ahead of the competition? If they can't, show them the door.

by Mandy Thomson

13:07 PM, 27th August 2014, About 7 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Steve From Leicester" at "27/08/2014 - 10:25":

Unfortunately, I think in a lot of cases, the answer to question 5 would be, "because I'm one of the best value for money" (or "one of the cheapest" if they're being more upfront...).

They could then go on to list how they don't have this overhead, or that overhead that the larger agents have (such as membership of one those pesky governing bodies that cost hundreds of pounds) or expensive indemnity insurance, which is, after all, a total waste of time... How else can they afford that lovely horse??!!

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