Last issue we looked at how a 21st Century Letting Agent utilises new technologies and techniques to maximise the chance of securing a good long term tenant and minimise the periods of voids in the a portfolio.
In this we will look at how 21st Century Agent can- and should- provide a service that keeps both the tenant and the landlord happy with neither of them considering a move away because of the day to day management by the agent.
- As part of the induction the agent should provide a tenancy handbook containing all the information about the property including utilities, stop taps, meters, safety information and local amenities and as a pre-requisite a 24 hour a day Emergency Contact Number so that the agency not the landlord gets the call out. Many Lettings Agencies do not have this facility, yet, as a call centre operation, it is easy to set up with the call centre staff briefed on procedures depending on the type of emergency call.
- Allied to this, the Agency should have a contracted 24 hour emergency repairs call out service available to the call centre and the agency itself. The Emergency Contact staff have clear instructions as to what is an emergency and what can be delayed. The drunken tenant at 2am complaining of the dripping tap can be delayed; the OAP with water pouring through the ceiling or smelling gas can not. Whatever the situation the landlord should never get the call. The non emergency response would be through the normal repair & maintenance teams in the area.
- Repairs and refurbishments are a costly part of maintaining a portfolio and yet despite having access to the potential buying power of a large number of landlords, few agents seek to use this to secure good deals for their landlords for the supply of goods and services because in the main it is not their money going out. It is not unknown for agents to add their own commission or take a kick back from suppliers who add it on to their invoice. The Asset Manager not only seeks to find the best service providers of insurance, cleaning, maintenance and repairs but will also organise their landlords to be members of a ‘co-operative’ buying group to get the best discounts for supplies and services in order to minimise the landlords costs of owning their asset. I am already a member of such a buying co-operative and benefiting immensely from its activities across a wide range of products & services with more coming on line all the while.
- Changing agents is fraught with difficulties which often impact on the cash flow and a 21st Century Agency recognises this and helps smooth the cash flow during the handover of a portfolio by only charging half the normal level of management fees for first three months. Most landlords are often reluctant to change agents as the old saying ‘The Devil You Know’ is never more appropriate than with the Lettings Agent Industry. A landlord can never be sure that they are not jumping out of the fat and into the fire. Some agencies are even offering the incentive of fee free management for the first 3 months (usually with conditions) to try to alleviate this. Even with this the landlord will worry about the consequences of such a move and the impact on the portfolio. An agency, if they are truly confident in their level of service to the landlords, should offer a complete refund of ALL Management Fees if after 6 months the landlord feels they are not managing the portfolio to the required standard and wishes to withdraw. Under these circumstances a landlord can be assured that he will be getting the level of service required or they are fees free for 6 months.
- On initially taking on a part or all of a portfolio, a 21st Century Letting Agent should conduct a financial review of the entire portfolio, not just those being offered for management, and should be looking at it from the point of view of the landlords intended objectives and long term strategy for the portfolio. From the review they should produce a report showing how they propose to manage the portfolio or that part offered to them and increase the net (net of fees, etc) income over current performance to the landlord and if they cannot show such improvement then they should not be taking on the management of the asset. On this basis the fees they charge are irrelevant as they should be for any asset manager increasing the returns to the client.
By applying these actions and principles both the tenant and the landlord should be confident of the level of support and service the agency will be offering them, this not only means they will stay with the agency but also spread the word about the quality of service given to them.
But this is really about landlords and what a “21st Century Agent“ gives them by way of absolute confidence and this can only be achieved by complete transparency in the dealings of the agent with the landlord, tenants and suppliers. In the next issue I propose to show you what every agency should be providing to its clientele to ensure this.