Do you really need a lettings agent?

Daniel LeesLettingsLeave a Comment

Finding a good agent can make a big difference to your peace of mind – and profits.

To manage or not to manage, that is the question. Do you let and manage your rental property yourself – there are plenty of new online services that can help – or use an agent? And how on earth do you find a good one?

There are lots of scary stories of agents who take your money but do a terrible job of looking after your property. You may well know someone who has experienced this first-hand.

» Agent fails to spot dead seller

One agent showed prospective buyers around a Notting Hill house without
realising that the 55-year- old owner, whom he thought was asleep on the
sofa, had actually died. The agent admitted to a coroner’s court that
‘something didn’t seem right’ but he continued with the viewing nevertheless,
reports the Daily Mail.

Why does the industry get such bad press? Having built Swift into a trusted lettings agency, Daniel has seen the pitfalls first hand:

  • Britain offers degrees in Viking Studies and Knitting Design, but you need no qualifications to be an agent or run an agency
  • sales, profit margins in lettings are low once you’ve paid for the fancy shopfront and branded cars. Most agencies cannot afford to pay well so staff can be inexperienced and staff turnover is high
  • Many charge their fees upfront as a lump sum, so have no incentive to look after a property proactively once they’ve got their money.

Because of all this, lettings agents may focus on short-term profit instead of long-term service. Most of the time a landlord will be none the wiser if the agent just sticks the first available tenant into the property rather than finding the best fit. Nor will they know how slow the agent is to respond to a tenant’s maintenance query.

That’s why many landlords prefer to let and manage (or just manage) their own properties rather than hand them over to an agent. But it’s not always possible to do it yourself (for instance, if you live far away) and a good agent can make a big difference to your peace of mind and profits.

Even if you use an agent for everything, you can’t be completely hands-off. This is a business, after all, and to get the most out of it you need to know how it works. Plus, you are still liable for your agent’s mistakes: a forgotten gas safety check or deposit registration is an ‘oops, sorry’ for them and a huge headache for you.

Far more important than whether to self-manage or use an agent is to self-manage effectively or use the right agent.

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