If you self-manage your rental property, you can use the new generation of online lettings agents to advertise your property. They can, however, take care of a whole lot more: some offer full management at a mere 3% of your rent. Tempted?
Though there are brands with excellent reviews (Upad.co.uk and OpenRent.co.uk and well-funded players (easyProperty.com and Purplebricks.com), there are also wannabes trying to jump on the bandwagon. As with any business, vet your online agent carefully. If the fees sound too good to be true, they probably are.
On the upside, they do bring competition to a market that has a lot of fat in it. We doubt that traditional high-street agents will be totally replaced, but they are certainly being forced to raise their game. In sales especially, online agents can offer incredible savings: traditional agents charge their sales fee as a percentage of the property value, but is it really 10 times more work to sell a two-bedroom flat in Chelsea, London, than the same size property in Bradford? Surely not. Lettings, however, require an ongoing relationship.
You may not be confident enough to use an online agent the first time you rent out your property, but they do open up more options for you as a landlord. Some of their advantages are:
Lower costs, usually the top reason for going digital
Pick and mix services. You can buy only the services you need
Transparency. It’s usually easier to track the progress of your rental as you can do so online at any time
Control. You remain in charge of the process, rather than having to rely on agents to drive things forward.
If you want to use an online agent, what do you look out for?
- Check what exactly is included. Hosted viewings, for one, usually aren’t. When you add all the costs together, it could actually work out more expensive
- Local ‘experts’ can cover very wide geographic areas. In reality, most are not area experts at all
- You can’t go into a local agent’s office to demand better service when you feel you’ve been let down, so it’s more difficult to hold an online agent to account
- The flip side of being in control is that using an online agent can be a lot more stressful if it all relies on you
- Dealing with maintenance issues can be complex. It’s unlikely someone in a call-centre who’s never been to your property will do an optimal job of deciding what to do.
The exclusively online agent didn’t exist a number of years ago, but is now a rapidly growing sector likely to ‘disrupt the market’, as their business leaders like to put it. In the long run, landlords should be the better for it.