Getting a letting agent can be tricky. You want to know you’ll be getting a good deal on fees. Equally important you want to make sure the service levels are going to be good. How much are letting fees? and where do you advertise? should certainly be asked.
But there are a host of other questions landlords should be asking to find the best letting agent.
Where will you advertise my property?
Starting with the basics, this is a certain question you need to ask potential letting agents.
If the answer is “in supermarkets” or the “local paper”, you may not want to select that particular letting agent!
As a landlord you’re going to want as much tenant traffic as possible looking at your property. More traffic equals more enquiries. The more enquiries the quicker your property is likely to rent.
Plus with more demand, you’re in a stronger position to seek more rent.
Make sure your letting agent is advertising on all the big property portals.
If you need to let your property quickly, you should ask your potential letting agents if premium listings are possible. This basically means your property is highlighted ascetically on various portals.
You may need to incur an additional cost for this. However getting your listing to stand out more will get your property more attention.
How much are your letting fees?
A no brainer question of course! There are many fees you need to grasp when talking to your agent (we will cover a few more in this article).
As a landlord you’ll need to determine what level of service you need from an agent.
Whether you are opting for tenant find or fully managed services, the initial price will differ. Furthermore, the price differs across traditional or online letting agents.
Additionally, letting agent fees may be based on fixed prices or a percentage of monthly rental income.
Letting agents are now legally obliged to post their fees on their website and applicable offices. This makes it easier for landlords to understand how much letting fees actually are.
Landlords can also you Rent Round to scan their local area for letting agents & their fees.
To get an idea of how much letting agents charge and the impact on your rental income, use the letting agent fee calculator below:
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What are your letting agency opening hours?
You want your agents opening hours as long as possible.
Firstly this increases the likelihood of them responding to your request. More importantly if there’s an issue, they’ll be on hand to assist.
Many letting agents offer an emergency contact number for out of hour’s issues.
Increasing the importance of your agent’s opening times is tenant’s queries. Usually a tenant will go to multiple agencies to enquire about vacant properties.
You want your agent to respond quickly to book in a viewing as soon as possible. If responses are delayed due to opening hours, this could hamper the speed of filling your property.
Do you charge tenancy renewal fees?
If an agent finds you a tenant, within you agent agreement will be terms on tenancy renewal fees.
Tenancy renewal fees are the cost of renewing your existing tenants fixed term.
Even if the changes are minimal, the fees may still apply.
Although this sounds unreasonable, there are times where agreements need work so the fees are justified. Regulations are one such example. If there is a new regulation in play which means the agreement requires an update, an agent may want to be compensated for that.
Which contractors are on your books for maintenance and repairs?
If you are looking for a fully managed service, an agent will need to fix various issues in your property.
They will already have a list of preferred suppliers for this type of work.
Ideally you want an idea of who the suppliers are and run a quick check for yourself.
There are plenty of tradesman comparison sites available. You’ll be able to check quickly the ratings of your potential agents preferred suppliers.
Most agents get a kick back from maintenance work carried out on properties they manage. The financial incentive may take precedence over what’s best for the landlord.
With this in mind, landlords could be faced with low quality workmanship and hefty fees.
How does your letting agency stay on top of regulation?
Regulation is increasing across the property market, especially the rental segment.
Quality of safety features, tax and fee bans are ever changing.
Failures to comply with some of the regulations can result in landlord bans, fines & prosecution.
You need to ensure your letting agent has a strong grasp of the regulatory landscape. Furthermore have a horizon scanning strategy where they become aware of new regulations and an ability to comply with them.
How are your finances?
Maybe not a question you need to ask directly to the agent, but do your own research.
You want to ensure that your agent’s finances are in good shape. If your agent goes bust while conducting services for you, you may find yourself in a troublesome position that can hit you financially.
For instance if there is a lag between an agent collecting your rent and paying that rent into your account, that creates a payment risk if the agent goes bust.
In addition, you and your tenants will be wound into the processes of the agents systems.
Tenancy agreements, automated payments, ongoing reference checks may get disrupted should your agent get bust.
Usually the largest property outlets will be quick to post about any financial trouble companies are facing.
Furthermore anyone can check a company’s financial situation on the companies house website
Recently there has been a lot published about PurpleBricks finances. In parallel, Upad had financial woes in 2019.
It’s prudent to look into the finances of potential letting agents, especially the new agents who are working to get a footing in the market.
What add on services do you offer?
As a busy landlord, you don’t want to be hunting down providers other property services you need.
Inventory, guaranteed rent policies and landlord insurance are examples of services many landlords need. However these aren’t usually included in agreements with agents. Instead, these require additional fees to be paid by the landlord.
Comparing the market may result in you finding favourable fees. However looking around for these services requires time. A valuable commodity for busy landlords.
Check with your agent if they’re able to offer types of services you require now or may require in the future.
Having a one stop shop for your landlord needs is an advantage.
What offers do you have on letting agent fees?
There is heavy competition in the rental market. As a result, landlords can push for discounts when giving over their business.
This is especially the case for landlords with multiple properties.
Letting agents are more willing to reduce their fees if more properties are on offer.
Although they’ll be making less per property, taking on additional properties makes up for that loss.
In addition, a landlord with multiple properties is likely to add to their portfolios in the future. This means more business for that particular agent as the landlord expands. Thus, even more profit to be made by that agent.
Landlords should use this leverage to reduce their letting fees.
Do you have any properties to rent?
Sounds like a weird question for a landlord to ask right?
That’s because it is. But asking this question while posing as a potential tenant shows a lot.
Posing as a tenant will show you exactly how a particular agent treats tenants. If the agent is accommodating, open to questions and is able to ask questions well, that’s a good indication.
Treating potential tenants well from the start will set the path for continued good treatment of tenants.
On the flip side, poor and delayed responses while posing tenant based questions is a bad sign. Such would indicate the tenants’ interests will not be managed to a high standard.
The knock on effect may result in high tenant turnover and a lot of issues with agent and tenant communication in the future.
What technology does the agency use?
There is an abundance of technology that can help letting agents manage their affairs.
Firstly rent management systems are available that track payments from tenants and transfers of which to landlords. In addition they help track which tenants aren’t paying on time and the issue of penalty fees as a result.
Managing rental transactions in an automated manner increases efficiency and reduces manual errors.
Linked to a rental property, there is a high volume of documentation. Insurance, agreements and certificates to name a few. Agreements have expiry dates which are easy to lose track of. Software can be used to track documentation and renewal dates.
This safeguards landlords against the ball being dropped when it comes to documentation renewals.