When you’re looking for a letting agent to manage a property for you and there are a number in your area (Over 16 in Newark alone), how do you choose? I have devised this guide so you know just what to look out for and what questions to ask.
1. Mystery Shop
How a letting agent treats tenants is crucial to them letting your property or not. Give them a call as a potential tenant and see if they are friendly and accommodating. *TOP TIP* try calling out of hours to see how calls are dealt with and how quickly they respond.
2. Tenant Fees
Tenant fees can range massively from one agent to another. Whilst you’re on the phone as them about their fees for tenants. Some agents charge separately for everything like administration, referencing, inventory, check in, renewal and check outs. Added together this could be almost as much as one months rent. Think about it, if there are two similar properties and one agent charges double the other, which would a tenant prefer?
3. Check Other Listings
Do the photos look good? Are they dark or blurry? Are they ‘selling’ the property as much as they can? Do they put effort into descriptions? This is what your property could look like and is the first thing potential tenants will see. Put it this way if you were online dating, you wouldn’t put a rubbish photo of yourself up there, so why your property?
4. Find Independent Reviews
There are many review sites out there like All Agents for example where you can see independent reviews. Look for reviews from both tenants and landlords.
5. Check What’s Included
Like fees, the service that is included varies from agent to agent. Do you have to pay extra for an inventory? Do they handle eviction notices or will you need a solicitor? Since May 2015 under the Consumer Rights Act all agents have to publicise their fees along with a description of what’s included. *TOP TIP* Use the management agreement along with the fee information to see what’s included, or more importantly, excluded.
6. Check Their Processes
How do they deal with repairs? Do you have access to a landlord portal to view statements/viewings etc?
7. Check Their Associations
Do they have client money protection in place? Which redress scheme do they belong to? Which Trade Body do they belong to?
8. Hidden Fees
Does the agent add a commission on repairs and maintenance? Do they charge tradesman for giving them work? Some agents will add on commission to a tradesman’s invoice before sending it you. Others may charge a tradesman for passing them work. Ask what their policy is and always request invoices from the tradesman. EPC’s and Gas Safety Certificates are a prime example of this. You can get both for around £50 each however most agents will charge you around £80. Some may advertise cheap fees but when you add on all the extras they can quickly turn into the most expensive.
In all, most people believe a letting agent should be knowledgeable, efficient, trustworthy and deliver a good customer service. Accept nothing less.
Download our letting agent comparison checklist and see how your agents compare.