When you’re a first time landlord, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed at times. For some, it’s all plain sailing. For others, they experience a few bumps, dust themselves off and learn from their mistakes. We all know that buying property can test even the most patient of people, but when you’re a landlord renting your property to make an income, it’s less about the emotions and more about maximising those all important returns.
Profits aside, property is an asset, and you want to manage it as well as possible. This is why many landlords choose to manage their property via a lettings agency. A decent agency is really worth its weight in gold, but you shouldn’t pick any old agent at random. Even if it seems like an easy option, there’s no way of telling if they’re the right or wrong agent for you if you’re not armed with the right questions to ask.
Because we’re ever so nice, here’s a little list of what to look out for in a lettings agency:
What services can they offer?
Let’s cover the basics. If you want an easy life, you need to consider an agent that can fulfil your needs under one roof. It’s a bit like a juggling act you see, a good agent can throw a hundred balls into the air and still catch them all with ease. From the day to day property management and maintenance, they’ll carry out all the administration work on your behalf. Things such as referencing, legal requirements and deposit protection all need to be done by the book, so you stay on the right side of the law.
(Psst… some agencies, like us here at Ascend, have a few other tricks up our sleeves in terms of looking after our landlords.)
Other services may involve making life as easy as possible for your tenants, saving you oodles of money. For example, does the agent have access to online reporting systems that allow tenants to report repairs without even getting up off the couch? A nifty piece of technology like this can also give instructions on changing a lightbulb too! Cool eh?
It’s the little things in life.
How can they maximise exposure?
Unless you’ve been living in the dark ages, you’ll know that the main property portals are a tenant’s first port of call. An agent can have the slickest of websites but unless it’s gaining visits from prospective tenants, it doesn’t do you, or the agent, any good whatsoever. These days, it’s considered a necessity to have your property listed on the likes of Rightmove and Zoopla, so you need to ensure your agent uses these portals as part of their marketing toolkit. Let’s face it, until your property has a tenant in it, nobody earns any income, so your property has to be seen in the right places to maximise exposure and get it let more quickly.
Another obvious, but often overlooked feature is photography. We’ve all been turned off by dirty floors, poorly lit bathrooms and pokey kitchens. Photographs need to present your property in the best light possible and a good agent will capture the best features of your property which will help attract tenants and result in a quicker let. If your images aren’t top notch, you run the risk of an applicant clicking off your property listing and on to the next.
Other marketing tools and such as video walk throughs and social media platforms are also tricks you can expect to find from a reputable agent.
What happens next?
You need to establish what an agent can offer you once the tenant has signed up. It’s all well and good believing that finding the tenant is the hard part, but properties need ongoing maintenance. Rent collection and contractor management can often become an art form (remember those juggling balls from earlier?) If you have multiple properties, these two tasks alone can easily consume your day, so an agent who can manage this for you will definitely be on your Christmas card list. You also need to establish whether the agency has the resources to compile photographic inventories which will help protect both you and your tenants prior to them moving in. Will they also negotiate rent increases and do they have access to discounts with local businesses and tradesmen that they can pass on to you? As they say, every little helps.
Even when you think you’ve found the best agent for you, it’s still worth doing your homework. Check whether they are a member of any recognised industry organisations. ARLA, The Property Ombudsman, NALS and Safe Agent are all signs that you’ve got a good egg, so look out for these logos on their website. Online reviews also reveal a lot, as they’re real words, from real people. So scout the internet to see what their customers are saying.
All in all, an agent has to be the right fit for you. Don’t focus on whether they’re cheapest on the market or close to your family home as, although it’s tempting, it won’t always mean better results. Look at your needs and what an agent can offer. And after a discussion, if they’re a good fit, hopefully you’ll have a long and happy working relationship.
We hope you’ve found this information useful. You’ll find lots more useful information on our website. If you are on the lookout for an agency, you can check out our reviews online to see why so many of our landlords and tenants love us. Contact us today on 0161 637 8336 to see how we can help you manage your property.