Whether you’re a new landlord, or an old hand, having a good lettings agent helping take care of your property (or properties) can help minimise your stress and maximise your profit. With a bit of homework, you can be sure that you’ve found the right agent who is going to provide you with a safe pair of hands to look after your investment.
To help make sure you make the right choice, we’ve listed some of the things you should be asking before signing on the dotted line.
Step 1: Shortlist prospective letting agents
The prospect of finding the right agent may feel daunting, but you can quite quickly create a shortlist by following these pointers.
1. List the local agents
Location is a good place to start. Having a lettings agent who is local to your property makes sense for lots of reasons. They know the area, they’ll have lots of local contacts and they’re close at hand if anything goes wrong.
2. Check how long they’ve been in business
All businesses have to start somewhere but, given the number of people who have fallen foul of fly-by-night agents, a business with some history tends to be a good choice. We have more than 30 years of it.
Check that they have their own website. It’s not essential, but all reputable agents will and it should ring a little alarm bell if they don’t.
3. Decide what level of service you need
There are broadly three levels of service lettings agents offer:
- Tenant find only – they will market your property and find and install your tenants, but everything else is up to you
- Tenant find and rent collection – as above, but they will also take responsibility for collecting monthly rent
- Property management – they will take care of everything, including all of the above and dealing with all day to day issues on your behalf and take care of property maintenance. Basically, stepping into your shoes.
The right option for you is likely to come down to your experience and the amount of time you have on your hands. It may also depend on how local you are to the property. Most lettings agents will offer all three levels of service, but it’s worth checking at this stage to help whittle down your list.
4. Ask for recommendations
You may be able to check online reviews of local lettings agents to get a feel for them. But speaking to other landlords in the area to find out about their experiences is a great way to gey help. Pick as many people’s brains as you can.
Step 2: Checking lettings agent’s credentials
Any letting agent worth considering will have a number of schemes/memberships in place which help protect you and your tenants. Checking these should be quite a quick job, but one well worth doing.
5. Are they a member of a Property Redress Scheme?
Membership of one of the three schemes has been mandatory since 1st April 2014. They will provide help should a dispute arise.
6. Are they a member of the Client Money Protection (CMP) scheme?
Lettings agents legally have to put deposits in a government-approved tenancy deposit protection scheme. This protects your tenant’s rent and deposit and provides compensation to both tenants and landlords should there be any misuse. They must display their certificate so it should be fairly easy to check.
7. What memberships do they have?
A simple check on lettings agent’s website should reveal which organisations they are members of. These memberships can give you the added reassurance that they are a trustworthy organisation as all members have to adhere to their codes of conduct which are designed to protect landlords and tenants.
8. Do they have adequate professional indemnity insurance?
This is another must for lettings agents. If they can’t show you their certificate, cross them off your list.
Step 3: Getting down to the detail
Now it’s time to get down to the particulars. We recommend you go in and meet the agents on your shortlist and ask them these questions face to face if possible.
9. What are their fees?
Fees do vary. As a guide, expect to pay around 10% plus vat of the monthly rent as management commission each month and there is always a letting fee, normally between 75%-100% of the 1st month’s rent. Some agents will charge extra for things like inventories, rent reviews and renewals, gas safety certificates so make sure you’re clear what’s included and what’s not.
Whilst rates will come into your decision making, do not choose based on price alone. Cheapest rarely means best and you do get what you pay for.
10. What exactly does their service cover?
This is particularly important if you’re looking for full management of your property as it does vary. A few things to ask about: will they carry out credit checks, confirm employment details and right to reside? Will they draw up the tenancy agreement and the inventory, collate gas, electrical safety certificates and energy performance certificate? Will they ensure the property is compliant with the relevant rules and regulations? A good agent will handle all of these things.
It is a good idea for you to review references of prospective tenants – they will be living in your property, after all. You may want to consider whether you’d like to meet them in person.
11. How will they market your property?
You want to know that the letting agent you choose will market your property proactively. Take a look to see their vacant property listings on property portals – include those recently let so you check their success. Make sure they have similar properties to yours on their books. And pay attention to the quality of the photos they use – poor photography could be a reflection of the service you can expect in other areas.
12. How do they manage repairs and maintenance?
How often do they carry out inspections? Who carries out any work on the property?
Once you’ve made your choice
If you’ve followed all of these steps, you should be confident by this point that you have a winner. It’s still vital that you read their contract carefully before you sign. At the end of the day, this is your property and perhaps your biggest investment.
One final word: if you’re feeling at all uneasy about a letting agent, simply walk away.