How do I choose a letting agent?

signing agreement

The right letting agent can be an extremely valuable tool for any landlord, whilst the wrong one could damage your faith in all agencies and potentially even harm your portfolio.  Whether you self-manage or need someone to take care of every aspect of your property, its highly likely that at some point you will need to use the services of a good agency, so we have put together this helpful guide to choosing the best agency for you.

One of the reasons we have put together this guide, is due to the sheer number of estate agencies, letting agencies and property management agencies that are out there.  Although almost half of all landlords manage their property themselves, they will still often need the use of an agent to market the property, perform pre-tenancy checks and even prepare the tenancy agreements.

Regulation and Membership

Regulation in the private rented sector has increased a lot in the last couple of years, particularly in Wales.  Welsh agencies should not only be registered with Rent Smart Wales but licensed also. Preferably an agency will hold a membership with a trade or professional body such as UKALA (UK association of letting agents) or ARLA Propertymark. 

Agents also need to be registered with a Client Money Protection (CMP) scheme – this is an insurance that will reimburse the landlord and tenant in the extremely rare event of fraud.  In addition to this, the agent should hold a separate bank account to hold client money, often called a ‘Client Deposit Account’. Agents are also legally required to hold membership with either the Property Redress Scheme (PRS) or the Property Ombudsman Service.

What services do you need and how much should you pay?

The service you need will depend on the type of landlord you are, or plan on being. Most agents offer three tiers of service; Let Only, Rent Collection and Fully Managed.

  • Let Only means that the agent will find the tenants and usually perform the pre-tenancy checks. Often the agent will create the tenancy agreement and complete the other paperwork, but then hand everything over to the landlord to deal with.
  • Rent Collection will usually mean the initial letting service and tenancy set up, but the agent also takes responsibility for rent collection, with the landlord then having to deal with everything else.
  • Fully Managed is usually the most comprehensive package, where the agent will take care of everything, from letting to renewal. The agent will be responsible for the day to day handling of the property and tenants, leaving the landlord free to collect an income with far less or sometimes even no involvement.

The fee you pay will usually be a percentage of the monthly rent.  All good agents should display their fees openly on their website or in the office and the best will attempt to keep the fee structure clear and simple. It is worthwhile however to compare prices between agencies as the differences can be huge.

Marketing, marketing & marketing.

A good letting agent will be extremely proactive in finding a tenant and will utilise every tool they have at their disposal. Traditionally, estate agents would only advertise in a local paper and on the shop front and unfortunately many agents are still trapped in the same cycle. In 2020 you should expect your agent to not only advertise on at least one well known property portal (OnTheMarket etc.) but should go a lot further to find the perfect tenant for your property. There are now so many ways to attract decent tenants, from using social media to open house events – a good agent will develop a strategy to suit your property and demand for the ideal tenant.

Repairs & maintenance

Many agents are more than happy to arrange repairs and maintenance for the property at a cost, but if you have a fully managed arrangement the agent will take care of most repairs and maintenance automatically as they arise.  Often under this type of agreement, the agent will request a ‘float’ to cover any repair costs.  This amount is agreed at the start of the contract and ensures that any high cost or major repairs are brought to your attention.  

Accounting and reporting

Owning a rental property should be like owning a small business; you should at the very least hold an account showing income and expenditure.  Most good agencies are able to offer statements and reports to make accounting a lot easier, but you should check with them what comes as standard.

We, at Chancery Properties strive to deliver the best possible service to landlords and tenants, ensuring a smooth overall process. We are clear and transparent with all costs and very happy to personalise our services to suit your individual needs.  For any advice outside of the scope of this article, call us on 029 2021 2344.

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