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The best letting agent – how to pick one

Last updated: 4th August 2022

You’ve decided that maintaining and managing your buy-to-let property yourself – taking on a hands-on role as landlord – isn’t for you. This means you need to get a letting agent. And finding the best letting agent for you could take some time.

Many landlords, rightly so, primarily focus on the investment itself; the property, the location, the growth potential, the rental income… but very quickly, landlords come to realise just how much the right letting agent can make a huge difference. So here’s our guide on what to look for to make sure that you get the best letting agent for your property.

First things first – what type of letting agent do you want? They fall into two categories.

Let only. Here, the agent finds a tenant, moves them in, and then hands everything back to you. This is typically in the range of 5-8% of the annual rent.

Fully managed. Here, the agent not only finds the tenant but takes care of everything that comes up whilst the tenant is at the property. This is typically in the range of 8-15% of the annual rent.

Once you know what type of letting agent service you need, you can start your search to find the best one for you.

The biggest pitfall with letting agents is that the sector is largely unregulated. This means that absolutely anybody can – and they do – set up shop and start collecting fees, without any prior experience or knowledge. And they can do it with very little effort. This is why it’s important to do your due diligence when you’re choosing which letting agent to work with.

Here’s what you need to be doing.

Can you get a referral?

More often than not, the single best way to ensure you’re getting the best letting agent is when that letting agent has come via a referral from someone you trust. Do you know other landlords? Speak to them about who they deal with. There’s plenty of letting agents who only operate through referrals.

Who’s the best letting agent in your area?

Take a look on RightMove at which letting agencies seem to be marketing the most properties similar to yours in the immediate area. Look at the quality of their marketing, be sure to tick the ‘include Let Agreed’ box for a closer look at who’s successfully letting properties.

What you want is an expert in your area. Don’t be impressed by the fact that someone may let properties all over the world – you want a specialist.

Do they also carry out a wide range of services, or do they just focus on lettings? You want someone who is an expert in letting so it’s worth checking to see if this is their primary focus.

Are they regulated?

There’s a range of mandatory and voluntary regulatory bodies for letting agents, and it’s worth being savvy about these when considering your options..

As far as legal requirements go – there aren’t many. Letting agents need to be signed up to a redress scheme like the Property Ombudsman. They also need to list any fees transparently. If the letting agent you’re considering using isn’t demonstrating both of these, you can cross them off the list.

And then there are the things that aren’t mandatory, but are reassuring. Are they a member of a trade body like ARLA Propertymark? Or NALS – which are now known as safeagent? These demonstrate that letting agents genuinely care, and are signs of them demonstrating their commitment to doing a good job. That doesn’t necessarily mean they do, but if you’re looking for the best letting agent for you, these are positive signs to look out for.

What are they like? See it from both sides!

When you speak to them on the phone, do you like how you’re treated? Have a chat, see how knowledgeable they seem about the local market. Your gut will tell you if this is the best letting agent for you.

You could also tackle this from the other side by mystery shopping them as a prospective tenant. How do they treat you at this end? Are they on the ball? Are the kind of prices they’re quoting you as a potential tenant the same as they are as a potential landlord?

Give them a good grilling

They’ve made it this far – now it’s time for an in-depth chat with the letting agents you’ve shortlisted. Do this either at your property, at their office or – if those aren’t an option – over the phone. Here are some good questions to get you started:

  • Who will be my point of contact, and how long have they been with the company?
  • Can I see a copy of your terms of business?
  • Other than your let only fee/management fees, what other fees should I be aware of?
  • Do you charge me for renewing the tenancy?
  • Do you mark up maintenance quotes or charge a fee for arranging maintenance?
  • Which tenancy deposit protection scheme do you use?
  • Do you have client money protection?
  • Is there a number tenants can call if they have an out-of-hours emergency?

These should be extremely basic questions for them to answer, so any reluctance or uncertainty isn’t a good sign.

So, there you go. If you’ve followed these steps and the signs are good, then chances are you’ve found the best letting agent for you. Remember, if you do have any problems with your letting agent, these generally only need to last as long as the tenant they find is in place – so you just put up with them until that point.

And if you can’t put up with them?

If they’re doing such a shocking job that they’re putting your property at risk, you can attempt to bring the agreement to an end via legal action, an official complaint to the Ombudsman or by agreeing to terminate your contract early for a fee.

Hopefully all of this helps you find a great letting agent to manage your investment properties.

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