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Choosing a letting agent

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Hi all, 


I have a property in the UK and I now live in Australia.  I have been renting the property out for almost 7 years but I think now it is time to put it with a letting agent and let them have the headaches.


My question is, how do I choose a good one?  My property is in Gillingham in Kent if anyone has any recommendations.





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Thanks Mark.  Being so far away for so long now I am well out of touch with it. 


The manager fees seem huge too compared with the UK.  15%?  Plus then there are 120 pounds per house visit then 15% on top of any bills for workmen to turn up and be managed so a 500 pound bill from a boiler engineer turns into 575 pounds just for the manager to do their job and manage the property?  In Australia I pay 8.5% for my manager and that is it...  no extras for this that and the other except for set up of a new tenant.  Seems ridiculous at first glance.


Anyway, enough whinging, I'll get a reputation ( whinging POM)

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I wouldn't pay more than 10% including all the 3-6 monthly inspections and showing perspective tenants around when its vacant. Usually standard to pay about £300 for tenant find on a fully managed.


The fees quoted on their websites are usually inflated for some reason. Often quote 14% but in reality are much less...

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I completely agree that trying to self manage a property 100 miles away is a challenge at times and anywhere abroad is even worse and the more time zones different the worse it becomes!  I would strongly recommend choosing a good agent and therefore cheapest fees should be low on your priority and one who is going to do the job right is far more important as you are too far away to be able to resolve any problems and to travel over is too costly to justify. Cheap fees mean that there are corners being cut somewhere as there is a lot of work involved in managing property now. There are so many legal changes at present going through parliament - Homes Fit For Human Habitation Bill - went to the House of Lords last week and will have a big impact on the lower order properties and new rules on 5 yearly electrical safety checks and new laws on CO alarms are also expected in the early part of next year.  Keeping up in this country is bad enough...


With regard to choosing a good agent I would recommend that you choose one who is:

  1. A member of either ARLA Propertymark or RICS as they have fairly stringent requirements for agent membership and at least some of their staff must be trained to prescribed legal standards
  2. They are fully registered with a client money protection scheme so that you are covered if they run off with your funds
  3. They are used to dealing with clients abroad and fully understands the requirements of HMRC and Non-Resident Landlords (NRL) - I hope that you are already registered with the HMRC on this count.  If they are up to speed with this they will also discuss with you how they are going to achieve proper ID and anti-money laundering checks on you for them to check you out too.
  4. As noted above all fees should be fully available on the company's website as it is illegal not to
  5. A fully managed agency contract should include inspection visits and also arranging contractor fees, gas checks etc - they should not double charge their contractors as well as you for a job either without disclosing their cut as this is fraud - I would try and avoid any who do as you can never be sure where else they are taking additional rates.
  6. I would ask them to explain their process of referencing prospective tenants and check that they report how they carry out the essential Home Office Right To Rent checks (R2R).  If they are not using a proper referencing company to check people &/or not fully familiar with the nuts and bolts of R2R ,I would go elsewhere.
  7. There will be a ban on taking fees from tenants early next year too so rates could go up - but again an agent needs to be up front on this and give an indication on what their plans are.  It is still uncertain when it will happen & how agents are going to absorb the lost revenue but look at the website to see what tenants are being charged at present as this will give an indication of what money they are going to try and find and inevitably some will be charged to landlords in bigger fees (which you as landlord will have to pass on in rent increases to some level)  10% + VAT will not be a high fee from next year.
  8. Look at their website and see what properties they are advertising and how well they are doing it. Are there good quality photos and descriptions, do they go the extra mile in selling landlords properties to tenants - are there clear photos, floor plans, EPC graphs etc - wouldyou want to view one of their other properties on the way they market themselves?
  9. Find out how many properties they manage and try and get an approx figure of how many move ins a month they do + average tenure - it will give you a feel of what income they generate by looking at their fees
  10. Find out how many staff they have and if they are trained to industry standards - a good agent will be happy to say that x number are ARLA /RICS qualified and the staff member to property ratio that they have.

Hopefully this is a pointer for you - I too have no knowledge of the area so could not advise on the good, the bad and the ugly.

Good luck

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