Aren't All Agents The Same?
Aren’t All Agents The Same?
The short answer is “No". Agents fall into a number of types:
Large agents with branches across large areas such as Countrywide; known in this area as Abbots who are a corporate group.
Franchise agents who operate to the rules and the procedures specified by the franchise. They have the backing of franchise brand such as Belvoir or Martin and Co.
Independent agents who generally tend to be smaller, local and offer a personal service such as ourselves Orchard K Lettings.
Some private landlords will manage properties on behalf of other landlords.
Online agents provide an online experience such as Purple Bricks.
How you choose largely depends on what you feel you need from an agent and the budget you want to spend.
It is worth taking some time to ask around for personal recommendations or read reviews and contact people who use the agent you may be considering. Think about what you want to achieve from letting your property and the most important things you need to help you achieve that.
With the larger brands you can expect a large number of staff and larger advertising budgets but this comes with an appropriate price tag and may not offer the flexibility or personal service you need. It can also mean that you don’t have a single or consistent point of contact.
The franchise model supports agents in the local area operating under their brand but this usually comes with restrictions on the operating area and imposes its own rules on the agent’s. This means there is a larger organisation behind the local agent but make sure you understand how the franchise operates. Are all the important things in place when it comes to covering you for all the responsibilities of being a landlord?
The independent agents work in a local area and have specialist knowledge of the lettings market in that area. As independents they are not driven by such stiff profit targets and may pride themselves on flexibility and the personal service they offer. This does give the reassurance of knowing who is managing your rental property and usually a single point of contact.
All types of agents advertise online now as well as being able to visit properties. If they have a high street shop that is an overhead they have to fund from profits generated from landlords and tenants. If they are an Estate Agent it is worth checking that they have a dedicated lettings side so you are not competing with property sales which bring in larger fees.
So how do you choose? Things to think about are:
The professionalism of the agents staff; are they qualified to adequate levels?
The governance of the organisation; are they members of recognised bodies who govern their behaviours such as ARLA, UKALA or Guild of Lettings and Management?
What are their fees?
How do they reference tenants?
How do they protect tenant deposits? Custodial or insurance backed schemes?
What are their operating hours; things rarely go wrong during standard office hours, do they provide an out of hours service?
Are they flexible in the levels of service they offer?
How many properties do they manage and will yours get enough of their attention?
How soon do they pass on the rent to you?
Are there mark-ups on contractor’s invoices?
Do they charge VAT? This can eat into profits.
Methods of communication. Good communication is critical to building long term sustainable relationships.
There is plenty of choice available and as the relationship tends to be a long term one, a bit of up front homework can pay dividends. That said; should your agent not live up to expectations you need to make sure that when you sign the agency agreement, that there are no nasty penalty clauses in the contract. The best way to show your displeasure is by voting with your feet. If you have checked your agreement it should not be difficult to give your agent the correct notice period and find a new agent who will help make it a painless process for you.
In this world of choice you are in charge as you are the customer. Those who neglect or take their customers for granted, rightly, lose them.
A bit of upfront research can make it a long and profitable relationship with your chosen agent.