How do you choose the right rental agent for you?

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EDP/EEN Article – Friday 7th August 2015

There are in excess of fifty agents operating in the Norwich lettings market so it is extremely difficult for a Landlord to choose the right Agent.  So how should a Landlord differentiate?

A landlord should certainly narrow down their search by looking at membership of professional bodies like ARLA, qualifications of staff, opening hours, professional indemnity insurance and which portals the Agent advertises with.

But here’s the dichotomy, all of the above things come at a price to the Agent which ultimately means that they have to charge more than the Agents who choose not to have the professional memberships, who choose not to train their staff and who choose to cut corners.  Remember, the only legal requirement to call yourself a Letting Agent is that you have to belong to one of the three government approved redress schemes, other than that someone without any professional qualifications or without any experience can trade.

So, once you have narrowed your search down we get to the thorny issue of price.  It is easy for an Agent to research what their competitors charge and if their overheads allow to undercut them but Landlords should try to look at the bigger picture than a headline grabbing monthly management fee.

It’s a shame that there isn’t anything like a league table to compare Agents.   Or so we thought!  Rightmove, the major property portal have now provided Agents with a tool whereby they can make a direct comparison between their competitors and whilst Agents are restricted from publishing the whole league table (shame, as I’d like to show you it) they are allowed to show you their own position with all of the other details blanked out.

For example, Agents can now tell you where they rank against their competitors in the number of one bed apartments over £550 in the NR1 postcode that they have let.  In addition, as a Landlord you can now compare how quickly each Agent will let your property!  I think this is pretty important if you are looking at price, for example if we take a rent of £700 then one Agent finding a Tenant two weeks quicker than another Agent is worth about £325.  Certainly worth considering when choosing an Agent, although one word of caution……anyone can throw any Tenant in a property to make themselves look good, it is very much about finding the right quality Tenant.

I believe choosing a Letting Agent is a bit like choosing a supermarket to shop in.  You pay a bit more at M&S and Waitrose than you do at Asda, but boy can you notice the difference in quality and why risk probably your most valuable asset with someone who has no qualifications!

I think Agents also need to be wary too.  I recently pitched for a good piece of business against four other Agents and ended up not getting it.  I know the Landlord totally valued my professionalism but he kept trying to get me to match the price offered by one of the other Agents.  Put very simply when I did the maths I would have lost money if I had dropped my fees any further.  I was pretty upset at not getting the business, but when I told my friend this down the pub that night he said, “It’s no good being a busy fool!”, when I told my wife, she said “Make sure you win the right battles” and on reflection I was reminded of the saying that, “Turnover is vanity and profit is sanity.” I slept easy that night!