Looking for a letting agent? The experts at Belvoir reveal five key questions you need to ask before you commit
A good quality agent can play an essential role in a landlord’s property investment plans but, with many new agents entering the market on a monthly basis, how do you know which one is right for you?
Choosing wisely is essential for unlocking the door to property portfolio success, so always ask the following key questions about the services they offer (and how these will be executed) in order to make an informed decision before signing on the dotted line…
1. ‘What is your advertising and marketing strategy?’
“Before committing to an agent it’s important to know how your property will be marketed to prospective tenants and how much exposure it’s likely to get,” says owner of Belvoir Portsmouth Samantha Bateman. “In general the wider the audience it reaches the speedier a great tenant will be found.”
Many agents use multiple marketing tools in order to reach out to as many people as possible. Find out what these are.
“Do they have a high street presence and a well-located shop frontage where your property’s details will be displayed?” asks Samantha. “Do they have their own website, plus make use of the popular property portals online, such as Rightmove and Zoopla? Do they have prominent ‘to let’ boards which will be positioned at the property? Plus will they place a series of eye-catching advertisements in the local newspaper?
“In addition, think about social media too,” continues Samantha. “Many agents are now also very active on Twitter and Facebook etc which can help increase awareness of their agency further.”
2. ‘How much is it going to cost me? And what is the rental return likely to be?’
“It’s important to make sure the figures add up before placing your property with a specific agent,” says owner of Belvoir Swansea and Belvoir Mumbles Ben Davies.
“Fees can vary from agent to agent so to do this you’ll need to know what these are (at Belvoir Swansea and Belvoir Mumbles they are displayed on our marketing material, plus on our website). You’ll also need to know what the property is expected to achieve in terms of rent on a monthly basis. Most agents offer free market appraisals and a valuation visit at the property is essential.
“If the tenancy is to be ‘fully managed’ then fees are likely to be a percentage of the monthly rental income. If the agent is simply finding a tenant for you then there is usually a one-off payment, plus additional fees should you want extra help throughout the tenancy, such as checking a tenant out of the property etc (at our office a ‘tenant find’ fee includes everything up to and including the move in).
“It’s also worth finding out if the agent offers client money protection, plus if fees are charged to tenants and what these are likely to be. These fees should be advertised or clearly displayed.”
3. ‘How long do your properties take to let on average?’
“For forward planning purposes it’s useful to know how long it is likely to take for your property to become tenanted,” says Samantha.
“Although it’s a difficult question to answer, as experienced agents we can usually tell if it will be a difficult property to let (because of a poor layout or location etc), plus we can advise on seasonal variables and their likely effect.
“Enquire about the length taken to let similar properties in the area and request information about what troubleshooting will be done if yours isn’t snapped up in the timescales expected.
“Also, find out if the agent is proactive by asking if they already have a waiting list of tenants on the look out for new homes. Do they contact everyone in their database once a new property becomes available… and will they do that for yours?
“Don’t forget to ask about how they will re-market the property between tenants too,” Samantha continues. “Do they have a strategy which will limit the potential of void periods during the linking of tenancies? At Belvoir Portsmouth we start checking our database of waiting tenants as soon as the current tenant gives notice.”
Identify and verify
4. ‘How do you ensure prospective tenants are who they say they are?’
“A tenant will be looking after one of your biggest assets so it’s vital that they are fully reference and credit checked in advance to ensure they are financially able to fulfil their commitment, plus they are indeed who they say they are,” says Ben.
“In-depth checks should be done by an agent to verify their identity and assess their financial circumstances. These usually include credit checks, which will reveal any CCJs, adverse credit, fraud indicators or declarations of bankruptcy. References are usually gathered too, both from an employer and a previous landlord if appropriate. We also ask to see their passport to check they have a ‘right to rent’, plus request a couple of utility bills from the last three months linking them to their current address.
“These checks are vitally important in order to minimise the potential of a problem tenancy so always ask an agent what checks they carry out and to what level these will be done.”
5. ‘What makes you stand out from other agents?’
“The level of services offered can vary dramatically so it’s important to check that your agent of choice will be able to sufficiently satisfy your needs,” says Samantha. “What do they offer? And, importantly, what don’t they?
“Can they do viewings out of office hours for instance? How frequently will they visit a property for inspections once tenanted? Can they deal with out-of-hours emergencies? Do they have a selection of trusted contractors and tradesmen that they use? Do they offer guaranteed rental income? Have they got trained qualified staff? Will they advise on investment opportunities so you can grow your property portfolio when the time is right?
“Also ask them about their ‘unique selling points’ (USPs) and what makes them stand out from other agents,” Samantha concludes. “One may have a shop frontage in a prime location, while another may boast a myriad of industry awards.
“Posing these valuable key questions will help you to identify the right agent for you and enable you to narrow down your shortlist for long-term success.”
Always remember to ask…
- How many properties do they currently manage?
- In general how long do their properties take to let?
- What is the company history and date they opened?
- Do they have a website and make use of social media?
- What’s feedback like? Are there written testimonials you can see?
- How much is your property likely to achieve per month?
- Can you have a breakdown of fees and rates (and do they include VAT)?
- If a tenant gives notice, when will their re-marketing process begin?
- How frequently will they inspect the property?
- Has the company won any awards?
- Do they use ‘to let’ boards? What do they look like?
- Do they have a contacts list of trusted contractors and tradesmen?
- Will they be able to advise you on growing your property portfolio when the time is right?
- Are they equipped to deal with out-of-hours emergencies?
- What is their property advertising and marketing strategy?
- Do they offer workshops or seminars for landlords?
- Are they up-to-date with current legislation? How do they ensure this?
- How many potential tenants have they currently got on a waiting list?
- Do they offer full tenant referencing and credit checks and how are these achieved?
- What additional services do they offer which makes them stand out from other agents?
Article Courtesy of: Belvoir