The first property I ever let out was a two bed semi which I had been living in for a year or so. I didn’t want to sell it as I was about to move in with a new partner and I wanted somewhere to go back to if things didn’t work out! This was back in the ’90s and I enlisted the help of a local independent letting agent called Bob…
Bob was fab. He was very fussy about who he would let my house to though his methods for selecting a suitable tenant certainly wouldn’t be considered politically correct these days. Bob managed my buy to let without problem for several years before he eventually retired and sold his book to another local agent. The new managing agent was a much larger and more corporate organisation and were, quite frankly, a pain in the neck to deal with. I had so many problems with them that, when the current tenant gave notice to leave, I decided to sell the house and end my landlord career.
Fast-forward to 2015 when I decided to get back into the game and I was faced with a decision: use a letting agent or handle things myself. I don’t have a very high opinion of letting agents or indeed estate agents in general. In my experience, they add little value to anything and usually have a poor knowledge of whatever it is they are selling/letting. In my home town there are probably twenty different agents. Of those twenty, there are two individuals who I have any time for whatsoever and the worrying thing is that the thing that makes these two chaps stand out is that they are honest! Doesn’t say much for the rest of the bunch. Anyway, when one of my tenants gave notice to leave my one bed apartment, I decided to handle the process of getting a new tenant and the associated paperwork and ongoing management myself.
The most effective way to advertise a property for let is to get it on the big portals such as Rightmove. Rightmove won’t allow individuals to advertise on their site so you need to enlist the help of a suitable online service to achieve this. There are plenty of options out there but after a fair bit of research, I chose TheOnlineLettingAgents.co.uk who offer to advertise your property for up to three months for £59 (+ VAT). I had a few questions so I gave them a call and ended up having a pleasant chat with one of the directors who answered all of my queries and gave me confidence in using them (if the 5* TrustPilot rating wasn’t enough).
Uploading a description of my apartment and some photos was a quick and easy process and within an hour and fifteen minutes, I received an email to say my property was now live on Rightmove, which it was. Within a couple of hours I started to receive texts and emails with details of people who were interested in viewing the property. All enquiries are directed through The Online Letting Agents offices and they send you the contact details of interested viewers so you can follow up the leads. I had several viewings booked in within 24 hours and two offers on the table within 48 hours. Once I had chosen which of the two offers I wanted to accept, The Online Letting Agents handled the referencing process. They charge £99 per tenant and this covers the cost of a full, detailed reference. As is normally the case, the tenant pays this cost. I also took the precaution of taking a holding fee of £250 in order to get a financial commitment from the new tenant.
Referencing took about four days for one tenant and slightly longer for their partner (entirely due to the individual’s employer being slow and unresponsive) and confirmed that both had decent credit ratings and should make suitable tenants. It was now time to get a tenancy agreement signed. The Online Letting Agents will draw this up for you and the cost is included in the original £59 however, I opted to use an agreement which I had downloaded from the National Landlords Association website. I also got a standing order mandate signed and took the deposit and first month’s rent. The Online Letting Agents can also arrange rent guarantee insurance through a partner site and I am going to put this in place to cover me in case the tenants do decide to stop paying me – it’s a no-brainer really and even with the additional annual cost, my total fees are still way less than I would have paid a traditional letting agent.
All in all, the process of finding new tenants myself has been pretty painless and it has saved me several hundred pounds. My new tenants have also saved about £300 on admin fees etc when compared with renting through a high street agent. Admittedly, I now have to manage the ongoing maintenance etc that goes along with owning a buy to let property but in fairness, I do this anyway, even with properties which have been looked after by managing agents (I don’t see the point in paying for their trades to go in and do minor repairs when I can do it myself for nothing).
Traditional high street letting agents are really going to have to up their game and start offering a decent service at a fair price if they want to compete with online and ‘do it yourself’ type services. I certainly won’t be using a local managing agent again in a hurry; I just don’t see the point and I fail to see what they add to the deal. If you are in a similar situation and are considering going it alone, I can’t recommend the services of TheOnlineLettingAgents highly enough – they are a friendly bunch and can’t do enough to help. If they can do this for £59, why can’t local agents do it for ten times the money?