I’m anticipating the completion of my first ever buy-to-let property in the next few days, so I need to be thinking about Finding Tenants at this point.
After completion, I’ve calculated that I’ll need about one week to get the property in shape, which will entail a thorough clean, a lick of paint in the main living room, and meeting all my landlord legal obligations. So ideally, if I act now, I’ll be able to have tenants ready to move in approximately two weeks time. Obviously I want to minimize the amount of time the property remains empty for, as each day will cost me money.
I plan on using local letting agents to help assist me finding the perfect tenant. But with abundance of rogue letting agents scouring the market, which one should I use? Now there’s the million dollar question.
Guide on finding the best local letting agent
Get a list of local letting agents
The first and foremost task is to get a healthy list of local letting agents beyond the ones you already know about. Here are a few methods of doing that:
- Rightmove– they have a massive directory of letting agents, which you can filter by location using their letting agent search engine.
- FindAProperty– as with Rightmove, FindAproperty also have a large database of letting agents, which you can filter by using their letting agent search engine.
- Local Newspaper– most local newspapers will have a letting section where the majority of the big letting agents will advertise.
- Friends & family– it’s always worth asking your friends and family members if they know of any local letting agents, especially ones they would personally recommend.
Look for reviews
With the internet being so easily accessible, and providing a platform where every Tom, Dick and Harry has the opportunity to become a published author, it’s extremely compelling to look for reviews about any service I’m contemplating on using.
With the above in mind, along with the love of how much people adore to complain, it’s likely that if a collection of people have received a bad enough service from a particular company, they would have written about it online.
I’m not entirely sure if giving publication powers to every Tom, Dick and Harry is necessary a good thing, but that’s how far the power of freedom has progressed in this digital age, and it can’t be entirely a bad thing.
Take advantage of the user generated information available online by looking for reviews of the letting agents in your local area. If they’re notorious for providing a poor service, believe you me, someone has probably written about it.
Current time taken to fill vacancy
Always ask a letting agent how long it currently takes them on average to fill a vacancy in the specific area you’re property is located.
If you ask enough local agents, you can get a good idea of which agency will perform better for you. But bear in mind, agents are notorious for sugar-coating the response this specific question, but it’s always good to know what they have to say.
In an industry where consumer protection is limited, I would advise to only use Letting Agents that are members of regulatory bodies for Consumer Protection. Agent members of these schemes are required to abide by a code of conduct; failing to do so can have the consequences of financial compensation to the consumer.
Look out for agents that are associated with TPO, ARLA, NALS and RICS.
Here’s more details on Letting agent regulatory bodies.
Letting agent pricing structure
This goes without saying, but find out which agents offer the best rates. If your local area is anything like mine, there will be several agents to choose from in a close proximity, making it a very competitive industry.
Don’t be afraid to haggle. If certain letting agents have lower fees than others, don’t be afraid to use that as ammunition to get the other agents to lower their fees.
Many agents charge a renewal fee, and it’s often hidden in the small print.
I refuse to use any letting agent that charges a renewal fee because I consider it to be an unethical fee. It goes without saying, I would recommend avoiding any agency that charges a renewal fee.
Make sure the letting agent uses the best marketing methods and platforms. I wouldn’t use a letting agent that didn’t market properties in at least a few of the following ways:
- Local newspapers
- Rightmove, FindAProperty, and a few other of the key UK property portals
They tend to be the most affective ways of reaching out to prospective tenants, consequently making it the quickest and easiest way to find tenants.
Question their local knowledge
Make sure the letting agent has local knowledge of the specific area you’re property is located. During viewings, tenants like to know about the local area, especially out-of-towners, so that extra bit of knowledge maybe key to push through a sale.
One of the main advantages of using an agent is their local knowledge of the market, without it, their role kind of becomes obsolete.
The best way to determine whether an agent has local knowledge is by finding out how many other properties they’re either currently managing or trying to find tenants for, in your location. Of course, the distance of their offices from your property will also play key, as most landlords generally use their closest agents.
Agents Working environment
I would recommend scoping out the working conditions of the office they operate from. If they have piles of paperwork on their desks and an unhealthy stock of half drunk coffee mugs, then it may have some reflection of the type of service you will receive. Unorganised and sloppy.
- Use multiple agents– if you find a few good letting agents you want to use, then simply get both agencies to try and find you tenants. May the best snake-oil agent win. Unlike when selling property, there are no penalties for using multiple agents to find a tenant.
Any more tips?
Does anyone have anything to add? Do you have any other tips on how to find the best local letting agent?
Disclaimer: I'm just a simple landlord blogger; I'm not qualified to give legal or financial advice. Any information I share is my opinion based on my personal experiences as an active landlord, and should never be contrued as legal or professional advice. For more information, please read my full disclaimer.