Believe me when I tell you that you’re probably the best person to conduct viewings with prospective tenants. Everyone else is a liability!
Here’s 8 solid reasons why 99% of all landlords (there are a few exceptions) should take their own viewings, and NOT letting agents!
Naturally, during any process of finding a new tenant I have to go through the whole viewing process. Viewings are always eye-opening experiences, particularly during my most recent session. In fact, I’m more convinced than ever that at some point in time a mass scale experiment went very wrong, which caused neurological deficiencies for a very large pool of people. Coincidentally, a large percentage of whom applied to be my tenant recently.
Long story short, I encountered some proper imbeciles. Perhaps the most alarming incident was when an applicant fell in-love with the property immediately; so much so that he was skipping through each room like an excited 13yr old boy that had just achieved his first erection. “It works! It works! It really works!!”
Unfortunately, his enthusiasm wasn’t contagious. In fact, his continuous and droning narration on how he would perfectly dress each room, to meet his, and I quote, “incredibly high-standards”, got very annoying. Very quickly.
Save the theatrics for your drama workshops, Dorothy. Do you want the place or not?
Eventually, he simmered down and enquired about the interest I had received so far. I explained I had already received quite a few offers (which was true), but I was going to allow all applicants an opportunity before making any finalised decisions. He quickly showed twitching signs of concern, which followed by a snappy offer.
Only thing was, his method of securing a deal for a ‘product in demand’ was psychotic. I kid you not, he offered me 30% less than the asking price (he offered to pay me £700PCM, when my asking price was £1000PCM, and the market price was £1100) and no deposit.
Wait, what the hell? What just happened? Are there men in white jackets, holding large fishing nets, looking for this guy, or was he trying to pull off an advanced psychological marketing tactic far beyond the abilities of my puny mind to trip over (if it’s the latter, the jokes on him)?
I was mostly scared because he was visibly smug and confident about offering me a plate of steaming turd. When I queried him on the no deposit BS, he said that’s what the advert said. No, it didn’t. It really didn’t.
Like I said, experiment gone badly wrong. Somewhere. Sometime.
So. Anyways. Tenancy viewings are interesting, and after years of experience I’ve come to the realisation that I’d be an idiot if I didn’t take viewings myself.
WAIT! Before you attack! I know, my statement will step on some hairy, fat sausage-toes attached to many landlords that use high-street agents to take viewings, and of course, the beautiful agents themselves. But I admit, there are a million caveats to my blanket statement, which justify why many landlords shouldn’t or can’t take viewings themselves. However, generally speaking, for the landlords that live relatively close to their investment, have experience dealing with people, and obtain a shred of common sense, they’d be foolish not to take their own viewings, or at least have some significant involvement (i.e. be present while an agent flirts with the applicants). Note, I don’t use the term “common sense” lightly; most people don’t have it, so the market for letting services will always be gigantic.
Why landlords should process & take their own viewings
Many of the sentiments with in the list won’t be anything new; I’ve said most of it before at some point, so don’t be alarmed if you’re hit square in the face with a foggy mist of Déjà vu…
1) Taking your own viewings is cheaper
It should come to no real surprise that this is first on the list, and perhaps the most compelling reason for many (although, price alone shouldn’t be seen as the most attractive reason in this list).
Simply, taking your own viewings is a buttload cheaper than hiring someone else to do it.
2) Gut Instinct / real life impressions matter!
I’m going to Frankenstein the crap out of this point by copying/pasting sections from posts I’ve previously written and mashing it together. This is a drum I’ve smashed the living crap out of many times before…
I rank ‘gut instincts’ as one of the best referencing methods available, and ironically, it’s the one tool most letting agents are, by design, unequipped with (or just plain ignore).
Most agents mostly see numbers and currency symbols, which means they rarely consider whether the prospective tenant is ‘practically’ suitable. What I mean by that is, as soon as I meet an applicant during the viewing, I instinctively start assessing their personality, presentation, and our chemistry, all of which provide valuable information, helping me determine whether an applicant is suitable for me and my property. Through no fault of their own, agents won’t inherently have that fabulous tool at their disposal.
An agent will tend to vet applicants on paper, while a good landlord (and exceptionally good agent, which are far and few between) is more likely to vet the tenant on paper and in pragmatic terms (i.e. judging the tenant’s characteristics and mannerisms).
In my humble opinion, the ‘gut instinct’ element should make the proposition of taking your own viewings imminent.
3) The opportunity to flag ‘other’ signs of danger
I’ve also already written an entire blog post on this point (Holy Moly, I’m really creating a patchwork quilt of old shit with this blog post!), where I list potentially awful signs of awful tenants. It was a good one.
When I first started my BTL crusade I used to primarily focus on the references the applicants provided, which would include income and references. In retrospect, that was naivety at it’s best, because any old numpty can earn a buck and bribe a few people with a bottle of cider to vouch for them.
A good tenant is so much more than the details in their tenancy application form, but unfortunately, seeing beyond the black ink is difficult when you don’t take your own viewings. How many people would do business with someone they’ve never met? Very few. Yet, we seem to effortlessly do it in this industry.
I put my applicants through a screening process that they’re not even aware of. They ain’t got a freaking clue that while they’re burying their heads into the kitchen units, assessing whether there’s suitable storage to house their reserve of freakish amounts of tinned food in the event of an apocalypse, I’m working the crap out of my five senses and giving them a shakedown; I’m looking for flesh wounds that indicate signs of participation in a bar brawl; I’m sniffing around for unpleasant odours only obtainable by a nasty smoking habit (I don’t accept smokers) and/or soap allergies; I’m looking for head-lice crawling around on their hideous little scalp; I’m analysing the cleanliness of their cotton socks (if they don’t offer to remove their shoes before entering the premises, interview over!). It’s also particularly interesting to assess someone’s reaction when you tell them you’re going to conduct a credit check on them. The response is often very telling.
How many agents look through Facebook as part of their referencing protocol? I’d be surprised if any, yet it’s been one of the most resourceful and valuable methods of referencing for me over the years. But you can’t blame agents side-stepping, because judging the political party an applicant is endorsing isn’t their job, nor should it be. But it’s definitely within my interest; if an applicant is sharing and/or liking Britain First or EDL posts, or has pictures of what is clearly an unsightly living environment, that is all invaluable information.
See, the thing is, most people wouldn’t be perceptive to any of those things. How many agents would say, “the applicant ticket all the boxes… but he/she smelled of an ashtray”? Not many. They’re more likely to usher you into their branch to sign the contracts, and in-turn bump up their commission. Cha-ching!
I guess this ties in with the ‘gut instinct’ factor, whereby landlords are genetically programmed to be more perceptive.
4) Makes for a better relationship
No two ways about it, landlords aren’t liked. We’re sitting-pretty under the armpit of society next to ticket inspectors and estate agents. Landlords are driving up house prices; we overcharge for shitholes swarming with dinosaur-sized parasites, and we’re getting those less fortunate than us to pay off our mortgages. We really should get a real job. And we really would… if this wasn’t so damn easy.
Many tenants walk into a tenancy loaded with those thoughts, and when there’s such contempt for the man in the Ivory tower, you’re potentially dealing with someone that won’t hesitate to use the carpets as a tool to soak-up bodily fluids.
Often, viewings are the only time, and arguably the most suitable time for us to show the applicant that the landlord is actually super awesome, and that we don’t all match the negative preconceived version. That can make one hell of an impact to the success and longevity of a tenancy. However, if you do fit the mould, you’re probably better off tucked away in your pit, and leaving it to the hired help. I told you, there are caveats.
Generally, I believe tenants appreciate good landlords, and good landlords can be a wonderful deterrent for rent arrears and other disasters that can lead to suicidal thoughts, and just as equally, a magnet for desirable tenants. Agents can’t bridge that gap, because they’re seen as the ‘middle men’, and merely the wall between the tenant and the ‘asshole landlord’
I always go into viewings believing that a ‘good tenant’ is looking for a ‘good landlord’.
5) Nothing worse than paying for crap that doesn’t work
Many moons ago, when I used to pay high-street agents to find me tenants. In exchange for my hard earned cheese, I’ve been provided with both beautiful examples, and disastrous one’s that made me want to grind away at my flesh with a toothpick.
But, after years of paying extortionate amounts on agency fees, do you know what I realised?
If I find a donkey tenant, it’s all on me.
If an agent finds a donkey tenant after shelling out several hundreds of pounds, it’s still all on me.
Hang on, that doesn’t seem right. No, it doesn’t, does it?
That’s the thing, agents aren’t held accountable for supplying a ropey tenants, even though they do it ALL THE TIME. If they were actually held accountable for every tenant that fell into arrears or destroyed the property, there wouldn’t be any agents trading by sunrise. So why should I pay £800 for the privilege of being bent over and screwed into an oblivion, when I’m capable of screwing myself, only better, and harder?
That concept has always had a profound effect on me, ever since I paid a local high-street agent £800 for a DSS tenant that almost immediately fell into arrears. Talk about being shafted to hell and back. I could have easily found dog shit and thrown it into my property myself… for free.
6) The resistance against compromising
I know what type of tenant I want. I really, really, really do. It’s almost natural for landlords to be particularly selective, because we have that emotional connection to the property (that’s arguably detrimental to the cause).
I’ve learnt from many bad experiences that a landlord should always avoid compromising when it comes to tenants. Stick to the blueprint of a good tenant and don’t feel pressured to go down a different path, even if time is of the essence. I’ve said it before and I’ll say again: keeping a property vacant for the right tenant will *always* maximise profits.
During my recent woeful experience, I ignored the majority of enquiries I’d received because they were so comically bad. Many of them were completely incoherent; it was almost like someone got pissed up and had nothing better to do than send bogus enquiries. Actually, I kind of wish that was the case, because otherwise I’m in fear for the applicants. They don’t have a chance. I’m always baffled when someone is too lazy to run a spellcheck.
From my experience, many letting agents would have taken a punt on a few of those enquiries, and in some cases, convinced the landlord to take a punt (the landlord often doesn’t realise it’s a punt). It’s happened to me.
I allowed the greasy whispers of a money-grabbing asswipe agent convince me into thinking an OKAY tenant, which didn’t seem all that great on paper, was worth “giving a chance” No question, it was my fault for going against common sense, but I had no grounds to doubt an expert. I think it’s a trap many novice landlords are notoriously perceptible to, to accept a barely suitable tenant on the approval of an expert. But hey, if we’re paying the experts, why wouldn’t we listen to them?
When you’re receiving a barrage of lousy applications (it happens), an agent might be compelled to let their standards lower for the purpose of getting the ‘show on the road’. A landlord is more likely to remain stringent and uphold the standards. For example, if I took 10 viewings and they were all evidently awful in various different ways, I would keep searching, while an agent might think… “we’ve seen enough, let’s just pick one. Jack was the best out of a wave of garbage, he’ll do.”
My point is, when a landlord physically interacts with an applicant, we’re in a better position to remain stringent because safeguarding our investment is our number one priority, and I can’t say that’s always the case with an agent.
7) Flexibility with agencies
I completely get that some landlords can’t or don’t want to handle the management. I get it. Who the hell wants to deal with a whinging crybaby when the toilet won’t flush because it’s been clogged with last night’s kebab? Screw that shit (pun intended).
Like I said, I’m not denying the need for high-street agents, and I never have. I’m not even denying that some agents provide exceptional service.
However, there’s nothing in the rule book that says a landlord can’t delegate responsibility. Landlords are perfectly with in their right to take the reigns during the viewings and picking the tenant, and then passing on the management responsibility to an agency. Although, if you picked wisely in the first place, the management should be minimal, and you’d essentially be paying an agent 8%-10% to transfer money from one account to another. Truly expensive monkey work. Of course, there are other reasons why landlords may legitimately need to use a management service regardless of minimal bang for buck (e.g. landlords that reside overseas).
In any case, there is the option of obtaining management services after doing the most crucial step of finding a suitable tenant. Alternatively, if you use an agent from the offset, to source and take the viewings, you generally lose the flexibility, because you’re kind of just stuck with the agent. It’s notoriously difficult to breakaway from an agent with your tenant when the agent sourced the tenant. Trust me, they’ve made sure of that. However, if you find the tenant and then use a management service, I imagine it would be extremely difficult for agents to keep their hooks sunk in.
There are many disheartened comments on this blog from landlords that have enquired about taking over the management, because they’ve realised that they’re paying through the nose for what is effectively an automated standing order of rent transfers. That’s a whole lot of money for sweet-nothing. That’s the reality of using a managed service when you have good tenants.
So yes, perhaps there’s a goofy argument for flexibility when you take your own viewings.
And when I say “perhaps” I mean there definitely is. And it’s not goofy!
8) Chinese Whispers & clarity of expectations
Do you know what I like about viewings? I like the fact I can ‘truthfully’ and ‘accurately’ answer any of the questions thrown my way, coupled with being able to make my expectations abundantly clear. Straight from the horse’s mouth!
Now this may not *seem* like a big deal, but it really is.
“What is your rule on putting holes in the walls to hang up shelves?”
No, fuck you.
“What about smoking?”
No, fuck you.
“Can I have guests?”
No, fuck you.
“Can I change the gas supplier for a better rate?”
No, fuck you.
See, no confusion, straight to the bloody point!
(was that too much profanity? Apologies all around if so!)
Setting your expectations will not only reduce unexpected surprises, but it will also allow the tenant to determine whether you are the right landlord for them, which is just as crucial.
Agents won’t have all the answers, so there’s often a lot of delaying to accommodate the frustrating back-and-forths. And in reality, many agents will bypass the truth-finding journey, and opt for the ‘lying through the teeth’ policy instead, which usually means muttering the most appeasing responses. Because that’s just easier, right?
There’s also the element of Chinese Whispers to be recognised and concerned about. An agent once told me that ‘a few’ of the applicants were hesitant on making an offer because the skirting boards needed repainting. WTF? Who in their right mind, let alone multiple minds, would get frightened by slightly off-white skirting boards? That’s literally all that was wrong with them. I really couldn’t take this shit-for-brains agent seriously.
Low and behold, he tried to up-sell me decorating services to remedy the situation. SHOCK!! I imagine one applicant made a passing comment on the off-white skirting boards, and the ass-hat agent saw an opportunity to Hollywood the story up in order to add a few zeros onto the final bill.
SEE YOU IN HELL, maaaan!!!
Ultimately, using an agent for viewings creates a hazardous blind-spot. I don’t like that. Not at all.
So yeah, that’s my list of reasons for why I believe it’s always better for landlords to process and take their own viewings. I know they can be a royal pain in the ass, and the idea of paying some greasy schmuck in an oversized suit to alleviate the pain sounds incredibly tempting. But I’m not convinced the potential risks are worth it.
Just to re-clarify, there ARE a load of caveats that can possibly make it acceptable to use an agent to host the viewings. But perhaps that’s a different story for another day.
Ok, so now I’m going to pass over the mic. I’ve got a pile of questions for you lot, so just answer whichever is relevant, pleeeeeease:
- Do you take your own viewings?
- Can you think of any other advantages?
- Got any amusing or disastrous viewing stories?
- Have there been instances where you wish you would have taken viewings?
Love, Peace & no dividing walls! x
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 construed as legal or professional advice. For more information, please read my full disclaimer.