This section is specifically for landlords that want to know more about letting agents, including:
- whether you should or shouldn’t use a letting agent;
- what the benefits and potential pitfalls are of using one;
- how to find one that won’t eat away at your soul;
- what your other options are;
- … and of course, plenty more.
Rightly or wrongly, letting agents are infamously loathed by much of society. If not for their spineless snake-oil tactics, then for their eye-watering fees, which are often riddled in the small print. I once heard someone compare them to a penny, “two-faced and not worth much”. I’m just the messenger!
But the reality is, letting agents provide an essential service for many landlords, and every landlord needs to decide whether they want to use one or not, and if so, choose the right one for them. Hopefully this guide will help you make those decisions.
What is a letting agent?
Yes, I’m going to start here – at the very beginning – just so we’re on the same page.
Oh, and bear in mind I’m coming at this from a landlord’s perspective, not a tenant’s.
In simple terms, letting agents provide a host of property management services for landlords, which can vary in responsibility, from a basic tenant-find service to a complete fully-managed service, which can include rent collection, inspections, repair and maintenance management – essentially shielding you from the tenant.
For a more comprehensive breakdown, here’s a blog post on the responsibilities and role of a letting agent.
Should you use a letting agent?
I can’t answer that for you, but I can toss some food-for-thought down that gullet of yours, which may help you make an informed decision.
There isn’t a shortage of landlords that use letting agents, similarly, there are plenty of landlords that don’t use their services, just like me. So either way, you’ll be in good company and won’t be seen as a hideous outcast.
Obviously hiring a letting agent to partially or fully manage your property and tenants can make life easier, but that respite normally comes at a significant cost. And that’s what it really boils down, whether you’re willing to pay for the service or not.
From a personal point of view, it’s very doubtful that I’ll ever use a high-street letting agent again (I used them at the very early stages of becoming a landlord), because I’ve found cost-effective alternatives that provide and do everything I need (more on that shortly, sit tight). And to be honest, it got the point where I felt like I was paying hefty management fees for, well, to be honest, fuck-all.
Essentially, I’d be pissing my money down the drain if I used a letting agent today. Of course, that’s the main perk of ditching them- giving their big, fat fees the middle finger.
Another crucial point to note, which is something many landlords overlook, is the fact that the responsibility and liability of a property ultimately comes down to the landlord, even if they use a letting agent to manage their property. So if your purpose is to use a letting agent to unburden you from your legal responsibilities as a landlord, I’m afraid you’re sniffing up the wrong butt-hole. The buck always starts and stops with you! Yes, an agent can and should help you comply with your legal responsibilities, but you’re ultimately responsible. Another reason why it’s so important to choose wisely.
If you’re seriously considering whether you should or shouldn’t use a letting agent to manage your rental property(ies), I encourage you to read my in depth analysis on letting agents, which looks into more of the moving parts that you should consider before making your decision.
If you want to use a letting agent…
If you’ve made the decision that working with a local high-street letting agent is the best decision for you, my advice is to pick very wisely. As I’ve said, there are good eggs out there, but at the same time, the industry is a minefield and plagued with greaseball donuts that are looking for a quick buck. Buyer beware!
I won’t get into too much detail right here, right now, but I will point you in the direction of my guide to finding a good letting agent – it covers what you should look out for when choosing a letting agent to work with.
What are the alternatives to using a letting agent?
So far, when I’ve used the term “letting agent” I’ve been referring to the traditional local letting agent on your high street, which you can physically pop your head into.
Some of you will be aware of the other type of letting agent that’s become insanely popular over the past decade with landlords, “online letting agents”
An online agent is a cost-effective alternative to the high-street agents. By and large they offer the same services (even though your high-street agent will highly disagree), but the biggest difference is that an online agent doesn’t have a physical high-street presence, they operate out of a central office, so they have less overheads which they’re able to reflect in their fees.
In my opinion, while online agents today can provide a wide array of services, from basic to fully comprehensive, I think they’re best suited and quite frankly, a no-brainer solution, for landlords that are happy to manage their properties and simply want a tenant-find service.
I’ve been using an online agent for several years now and I haven’t looked back since, not only because of the amount of money they’ve saved me (which is staggering), but also because as I touched on earlier, they provide everything I need.
I’m a gigantic fan of online letting agents and I’ve covered them in detail, so I encourage every landlord to at the very least look into how they work (and how much money they can potentially save you).