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Any landlord looking to use an agent will be all too familiar with the usual language used – “second to none, professional service, we do what we say well” sit back and think isn't this what you should expect anyway as a basic requirement! If an agent isn't professional and doesn't do their job well then they’re not really up to the job in the first place!
Landlords should look at what an agent really offers in terms of service and local knowledge – why not pop into the branch and examine inside and out! Look at the quality of in branch advertising, presentation and learn about customer service whilst on your mystery shop. This will also provide an insight into how the agent deals with tenants and prospective tenants. A branch visit is sure to reveal whether the agent does really offer a professional service rather than just taking their word for it! The branch visit can also test local knowledge and personal service!
A good web presence is essential in today’s market as traditional print advertising is losing its appeal. Thoroughly research agencies online including the agency’s website and how it presents its properties on the internet. Why not do a search online for a property similar to the one you have and see what results come in!
All letting agents essentially offer the same basics – advertising a property, undertaking viewings, protecting a deposit, signing a tenancy, undertaking inspections and end of tenancy matters. Take all this away from any agency offering to reveal what is unique about them! Many large agencies and franchises tend to rely on the fact they have numerous offices around the UK – but ask yourself does this really matter or make any difference to you! Research what is unique about an agency.
Agency fees generally range from 10 to 15% of gross rent for a fully managed service with many agents charging a landlord set up fee and tenancy set up fee. Landlords should be wary of any agent offering a fully managed service for less than 8% – generally any reputable agent cannot provide a professional service on such a low fee income. It is certainly true that “you get what you pay for” in this regard. Many agents also charge for deposit protection and/or a fee if they have to deal with deposit disputes which can be very time consuming.
Landlords should always thoroughly read Terms & Conditions before signing on the dotted line as some agencies operate on a sole agency agreement and tie landlords in (even if a tenant is not found!) for up to 12 weeks and then cheekily expect a termination fee should the landlord want to let the property themselves or use an alternative agent. Effectively, this rewards a bad agent!
Let only services are either on a fixed fee basis or based on tenancy arranged (usually between 8 to 10%). In many instances, it is better value for money for a landlord to use a fully managed service.
Whether an agent belongs to any professional body or not whilst it is not compulsory is debatable depedending on the organisation joined. Some organisations require little but a tick box exercise and payment of a fee to join. Whilst it easier for franchise and large agencies to have numerous memberships of organisations this does not necessarily mean they offer any better service than smaller independent agencies – some who of course do not have the finances of the big boys. Being a member of some type of body that offers independent redress is however being seen as must regardless of what type of agency is used (and may even become compulsory during 2014) and membership of some type of client money protection scheme is also a must and there is no excuse for a reputable agency not to have any client money protection in place.
The true test is the personal service offered to the landlord coupled with local knowledge and actual results!
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