Who is the best letting agent for my buy to let property? Is a good question because making the right choice will have a big impact on your experience as a landlord.
Here, we will look at the criteria for choosing the best letting agent because they should make a landlord’s life much easier.
Unlike a bad letting agent who will cause lots of stress and will be charging for the privilege too.
Essentially, when you begin the search for a good letting agent, you should be looking for those who are experienced in marketing an investment property proactively and help you find quality tenants.
They should also be able to handle the paperwork for your rental property and do this for a reasonable fee.
The letting agency services that you need
This then brings us to deciding on the letting agency services that you need because there are two types:
- Tenant find-only: This means that your letting agent will be tasked with finding your tenants and then dealing with the initial paperwork, including carrying out the reference checks and ensuring everything goes smoothly.
- Property Management: With this offering, a letting agent will not only find the tenants and deal with the paperwork but will also handle any day-to-day problems on your behalf. This will also extend to organising property inspections and fixing recent issues.
The bottom line for those who are looking for a letting agent is to appreciate how much time you think you will have available for managing your rental property investment effectively. Also, do you want to be involved with your tenants on a regular basis and do you live close to the property?
If you do live nearby and you are happy dealing with tenant issues on a regular basis, then you may not need a letting agent at all and could deal with everything yourself.
Using a local letting agent
If you set your mind on using a local letting agent, then you need to research the firms offering this service. You will need to put together a shortlist and also look at their online listings and ask other landlords for recommendations. You can even go online and check various landlord forum discussions.
Basically, you are looking to see whether your potential letting agent has been reviewed well by other landlords as well as tenants.
You need to appreciate that a letting agent can have a big impact on whether your tenant decides to remain in your property or even if they decide not to rent it in the first place.
You then need to speak with the letting agents for a good first impression and ask:
- How long do they take to find a tenant for a property?
- How many tenants do they have on their books?
- What type of tenants are looking to live in a property such as yours?
You also need to appreciate that this service will not be free so you need to compare letting agent fees to get the best deal.
While letting agent fees in the UK do vary, a tenant find-only service will cost around 10% of the monthly rental income. A full management service from a letting agent will cost between 15% and 20%.
The other issue to bear in mind is that since June 2019, letting agents are no longer able to charge fees to their tenant clients for things like referencing and inventories.
This means that these costs are passed onto the landlord, so the service is more expensive than it used to be.
Check whether your letting agent has a professional membership
This is also the opportunity to check whether your letting agent has a professional membership, such as Arla Propertymark or whether they are part of Safeagent – formerly the National Approved Letting Scheme.
It’s also worth checking whether they are part of the Property Redress Scheme, which is a legal requirement, and the Property Ombudsman Service.
You’re checking that your letting agent will meet professional standards and comply with the code of conduct.
Another question to ask a potential letting agent is about the money protection scheme they use.
It’s now the law that letting agents and landlords place the tenant’s deposit into a tenancy deposit protection scheme that has been government-approved.
It is no longer legal for the agent or the landlord to hold the deposit and they must declare where it is being held to the tenant.
Usually, the letting agent will have a certificate confirming their ownership of the Client Money Protection scheme and will have professional indemnity insurance as well.
Ask a letting agent about marketing
You should also discuss your current and future needs and ask a letting agent about their marketing strategy.
When your property is empty, it’s known as a void period, and this can be an expensive time for a landlord since there’s no rental income and you’re still liable for the utility bills and council tax.
It’s important that the agent can market your property effectively to find a tenant quickly so ask how they will go about this, for example using property portals such as Rightmove.
You also need to check the agent’s opening hours and how they are going to deal with you as a client.
You also need to look at how they will handle paperwork including employment checks and credit references as well as the tenancy agreement. It’s important that you get the opportunity to review references being received for a tenant.
However, you will need the tenant’s permission for you to see these references.
And for those who opted for a management service, you’ll need to know how often they will carry out property inspections and how long they take to respond to maintenance issues from a tenant.
Which is the best letting agent
Essentially, for anyone wanting to know which is the best letting agent, then you’ll be searching for one that:
- Impresses you with a good first impression
- Runs a professional operation
- Has a track record of finding tenants
- Will respond quickly to tenant queries and maintenance issues
- Will be able to collect rent and deal with rent arrears
And bring peace of mind that your property investment will be the success you hope it will be.