Go onto any Letting Agent’s website and you’re likely to see various forms of the following statements –
“Dedicated to delivering the best customer service…”
“Looking after your investment…”
“Meeting landlords’ needs with their interests at heart…”
Of course, our website is no different; it’s a tool for attracting new business and I don’t doubt that the promises made by most agents are what they wholeheartedly believe, and aim to achieve. The website home page is our first opportunity to say ‘Hey new landlord, here’s what we can offer and check out our USP’.
But after the ‘honeymoon period’ is over, do landlords ever stop and think ‘hold on, what am I actually getting for my fee?’ and are my expectations being met?
Don’t get me wrong, we ask ourselves the same questions, to ensure that what we say we’ll do, is actually what we do. It’s important as an agent we feel, especially one that is growing, not to lose focus on the landlords who were there at the beginning, remember your core values apply to all your customers. Black Friday is approaching, but at Evergreen Property we don’t offer incentives to attract new business. Instead we offer what we feel is an excellent service at good value, followed by a £50 donation to The Rainforest Trust. We take pride in our level of customer service, and the regular feedback we receive from our landlords is testament to this. There’s a degree of satisfaction in even the smallest issues that we sort out on behalf of our landlords and tenants alike, so we are confident that our promise of a bespoke and personal service, isn’t just a selling point, it’s a reality.
For landlords having doubts about their agent, there are many ways you can test them, from their response times and actions to resolve tenancy/repairs issues, to accurate rent appraisals. However, we are going to focus on what is, in our opinion, two of the most pertinent aspects of the landlord/agent relationship and two priorities in terms of the service landlords expect:
Number 1 – Are they charging the current market rate for your property? When was the rent last increased if ever? Does monitoring and comparing the rent of their current stock feature in their daily/weekly/monthly service standards?
Bearing in mind the PRT has limited rent increases to once a year, we would expect agents to review their rents annually at the least, but in many cases an increase may not be necessary. The implications of not reviewing your rent figure can become problematic when a tenant has been left without an increase for a number of years. What you don’t want is a situation whereby a rent increase so dramatic that it takes the rent to a figure that is ultimately unaffordable for the existing tenant.
With Labour MSP Pauline McNeill seeking a member’s bill for a blanket restriction on PRS rent increases, it’s definitely worth making sure you are receiving a rent that falls within the market rate and that your agent is on top of this.
Number 2 – How much care and attention goes into sourcing the right tenant for your property?
A recent visit with one of our tenants proved to be very enlightening, indeed the motivation for this post came from that very conversation. Our tenants advised us, that prior to accepting an Evergreen property, they had attended several (in excess of 20) viewings with other agents. What really got us thinking though was when we found out that most of the viewings were open viewings, with some accommodating up to 30 potential tenants at any one time.
An experience such as that made us realise the value in how we conduct viewings; assigning each note of interest a 10 to 15 viewing slot, giving them exclusive access to the property and our full attention for the duration of the meeting. We benefit by getting an initial impression of the potential tenants. Property is a people industry and we always look to find the best matches, the people who will look after your property, pay their rent on time, allow access for repairs and generally make the agents’ life easier and give the landlords peace of mind. Furthermore, your agent may be charging you each time they have to source a new tenant, in which case are they incentivised to keep good tenants, or source the best tenants with consideration to tenancy duration? As they are in essence still collecting a fee of sorts during the void period. At Evergreen, we believe our agency fee to cover all aspects of our management, we charge £150 to new landlords as a set-up fee, for administration, initial advertising and letting, but after this, no charges will be incurred by landlords for subsequent void periods.
As mentioned already, there are many more aspects to letting and expectations that agents must meet, in order to satisfy their customers. It requires a lot of attention and the ability to respond promptly and proactively, remembering that as agents, we have a duty of care to our customers and their properties.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be posting about the ways you can evaluate your agents’ performance, and ensure you are really getting value for money.