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Lettings agents

Choosing lettings agents

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The first thing that must be reiterated is that you should always do your utmost to choose a lettings agent that is a member of one of the professional bodies. This should help ensure that they work to a specified standard of service.

The organisations you should look for are:

  • ARLA - Association of Residential Lettings Agents. These are the main specialists in the rental market, which makes them a better choice than a business whose main activity is selling property or something else. For more information on ARLA, click here.
  • RICS - Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors
  • NAEA - National Association of Estate Agents
  • Or a Government registered housing association

If the agent is not a member of any of these organisations you should question why not, and seriously think twice before using them.

Rental income
Many people choose the lettings agent who advises them of the highest potential rental figure. This is all very well, but it is sometimes foolish for the valuation to be the only factor you take into consideration. It is not all that rare for the suggested rental income to be slightly exaggerated by the lettings agent in a bid to win your custom. If this is the case, then you may find that you lose out on potential rental income while your property remains vacant, unable to attract tenants at the rental level proposed by the agent.

Fees vary and each lettings agent will have their own scale of charges and terms and conditions of business. The fees that lettings agents charge can vary by several percent of the annual rent for much the same services, so do look into how much the fee is and what is included in the price. You shouldn't necessarily always go for the cheapest option, as there is sometimes a cost-service trade off, but it may well be an important factor in your consideration.

Sometimes there are certain incentives that offset some of the costs. Look out for things such as discounted lettings insurance, free legal protection or emergency repair insurance. Over the term of the tenancy, the cost of such things can add up, and having them included in the fees from the start can be worthwhile.

You should also check for hidden charges. Ask if any portion of the lettings fee is renewable and after how long. Many agencies will draw up 6 monthly agreements rather than 12 monthly ones so that they can charge an additional fee every time the tenancy is renewed - even though the tenants will probably remain the same.

One of the reasons for opting for a lettings agent belonging to one of the official bodies listed above is to ensure a level of professionalism. This is crucial to the whole process of letting your home, from setting the rent, to finding a tenant and dealing with the administration.

These are the sorts of things you should look out for:

  • Polite, friendly and well trained staff, with a specialist lettings team.
  • Clear and helpful advice literature.
  • A well-maintained web site.
  • Efficient computerised administration system.
  • Comprehensive marketing - in newspapers, with signboards, leaflets and on the internet.

Whilst hungry young professionals bring much to a lettings agency, it is important that there is also some experience in the company you choose. Find out how long they have been a letting agent in this area and how many years of experience they have in the business as a whole. It often pays to choose the most prominent and successful agent in the area - they will not have achieved that reputation by default.

Gut feeling
Don't forget your gut feeling. If it is telling you that something is wrong, it can be worth listening to you natural instincts. You should feel comfortable in awarding a lettings agent all of the responsibilities they are set to take on.

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