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You have decided to use a letting agent.

How to select a letting agent?

The best way of identifying a good local agent is word of mouth. If they have been personally recommended by a trusted source then this is always a good starting point.

If you don’t know anybody that can recommend an agent then the next best thing is to conduct a ‘beauty parade’.

This is simply picking a few agents that you like the look of and then meeting them, probably for them to do an initial rental assessment. Then from this meet, it will be a case of deciding which one fits the bill.

Your decision will probably be based on price, levels of service and inevitably how much you like them and think you can work together. Do remember though you don’t actually need to use a letting agent at all so make sure you have considered all aspects of using a letting agent.

In your initial selection, try and put yourself in your prospective tenant’s shoes. Which agent do you think they would be attracted to use, which advert or corporate branding puts out the right message for your property?

Should I use an upmarket letting agent?

For instance, if you have a council house it wouldn’t be a good idea to go with an upmarket agent such as Savills or Foxtons. Equally, an agent that specialises in rural locations would not be a good spot for a city centre apartment.

Another factor to look out for is that the agent has been in business for some time, at least a couple of years. Why? The logic is that whilst anybody can set themselves up as an agent. If they have survived for at least a couple of years; then they must have sustained enough business to survive and therefore they are probably doing a reasonable job.

If you are worried about the standard of service you will get then you can always look out for agent that are member of the letting agent’s professional body ARLA (Association of Residential Letting Agents). This organisation set out certain codes of practice for its members. These include a complaints and disciplinary procedure. Members are also required to have professional indemnity insurance in place. All this should ensure that you receive a reasonable level of service.

This does not mean that non members won’t be equally reputable; it just helps to ensure that in an unknown market place you are less likely to end up with a ‘dud’.

What are the practical considerations of using a letting agent?

There are other practical considerations, such as the location of the agent’s offices and their opening hours. Services such as extended opening hours or weekend opening will obviously be attractive to busy professionals if this is your intended market.

During the selection process you should use this opportunity to obtain as much information about what is included within their service. Because there is no standard service or way of charging; agents can include what they want within their fees. By reading the previous section you should be now aware of the different functions that a letting agent can perform and what is important for you to be included in their service.

Some landlords would recommend going as far as acting a ‘mystery shopper’ to test the levels of service you and your tenant can expect. This to me is probably excessive but if you are in any way concerned about the type of service you are going to receive then this is a way of putting your mind at rest.

In essence you should be looking for:

  • Offices that are smart and professional with helpful knowledgeable staff
  • A synergy between the image of the agent and the market of tenant you are seeking to attract
  • A good office location
  • Membership of ARLA
  • Personal recommendation from respected sources

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