Dealing with letting agents

What's the first step?

The first thing to do is ask a few letting agents to visit your property and give you a rental appraisal or valuation. Don't worry if your property isn't completely ready to be let, letting agents will not only be able to look past any unfinished jobs or mess to still give you a rental valuation but will also be able to offer valuable advice as to what will or will not need doing to the property in order to secure tenants. Then set about doing any necessary jobs to bring the property up to scratch and give it a good clean. Showing a clean and tidy property during viewings is absolutely imperative - the property will not only let quicker but this will encourage the new tenants to keep the property in the condition in which it was entrusted to them

How does an agent determine the valuation of a rental property?

A rental valuation is determined by several factors such as the popularity of your area. This will usually relate to convenience i.e. nearest station, supermarket, schools, parks etc. They will also consider the standard of the property, the strength of the letting market and the price other properties in the area have recently let at.

Should I employ a letting agent or rent the property out myself?

This very much depends on how much time and money you have. Most prospective tenants want to view properties after work and at the weekends but a good proportion also view during week days. Therefore, if you are at work all day, a letting agent can carry out those additional viewings for you.

A letting agent will also have access to many forms of advertising - they will be registered with all the major property portals such as Rightmove and FindaProperty, have their own website, advertise regularly in the local press and will have a database of prospective tenants who are looking for somewhere to rent. When doing it yourself, you can advertise in Loot and on several smaller property advertising websites for little or no cost and these methods can also be effective.

How do I choose a letting agent?

The primary factor in choosing a letting agent should be gut instinct. After all, you will be dealing with your agent for a while, so you need to feel that you can trust them and that they know what they are doing. During your valuation, the letting agents should run through the services they offer, the safety regulations you should be aware of and advise you on any improvements you can make to the property. Don't necessarily go with the agent who offers the highest valuation as some ruthless agents will offer a higher valuation just to get your business and then ask you to reduce later. Once you have had a few valuations and maybe done some research of your own, you will be able to gauge what sort of rent you should be asking for your property.

How much do letting agent services cost and what do I get for my money?

Most agents offer two (maybe three) services. Tenant find only and Full management (maybe also Rent collection as a middle ground). These fees will vary from area to area and agent to agent but somewhere around 80% of the first months rent or 10% of the gross rent for the year is common for a Tenant Find fee and 13% - 17% for full manangement. What are you getting for that? The benefit of the agents prospective tenant database, advertising on the Internet and in the local press, a 'TO LET' board, someone to carry out viewings, tenant vetting and often the tenancy agreement.