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  • Property-a-holics

    How to vet a lettings agent ... 12 questions to ask

    Many newbie landlords are aware that they need to learn about vetting a lettings agent.

    If you are going to appoint a lettings agent to tenant find and/or manage your property, it is vital to find a professional and reputable one. Large sums of money (rent and deposits) are involved, not to mention the management of your greatest asset and your tenant's health and well being, so it is important to make an informed choice of which agent to let your property through!

    Here are my 12 questions to ask:

    1. Are you a member of an accreditation scheme such as ARLA, RICS, NALS, NAEA?

    2. Do you have recognised client money protection scheme in place? This can often be signposted by the SAFEagent logo.



    3. Do you advertise on all the main portals especially Rightmove and Zoopla?

    4. Can I have a list of all your charges?

    5. On receipt of the rent from the tenant, how soon do you pay it across to the landlord?

    6. Which deposit protection scheme do you use?

    7. Do you have systems in place to track rental payments, repairs, compliance obligations etc?

    8. What is your staff to property ratio?

    9. Which Ombudsman Scheme are you a member of?

    10. Will I be assigned a dedicated person to deal with about my property?

    11. Do you ensure the tenant provides a rental guarantor?

    12. Do you undertake a check-in and check-out inventory, and also mid-term property inspections?

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    - Do you cover emergency repairs?
    - Are you open 24/7/365 for client's to book viewings, make payments or apply
    - Do you collect by direct debit
    - Do you charge for tenancy renewals
    - Do you charge to increase rents
    - Do you do floorplans
    - Do you do digital inspections
    - Do you do video inspections on move in?
    - Do you visit tenants in their own home before allowing them to sign up for one of your properties
    - Can a landlord login to view the realtime status of their properties, view current gas certificates, statements, tenancy agreements
    - Do tenants get chased for rent on the day it's missed by text, email, letter and phone calls
    - Do they get direct payment from the council for LHA tenants
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    Do tenants have 24/7 access to you (because if not, they will be calling me anytime in the evening / night / weekend OR my property will be potentially damaged by un-attended problems.
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    Are their key staff (Branch Manager as a minimum) NFOPP qualified?
    Do they have a website, fixed premises and a landline number?
    Are they VAT registered?
    Are they on the Data Protection Register?
    How will they market your property/find tenants?
    Do they have a team of tradesmen?
    How many staff and branch offices do they have?
    If one man band, what contingencies if he falls ill?
    How many props do they manage?
    Are the principals (Director or Branch Manager) property investors/landlords themselves?
    How many years have they been going?
    What are their procedures for evictions?
    What are their procedures for dealing with maintenance issues?
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    (15-08-2013 12:04 PM)daniel_booth Wrote:  Do they have a team of tradesmen?

    I think it's important to ask open questions on points like this. Anyone can answer "yes". It's the range and quality we need a sense of. There are some great points in this thread but I'd replace most of the closed questions with open ones.

    One more I'd add:

    - What fees do you charge prospective tenants?

    We don't want our business being frightened away by large upfront charges.
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    All the best

    Andy

    (29-08-2013 06:46 PM)andy_kent Wrote:  Anyone can answer "yes". It's the range and quality we need a sense of. There are some great points in this thread but I'd replace most of the closed questions with open ones.

    Very good point Andy completely agree.
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    Thanks for all the superb additions ... turning into a really valuable thread!!
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    Vanessa Warwick Landlord and Co-Founder of PropertyTribes.com **Book your FREE portfolio review and health check with Property Tribes Financial Services**

    Just revisiting this thread as I was having a debate with someone yesterday.

    As landlords, what is your expectation of Letting Agent staff members to Property ratio?

    I.e. should they have 1 member of staff to look after every 20 properties (I know it won't be as low as that).

    Would appreciate thoughts from agents as well.
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    Hi Daniel

    Thats a really hard question to answer as it really depends on the systems the agent has in place but also the type of tenant and property they manage

    In one of our LHA branches, our Portfolio managers look after between 80-100 properties per person BUT in Interlet (who manage mostly professional properties) they can manage upto 130 per person, they both have the same level of systems and training

    You could argue that only companies with superior systems and software can manage a lot of properties and that thise who manages 20 or 30 are not organised

    For me, one of the key questions to ask is Training. Do you train your staff, how and what in? After all we are entrusting the most valuable asset most of us will ever own, and possibly in the hands of some one who hasnt got a clue about property law.

    Every single member of our staff are doing some sort of national qualification, its actually part of their contract and it amazes me that a lot of our local competitors dont emphasise training as much as they should.

    It also says a lot about agencies who spend the time, money and effort in training their staff. They tend not to be the fly by nighters or the cowboys, so its all connected in some way

    JP
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    John Paul MARLA
    Managing Director
    Sunday Times Letting Agent of the Year 2014
    Investors In People GOLD accreditation
    http://www.thecastledenegroup.com
    Thanks JP,

    You may be able to shed some light on the debate I was having actually.

    The guy I was talking to owns 25 properties in one town and 40 in another.

    He can get a couple of shop-front premises cheap and wants to set up an agency to manage his own properties and then grow to manage other peoples.

    He was talking about employing two full time letting managers (one in each shopfront, each town).

    The point I was trying to get across to him is that he would have one guy looking after 25 properties and one looking after 40. Compared to yours looking after 80-130 each.

    So my point was they'd have their thumbs up their backsides. Am I right?
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    Hi Daniel

    Personally i agree with you but it depends on how far apart the shops actually are. If its only say 15 miles or less then thats perfectly fine (might even be slightly further)

    Its all down to what he is ultimatley trying to acheive and his plan as how to acheive it.

    Shop fronts will always bring in more business rather than the online agents (All things being equal) we get a couple per week (per branch) walk ins, so for us the added cost of having a branch is outweighed by the cost of being purely online.

    It also fits in with my personal business strategy of buying the shop on a commercial mortgage and the loan being paid down by the branch. So in 15 years ill have the shops with no mortgage on.

    Picked up a LL with 25 properties back in May as he was passing and saw our shop in Bishop Auckland. Hes old school, doesnt do the Internet thingy, it made me chuckle

    Also the market we deal with NEED a presence locally in order to get the best out of them

    If i was your friend i would do a buiness plan, what he wants to acheive, when, how etc but certainly walk before he can run, start off with the one shop, providing thats the route he wants to go down. Just seems two shops would be a waste of money

    JP
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    John Paul MARLA
    Managing Director
    Sunday Times Letting Agent of the Year 2014
    Investors In People GOLD accreditation
    http://www.thecastledenegroup.com