The letting agent you choose for your buy-to-let or investment property will have a huge impact on your experience as a landlord. Whilst a competent lettings agent will make your life easier, working with the wrong one could cause you a lot of unnecessary headaches, not to mention see you incurring additional costs that would otherwise be avoidable.
Letting agents can help you find new tenants, manage existing residents and properties, and do pretty much everything that needs to be done so you can sit back and almost forget about the day-to-day running of your investment. At least that’s how it is supposed to be! Finding the right letting agents in Surrey (or anywhere for that matter!) is, therefore, crucial to ensure you reduce needless stress and concern. In this article, we’ll be sharing our top seven tips providing you with the necessary information when selecting your letting agent, allowing you to make a fully informed decision.
#1 Decide On The Services You Require
Before you begin your search for the right agent, you first need to consider what level of service you require. There are two options: tenant-find only, or full property management.
A tenant-find only means that the letting agents in Surrey will find the tenants and deal with all the initial paperwork, however, you’ll then be left to manage the property yourself. Opting for property management will see the agent finding the tenants and additionally, dealing with any day-to-day issues on your behalf for the course of the rental agreement – effectively acting as the landlord. Should there be a maintenance issue needing to be fixed or a property inspection booked, they’ll arrange for these to be carried out. Lettings agents are often combined with a small subdivision letting team, Seymours however, have dedicated agents that will focus on your rental needs.
Lisa Athron, partner at the Woking Seymours lettings office highlights that the choice will mainly depend on how much time you feel you have available to dedicate to the management of your rental property, and how strongly you desire to be involved on a regular basis. Specifically for those that travel frequently, or live far away from the rental property in question, choosing full property management may be the best option as it could be difficult to deal with any issues yourself.
#2 Research Local Lettings Agents In Surrey
When choosing your letting agents in Surrey, local knowledge is always best. Potential tenants are likely to ask several questions about the area, from the nearest public transport links to where the best coffee spot is. Finding a local agent with a branch in close proximity to your rental property will ensure tenants have all the relevant, expert information – and it’s, therefore, less likely your property will remain empty for a long period of time.
Once you have sourced a selection of local letting agents, conduct in-depth research into each. Check online forums, speak to other landlords for their recommendations, and read the reviews of the previous tenants to build a complete picture. But remember, your own first impression is also likely to be a good indicator of the level of service you’d receive so be sure to visit their offices too. It is often overlooked with online agencies becoming more popular, but being able to pop by an office makes a significant difference in the long term.
#3 Check Regulation Memberships
From 2014 all letting agents were required to join one of three government-approved schemes. The purpose of these schemes is to increase consumer protection by ensuring agents stick to a certain code of conduct, so it is vital you check an agents membership to at least one of the following:
The majority of letting agents in Surrey will clearly display which approved scheme they are members of, whether it be in a shop window, or online. In the same vein of protection, lettings agents should also be a part of an approved CPM (Client Money Protection) scheme which will see both landlords and tenants compensated should an establishment enter administration. If neither of these are predominantly displayed, ensure you ask to see certificates before entering a final agreement or you could risk a costly mistake.
#4 What’s Their Marketing Strategy?
Marketing and rental properties are inseparable, without visibility your property will remain empty and as a result, cost you money. An effective letting agent will have a proactive approach to marketing, with a solid presence both online and locally. When conducting your research look at current advertisements and cross-reference these across multiple channels – would you as a potential tenant want to rent the properties on show? Ask how long it has recently taken to fill a property similar to your own, what they would do to ensure your rental was not left empty, and if they have a current database of tenants they are working with.
Be especially wary of letting agents in Surrey that are not utilising online property portals, specifically Zoopla, Rightmove – and the new kid on the block, Boomin. Up to 80% of all rentals begin on one of these three sites, and therefore without advertising on these portals, you’ll be considerably narrowing down your potential tenant pool. Furthermore, understand how quickly responses will be given to an enquiry – if a client is kept waiting for more than 24 hours, it’s likely they will lose interest and choose to rent elsewhere.
#5 Compare Agency Fees
Price can be an important factor to consider when choosing a letting agent, however, it shouldn’t strike a strong contender from your shortlist. Letting fees will vary depending on location, but you should expect to pay somewhere around 10% of the monthly rent for a tenant-find only service, and around 15% for full property management. If you are struggling to choose between two letting agents, ask for an itemised list of fees for each so you can compare and understand exactly what you will gain with their services.
As of 2019, rental agencies were banned from charging fees to tenants for inventories and referencing etc. so may try to recoup their losses by charging you as a landlord more. An impressive sales pitch may sway you, but it could cost you significantly in the long term with hidden fees squirrelled away in the small print.
#6 Understand Your Future Relationship
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, ensure you are confident and happy with how your relationship will run over the agreement with your letting agents in Surrey. It is likely this agreement will be on a yearly basis, in accordance with your tenant’s contract so ensuring you can communicate with your letting agent is crucial. A few key considerations should be:
Some agents will only be available during weekday working hours, which could cause issues for you as a landlord, and for tenants both current or new. Ask whether someone will be contactable during the evenings and weekends, along with how viewings will be conducted in view of these opening hours.
To view our Seymour office hours, click here.
Confirm with the letting agent how they will handle the paperwork related to your rental property, this may include references, credit and employment check, and tenancy agreements. You should not have to be involved with the process should you not wish to be, but ensure this will be carried out correctly to avoid any costly mistakes in the future.
Most letting agents will require a two-month notice in writing to end a rental management contract. But, it is important you fully understand this process so that you know what to do should you wish to end the relationship. Failure to do so may result in hidden fees, or could even see you stuck in a long-term agreement.
Full Property Service Maintenance
If you opted for the management service, ensure this will be handled efficiently – how often will the letting agent carry out inspections, and how will tenants get in touch if there is a problem? Will a ‘float’ be required for maintenance fixtures, and do they have a network of trusted tradespeople to call upon?
The Next Steps: Choosing The Right Letting Agents In Surrey
When deciding on a letting agent, it is vital you consider exactly what you want to get out of the working relationship with a rental agency before beginning your research. It can seem like a complicated process for those entering the buy-to-rent market for the first time with several pricing structures and different services on offer. Ultimately, you should base your decision on who you feel most confident in managing the rental; combining expertise and a proactive approach will ensure your property is not left empty for an unnecessarily long period. Most importantly, always read through your contract before signing – you should have a comprehensive understanding of your agreement, and should you need clarity, don’t be afraid to ask.
Here at Seymours, we have nearly 30 years in the Surrey letting market and can provide you with property peace of mind. Our dedicated team will be on hand to offer support whenever you need it and we guarantee a high calibre of tenants, eliminating any cause for concern.
Let your property with the experts today: choose Seymours Letting Agents.
If you’d like free market advice or need an instant property valuation you can trust, get in touch with the team at Seymours using this contact form, or call us one of our 25 dedicated branches and departments here.