James Dodds, Head of Lettings and Property Management
In the fourth and final instalment of Grosvenor Billinghurst’s series of ‘behind the scenes’ articles created to help property owners get the best from their estate agent and avoid common property pitfalls, we explore the world of lettings. James Dodds, Head of Lettings and Property Management across all three Grosvenor Billinghurst offices, provides his four top tips for selecting the best lettings agent (and avoiding the worst).
I was recently asked ‘what makes you stand apart from other lettings agents?’ and I had to pause before responding.
It wasn’t because I felt duty-bound to be careful about what I said, or because I didn’t have any clear thoughts on what actually makes a good lettings agent. It was more to do with the fact I believe that my team and I operate at the highest of standards, so a literal response might have entailed a ‘day in the life’ description of what we do here at Grosvenor Billinghurst, which probably wasn’t what the person posing the question had in mind.
In the end, I’m sure that they were grateful for my brevity. However, knowing that this opportunity was coming up I sat down and shortlisted the following four points that I hope you find of value.
1. If something sounds too good to be true …
A couple of years ago a longstanding landlord client of ours was approached, completely out of the blue, by a London lettings agency. They claimed they had a tenant for a property that we had just listed. Not only that, but they were willing to pay six months upfront. With such a good offer, the landlord decided to give the new company a try and we parted ways. A few months later the police discovered that the property had been turned into a 5,000 sq ft cannabis farm led by a team of professional criminals that had managed to bypass the electricity to avoid suspicion. The landlord came back to us in the end and we helped them refurbish the property before quickly securing a new tenant. If something sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.
2. Proactivity pays
Make sure that the agent you choose doesn’t just list your property and simply wait for the calls to come in. Anybody can list a property and a floor plan. A good agent will continually be liaising with their contacts and talking to the local community – both residents and businesses – about a property before it’s even been listed. We work closely with a number of large corporates such as Sony and Samsung in Weybridge who approach Grosvenor Billingurst for our connections and our ability to quickly match tenants with landlords. A bad lettings agent is one that sits awaiting enquiries. Average lettings agents might be able to get away with this in a busy market, but what happens when the market dips? A good lettings agent is one that’s proactive, and this will shine through even when conditions are tough.
3. Choose a property marketeer
It might sound obvious, but make sure you choose a lettings agent who is marketing focussed. Way too many agents prioritise process and overlook the fact that it’s their job to make a property capture the imagination of a prospective tenant. We took on a property that had been on the market with another agent for two months and hadn’t secured any interest. It was quite an unusual property with lots of wood panelling and an orange kitchen that spoke to an audience that might be interested in retro living. We reframed it as Cobham’s coolest property, drawing attention to its quirky aesthetics rather than ignoring them in favour of listing it as a standard property. We had let it within a week at asking price.
4. Ignorance is not a defence
There are countless legal minefields and pitfalls that a landlord can quickly and easily stumble into, many of which can lead to heavy fines and even prison sentences. Make sure that whomever you chose as your lettings agent is completely up to speed with the ever-changing legal landscape. We regularly speak with landlords who manage their properties themselves and aren’t aware of changes that directly impact them. Worryingly, we also speak with landlords whose property is under management by an agent and who are still unaware of legislation that affects them. Only the other day I was in a seminar whereby the speaker outlined how failure to provide an Electrical Installation Condition Report, a new piece of legislation, could lead to a £30,000 fine. Saying that you didn’t know about the legal implications is not a defence. It might be the drier and more technical aspect of lettings, but it’s arguably the most important. Don’t throw caution to the wind here.
Looking for a knowledgeable lettings agent in Elmbridge? If so, contact our team at any of our three offices.