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Has your letting agent got the X Factor? Or are you only getting half a property management service?

There has been an explosion in the number of letting agents over the last decade. But, argues Jamie Langley, not all offer the same level of service: make the wrong choice and you’re likely to get short-changed in the long term.

Anyone letting out a residential property has two choices: go it alone and manage the whole process, or appoint a specialist letting agency to do it for you.

If you live locally, have the time, some experience of what’s involved and contractors you can trust to undertake maintenance and emergency work 24/7, then the solo route might be perfect for you. It gives you “hands-on” control of your investment, you personally choose who lives in your property and you can save a little money too – anywhere between 10 and 15%.

Of course, I’d argue that – at least for the majority of landlords – placing all the responsibility on a letting agent is both cost and time effective. We have all the processes in place, a ready-made list of tenants to select from, contractors we’d put our shirt on and all the back up needed to make it a hassle free experience for a landlord.

But (and it’s a very big “but”) I would also argue that if you get your choice of letting agent wrong, you could still get all the hassle… and end up paying a lot more than the management fee for the privilege.

However, this is not the place for knocking our competition. This is, in fact, the place for setting out the ten “should haves” for any letting agent worth their salt. In short: if they don’t tick all ten boxes, then you’re being short changed.

And as ‘X’ is Roman for 10, I’ve called this the “X Factors for good letting agents…”

1      Are they ARLA registered?

That’s ARLA as in “Association of Residential Letting Agents”, the UK’s foremost professional body in this field. To be part of this, you have to be a qualified professional and must follow a strict code of conduct. If they’re not part of this… why not?

2      Are they a “SAFE Agent”?

After all, it is the only guaranteed way to ensure that your money and that of the tenant is totally protected.

3      Do they thoroughly vet all tenants?

No, not just blithely accept photocopied references from prospective tenants, but personally request and check those references themselves – ensuring their credibility.

4      Do they give you your money straightaway?

Not on some random day of the month when it suits them, but on the same day as the rent is due, providing the funds are cleared.

5      How honest and helpful are they?

Do they provide you with a full market appraisal on your property, including honest advice on achievable rents (not just what you want to hear), professional guidance on ways to improve your returns, and a full explanation of your responsibilities as a landlord?

6      Do they offer local management?

That means being on the ground, not managing your property from a remote office.

7      Do they use local contractors?

If not, how can they possibly deliver a rapid, efficient, reliable service you can really count on?

8      Do they guarantee a 24-hour call out?

If not, what happens to your property when there’s a water leak or storm damage?

9      Do they protect your tenants… and your property?

So will they handle every aspect of the gas safety record, for instance, including renewals, and make regular visits to the property?

10   Will they totally protect your money?

Will they collect the rent, chase arrears, generate monthly statements, manage the inventory and negotiate the release of deposits?

If the letting agent you’re with, or looking to use, can tick all those boxes, then that’s a full management service, one that will ensure your investment is really looked after.

But if the letting agent can’t tick all ten of those, then it’s only half of a property management service… and they haven’t passed the “X Factor”…

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