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Time for agents to highlight their value

02 November 2020 3090 Views

Time for agents to highlight their value

The recent survey in Letting Agent Today on why many landlords didn’t use agents was interesting and informative. That only 42.5% used a letting agent either always or sometimes was surprising given the way in which the private rented sector (PRS) has grown over the last two decades. This is a sector which is the second largest provider of homes in the UK and yet the delivery of service to tenants can be extremely variable.

Many individual landlords are knowledgeable, competent and make excellent property managers but, with the best will in the world, this is a sector which is becoming increasingly complex and difficult to manage as an individual. Given the rapid regulatory and legislative changes which the sector was experiencing prior to and since the pandemic this is a market that needs constant attention and vigilance. That is not to say that individual landlords cannot do this, but they need to ensure that they are fulfilling all the rules closely to avoid a costly error.

The LAT survey highlighted what could be regarded as an opportunity for agents to highlight their value to hesitant landlords. When asked why they would use an agent in the next 12 months over a quarter (26.9%) cited COVID-19 measures with 16.8% saying it would make them more likely to use an agent; and with 18.5% also naming increased private rental sector legislation.

The ever changing COVID-19 regulations are problematic for individuals to follow given the frequency of the changes and the enormous geographic variations in policy. Keeping track of this requires a full-time professional approach. Equally the government is intent on bringing forward more legislation in the coming parliament with the ending of section 21 simply the tip of the iceberg of proposals to transform and modernise the private rented sector. For many landlords the complexity of these changes may push them toward getting professional help and who could blame them. Better to pay additional fees than risk disproportionate fines for wrongful implementation of the new rules and regulations.

The pandemic has simply accelerated a situation which, I believe, would have happened anyway. Being a landlord was once a hobby for many people but now must be a full-time job to keep up to date with the many changes happening week by week and month by month.

From virtual viewings to 24/7 online monitoring of a landlords’ property the market has changed forever. Being able to virtually view a property, secure it and conduct all the required administrative work to move in is something that many tenants and landlords wanted before the pandemic and this is now viewed as the normal and sensible way forward in the future.

For some landlords now and for all in the future the minimum requirement will be the ability to access by phone, tablet or laptop all property and tenancy information across their property portfolios; live notification of all transactions as they happen; instant notifications of all viewings and access to feedback from prospective tenants; the monitoring of property popularity; full tracking of tenant applications from submission to approval to check-in; and real time listing of all income and expenditure ensuring complete transparency on the status of their account. In addition, notification of all property regulations must be available with full visibility of the required certification and expiry dates.

Indeed, the pandemic has probably been the key issue in making many landlords and property investors rethink their attitude toward using agents to manage their property. From finding the best tenant, to managing the increasingly complex viewing and vetting procedures owning a property and letting it out has never been as complex or as error prone.

The system is becoming increasingly unforgiving for those landlords who inadvertently err in processing any element of the rental process and this is a further reason that many people, who may have managed their properties themselves for years, are now considering using agents to help them.

Landlords should know that a good agent will know the market and its pricing, know the hotspots, understand the shifting needs of the tenants, and ensure that their client – whether a landlord or property investor – is kept ahead of the multiple regulatory and legislative changes which are being introduced.

With the impact of the virus now forecast to extend into the Spring of 2021 there has never been a time when landlords and investors need to be as fully informed and up to date as possible. A good agent will help with this to ensure that landlords, investors, and tenants are made fully aware of the shifting rules and circumstances which we are living in.

Equally many landlords may now be facing financial distress and the prospect of having to manage their properties at the same time as ensure they remain solvent could place an enormous strain on an individual or organisation.

But this is the time when the best agents come to the fore. They understand the needs of their clients, of the tenants, and the requirement to build relationships which will persist long after this pandemic is over. It is undoubtedly a challenging time but one which we will come through stronger than before and with a greater flexibility and understanding to help us be resilient in the times to come. This is a time for agents to come to the fore and lead their clients through these difficult times.

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