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Written by rosalind renshaw

Upad, which calls itself a ‘self-service lettings agency’, says it will be changing the face of lettings in 2012 after seeing a fivefold increase in business.
The ARLA Licensed firm says it “will continue to revolutionise the world of lettings, moving away from traditional high street agencies and extolling the virtues of self-service online letting from as little as £99 plus VAT”.
The firm says it has over 500 properties across the UK currently available to let, the equivalent of 15 to 20 traditional high street agencies’ stock, and approximately 20,000 tenant inquiries per month.

Founder James Davis said: “The rental market in the UK is enjoying a resurgence, with online lettings in particular booming.

“We have seen a fivefold increase in the number of rental properties listed online from around 500 in April 2010 to 2,600 in October 2011.

“With this extraordinary growth in mind, Upad offers the leading alternative to high street letting agencies.

“The properties available are highly visible online, with landlords being put in direct contact with potential tenants, enabling them to conduct viewings themselves which is often preferable, and save a considerable amount on agent commissions and ongoing management costs.”

Upad enables its landlords to list their properties on all the major lettings sites, including Rightmove, FindaProperty and Zoopla.


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    Lettings agents did it to themselves. Bad service, usurious administration, application and referencing fees to both landlords and tenants, 7-10% tenant find fees with year 2+ trailer fees of 4-6% for tenant renewals.

    Recently we needed to move and let our house and didn't have much free time, so we thought that using a high street agent would make life easier for us. We were sadly disappointed.

    I did investigate Discount Lettings and uPad which would be great if they didn't have such tacky names and had problems at the time with full-sized photo uploads to Rightmove.

    So in the end I selected a full-service agent but I took my own pictures of the house (for future lettings) and got the gas/electric/EPC inspections myself which is not rocket science.

    The first day of viewings comes, and Mr. Dull Agent goes around telling the prospective clients genius things like "this is a bedroom" and answers most of their questions with "I don't know". So my wife essentially kicks the agent out and does the next set of viewings herself. The second tenants make an offer for full asking price (the place would let itself as we lived there and spent a lot of time doing it up).

    The next two months were spent chasing the agents to get their finger out and get the contract written. The tenants were also completely pissed off at the agents as well for never answering the phone. Fortunately we exchanged numbers and email on the viewing day (didn't trust the agents) so communicated directly with them. In the end we had to make multiple corrections to the contract (provided last minute of course), and got the keys to the tenants on their move-in day as the agents couldn't find the copies.

    The agents were pretty quick to contact us though for the balance of payment which came to nearly £2000 for them doing next to nothing and antagonizing the tenants. What did I get for my money (other than by chance, good tenants)? Not much that I couldn't have and didn't end up doing myself. Even if the tenants turn rogue in the future and stop paying, the agent will not do much and it is up to the landlord (by law) to serve notices and manage the eviction process.

    High street agencies still have pictures in their windows and a list of tenants that register with them, but I figure that those same people browse and set up property alerts on Rightmove. I know that I do given the current competition for good properties to let.

    My experience with being a tenant myself and buying/selling property in the UK shows that most high street estate agents provide similar poor service for inflated prices.

    The next time we will use a service like Upad and arrange for an "Open House" weekend where we can take viewings on a Saturday and Sunday, screen the tenants, and then make our selections (after financial/referencing checks pass). We do the same thing renting an apartment in Spain (advertise online and get someone local to do the open house viewings) and haven't had any problems.

    The only problem I see is if we leave the UK and unfortunately have to resort to using a full-service agent again. Unless we can find an independent agent to show and manage the property for us.

    • 12 January 2012 14:51 PM
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    To be honest, this doesn't worry me at all. If a landlord lives in the vicinity, then this helps them to carry out some form of credit checks and also to advertise the property. They can then manage the property themselvesm something we tend to advise anyway providing they live near and have the time. If they don't live nearby, this service really isn't ideal (except if the landlord is willing to take a real risk) and that's where more traditional agents come in. Bottom line: great for landlords who don't mind handling the property themselves and would have done it anyway, next to useless for the rest.

    • 12 January 2012 12:28 PM
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    @Wake up call - Absolutely right!

    @TheCrux - I hate to have to tell you this, but - LIFE'S NOT FAIR!

    • 11 January 2012 14:05 PM
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    Upad are a business with a model in place that takes advantage of the current market to their own benefit, deal with it!

    As agents we shouldn't bleat about our competition, our industry is evolving and so should should we. If someone has innovated a niche in the market why shouldn't they exploit it.

    The economic climate, strained housing market and easy access to the web was begging for initiative and someone is taking it, can't begrudge that.

    The portals don't owe us a living and we shouldn't be so arrogant to think that vendors will always give us work just because we're still located on a high street.

    We need to adjust to the new age of estate agency, be open to change, explore different business ideas and then maybe we too can enjoy increased revenue from our clients.

    • 10 January 2012 17:36 PM
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    isn't the question more that didn't agents believe they were agent only portals and hence help create the entities that now threaten to dis-intermediate part of the market (the agent tenant find market).

    if the big4 have promised to be agent portals, then it would seem unfair to then allow direct to consumer by the proxy of online self service agents or whatever they call themselves to lay claim to the word 'agent'.

    • 10 January 2012 11:54 AM
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    Do the portals really owe us a living?

    Times are changing!

    • 10 January 2012 11:20 AM
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    The portals will do whatever makes them money. They won't be loyal to agents and why should they be?

    Landlords looking for a let only without personal service will use the online 'agents' , while landlords who want a high quality, personal, full management service will continue to use a regulated, professional, local letting agent.

    This isn't revolutionary. They're simply stripping down the service and providing a lessor service at a lower cost.

    • 10 January 2012 11:12 AM
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    Is 100% correct in both his postings. Lettings is the easy bit - you can rent to a mate down the pub on a Friday night on a verbal contract.

    Try then getting him to leave if he doesn't want to.

    Note yet another ARLA weakness here.

    Several years ago when Adrian Turner was CEO they decided to allow members to operate from 'virtual' offices in terms of agents going the next step from serviced offices and actually operating out of them on a daily basis, to simply using such a building as an operating address but only visiting it as and when necessary.

    Outfits such as this are the result - with ARLA endorsement.

    • 10 January 2012 10:01 AM
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    perhaps, but the point is that the big4 are supposed to only take agents as clients. rightmove in particular was founded by agent chains.

    sure lettings for landlords (who have decided they want to self manage their property) may become more of a self service online experience as regards finding the tenant and doing the paperwork but the big4 shouldn't be the ones facilitating landlords who don't want to use agents even for their tenant find packages.

    • 10 January 2012 09:55 AM
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    I agree that those agents like ourselves who provide a good value for money service to both their landlords and tenants have nothing to fear from online self service agents. However landlords should be aware that many of the tenants looking for property through sites such as Upad will have already failed agents strict referencing procedures.

    • 10 January 2012 09:51 AM
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    As a landlord myself, I would have thought that any agent that delivered value for their clients would not be concerned about Upad or any similar proposition.

    Relying on exclusive access to an audience (created by the big four - not as a result of effort by that agent) does not justify the existence of the traditional letting agent.

    • 10 January 2012 09:22 AM
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    Am presently helping a Landlord who did a DIY let and now has a tenant who owes four months rent at £1200 per month and hasn't a clue what to do next!
    Letting a property is the easy part but full professional management by an accredited agent gives peace of mind to Landlords particularly those who live a good distance away from their properties or overseas.
    How many Landlordshave access to professional referencing or really understand Housing Law or their various obligations in respect of maintenance, EPC's, gas safety etc etc
    Many of the Landlords shown on Rogue Tenants have tried to do it themselves and have come badly unstuck because they took their prospective tenants on face value and did not do proper checks.

    • 10 January 2012 09:01 AM
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    Are they not in breach of the big portals terms of business by having private landlords advertise on them?

    Digital property group and rightmove are essentially putting their own clients out of business as far as I can see. Surely this is mutually assured destruction for these portals. How do they allow this? Surely we can't be the only agents that are pissed off about this?

    • 10 January 2012 08:54 AM
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    'Self service agents' are defined by their audience reach through the major portals. The other stuff, such as contracts or tenant referencing, Landlords can get anywhere and is just basic padding. As such, the big portals are in effect now dealing direct with landlords at a time where traditional routes to tenants such as shop windows are becoming outdated and the requirement for agent tenant find services may be growing.

    Markets do change but if UPad and their ilk want to run online lettings businesses, you'd think they would at least have to do the really hard part and create a tenant audience themselves through investment rather than be gifted it through the big 4.

    And whilst the big 4 may not fully comprehend or care about the effect this could have on their clients, for whom tenant find business may be a significant part of their income, perhaps they should consider what Upad will do several years down the line when they have revenue to invest direct in the ir own audience...and become a direct to consumer competitor.

    • 10 January 2012 08:50 AM
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