How Challenging is it Being a Letting Agent?
We have just finished an 18 month long trainingprogramme with letting agents all over the UK, letting agents that vary in size (multiple to single offices), letting agents who focus solely on offering a tenant find only service or fully managed service, letting who are innovative, letting agents who have yet to embrace social media, letting agents who manage portfolios of 100 properties to in excess of 1,000 properties. Sometimes we train other types of property professional, including Local Authorities and high-wealth individuals (not the individual, the team).
Regardless of the type of property professional, the challenges tend to be the same. Clearly, the large independent landlord, local authorities, corporates will have a different focus in relation to their day-to-day business, however, the issues will be the same:-
- Managing & Implementing Changes inLegislation. I have spoken about this frequently over the last 18 months and this element impacts all property professionals. Changes in legislation means staff need to be informed & trained, documents need to be updated, existing systems need to be tweaked, and new procedures need to be introduced.
- Dealing with Competitors. Not so much for the private landlord, for letting agents this is a constant. In a free market competition is encouraged and monopolies frowned upon, however, differentiation is this situation is paramount. What makes your agency more unique, special than the one next door or in the case of London Road, in Southampton the 40 other agents? How much time do you spend ensuring the service you offer is different? How often do you encourage your team to "practice pitch" for business? Does the team understand the worth of your company?
- Your team. Staff are the epicentre of the letting agency - from administrators to negotiators to property managers - all with different yet overlapping skill sets. How much time is invested in ensuring they are the best they can possibly be? I am not talking about training, I am talking about team-building, bonding, the simplest of things - making sure the team is aware of the company objectives.
- The Industry. The Private Rented Sector (PRS), just like Social Housing focuses on providing accommodation where there is a demand. The demand in the PRS has increased. The head of lending at the Mortgage Advice Bureau Said: “Despite recent taxation changes to the buy-to-let sector, the longer term prediction from RICS is that demand for rental properties will increase at 4.6pc per year over the next five years, which will likely have an upward impact on rents." Staying abreast of what goes on Locally, Nationally, within Europe & Globally is part and parcel of the agents' day job.
- Processes and Procedures. Agents need to have a set of processes which streamline the audit trail of pre-tenancy, during-tenancy and post-tenancy, ensuring that every element is as water tight as possible in order to avoid errors being made. How often do agents internally quality assure their systems? Corporates made have a head of operations in place, many smaller, however, do not.
- The Letting Agent’s Vision. This industry is no longer a “cottage” industry in place to underpin the estate agency side of a business. It is an industry in its own right and stands alone as such. What does the agency stand for? What is the “benchmark”? How good are they in terms of professionalism? Of course this is a business, but as we have clearly witnessed in Wales and Scotland, the industry is becoming more “formal”. Being a letting agent is not a hobby, it’s a bona fide business.
The industry is fast-paced, challenging, rewarding and exciting to work in. It will continue to grow.
Susie Crolla CEO