Remember when you were just starting out? Setting up a business, attracting clients, doing deals? Or have you blocked out the memories of those early days?
Increasingly established letting agency businesses are suggesting that the end is nigh, indeed we have begun to see the consolidation of more small businesses into larger chains while others look for ways to diversify and reduce their reliance on traditional lets.
Nether-the-less UKALA still receives numerous requests for guidance and help in setting up a letting agency business. As a consequence we asked one of our experienced advisers for his top tips for setting up in agency.
John’s Top Tips!
1. Know what you’re offering and clarify all terms of instruction with client landlords
It may seem simple, but you need to make sure that they know what they are buying. Believe me it can save a lot of problems in the long-run.
There are three core ways in which an agency can be instructed.
- Full management,
- Tenant find with rent collection; and
- Tenant find only.
It is important at the outset of an instruction to clarify all terms of business and confirm in writing. Specificity of terms, together with fees charged and precisely what the agent is instructed to do is very important together with a “paper trail” of what is agreed. Wherever there is an issue or disagreement between a landlord and tenant it can often be trace to a misunderstanding at the beginning of the instruction.
2. Remember the Law of Agency
Judge Dredd may have been able to rely on ‘I AM THE LAW!’ But most agents will struggle.
An agent has a legal duty to always act in the best interests of the client landlord at all times. In addition, there is a common law duty to behave with due diligence in dealing with tenants.
Respect everyone, have proper regard to everyone’s interests – but remember who pays the bills.
3. First Impressions really do matter
It’s corny, and clichéd but you only have one chance to make a first impression. Make it count.
When someone enters the agency greet them with a firm handshake, keep desks neat and tidy, be polite and genial.
Place all framed qualifications and certificates in a prominent place. Anyone who enters your office may become a valued client. Don’t let them leave thinking you are anything but essential to their future well-being.
4. Check all terms of business
What’s black and white and read all over?
Oddly, not terms of business!
Errors in important documents can cost letting agencies thousands. Get it right, read it, make sure your staff read it and even encourage your clients to read it. It matters.
Are all contracts, tenancy agreements, inventory templates, holding fee documents, terms of business and any and all forms completely up to date with current legislative requirements? Over the last few years there has been a raft of changes and new rules and regulations affecting the Private Rented Sector and legal lettings. Clear documentation and staff who are able to clearly, succinctly and competently explain the legal position in a considered manner will enhance the agencies reputation.
5. Get on board the staff train
They are your representatives; your reputation depends on their ability. Regularly send members of staff on training courses so that they are aware of what is required in terms of dealing with any situation that may arise.
In addition, courses on communication, negotiation and people skills are an excellent way to enhance the skills of staff members. This is, after all, a people’s business.
6. It’s all about value
Your business is about letting and managing. Be good at it and your customers will stay with you, but what extra value can you add.
If you make your clients’ lives easier they will appreciate it, they will value you and they will pay you. Everybody wins.
There are many extra services an agency can provide. If a staff member is sent on a course on how to carry out a Legionnaire’s Disease assessment, an EPC or P.A.T. testing these services can be offered to a landlord at a reasonable cost. In addition, there is Rent Guarantee Insurance and legal cover which may be offered together with any other relevant ancillary services.
7. Know who you’re dealing with
Never, under any circumstances make an appointment with a student tenant in the morning. It won’t happen. Always make an appointment between the hours of 3.00p.m. and 6.00p.m. Within this window there is a narrow window when they are both awake and sober at the same time. With luck you will be too!
Just kidding (mostly)