Do we really need ‘real’ letting agents in this internet age?
If you believed all you heard from many online letting agents you’d probably think us ‘traditional’ agents are a dying breed.
Thankfully reports of our death have been greatly exaggerated (thanks to Mark Twain for that quote).
Firstly let me clarify what I mean by ‘traditional’ agents and online companies. As a traditional agent (sometimes referred to as a real agent) I have an office people can visit, I meet the vast majority of the landlords and tenants who I work with and am based in the area I serve.
Most online agents do everything, unsurprisingly, online and can often be based miles away from the areas they are touting for business in.
There are many reasons why good letting agents are still thriving in these digital days. I emphasis the word good as not all agents are. Here are just a few of the reasons why in my opinion good ‘traditional’ agents are better than the online equivalent.
An experienced local letting agent is more likely to find a better, more suitable tenant in a shorter period of time and, quite possibly, at a better rental.
The lettings industry is and always has been a ‘people’ business. Does a landlord really want to rent his property to somebody he (or his agent) has never met before? Somebody that’s just filled in a form online and then been processed via some automated procedure?
Personally vetting tenants (and landlords) is one of the most important (and valuable) things we do as an agency. I’ve seen plenty of situations where good references have been forthcoming however the tenant has turned out to be unsuitable. By meeting potential tenants you can learn a lot about them. A face to face meeting can give an insight into their personality in a way which digital correspondence can’t.
I’ve also seen situations where referencing has been very much borderline. Online agents tend to use the ‘computer says no’ approach and dismiss some applications due to criteria without speaking to the applicant first. A quick phone call can sometimes unearth information that wasn’t on the forms and often gives you a feel for the person and whether or not they will make good tenants.
Every tenancy is different and every tenancy is individual. An automated process can never deal with such individuality as by design it’s set up to be process rather than people driven.
A good local agent will know each of their landlords and tenants personally, as well as know the property and the area – in detail.
They will tailor the tenancy agreement accordingly, and likewise respond to maintenance issues with the benefit of background knowledge.
Another point where good local agents differentiate themselves from online rivals is in terms of their availability. Many online agents run their operations from call centre type set ups and don’t have out of hours office systems in place.
We take calls from landlords and tenants in the evenings and weekends in cases of emergency and as they’ll only have point of contact with us they will never feel they're problem is being passed from pillar to post.
A good local agent is going to take care of EVERYTHING for the landlord. This frees up a landlord’s time and provides reassurance that everything is being handled with maximum efficiency by someone who does this day in, day out and in our case, since 1988.
Thanks for reading