The case for using an agent has got much stronger
02 November 2020 1219 Views
The growth in the number of landlords and property investors in the UK has been astonishing over the last three decades. The sector has grown from being relatively niche in the 1980’s and 1990’s to become the second largest provider of homes in the country. The result is that there is now a diverse range of people providing homes in the private rented sector (PRS) from individuals to small companies to major investors offering everything from one bedroom inner city flats, whole houses, to entire bespoke blocks funded by the build-to-rent (BTR) sector.
This growth has been accompanied by some dramatic legislative and regulatory changes which are attempting to ensure the sector is appropriately regulated for its current scale. When the 1988 Housing Act was passed few would have anticipated that the market would have grown so large over such a relatively short period of time.
Many properties have been managed by their owners for decades and they do it because they enjoy this for a number of reasons including maintaining a close contact between landlord and tenant. This mostly works for individuals with single properties who have been landlords for a long time, perhaps interested in a bit of DIY, and time on their hands.
For many other landlords, who may have joined the PRS more recently, the issue of managing everything yourself is becoming increasingly difficult. Landlords have always needed to be up to speed on the usual issues such as marketing of properties, contracts, terms, rental agreements, repairs, and rental collection but now also have to be fully up to speed on the constantly changing government policy related to the private rented sector (PRS) during the coronavirus pandemic. The recent Landlord Today survey revealed that 26.9% of landlords were using an agent was due to more COVID-19 measures with 18.5% citing increased legislation in the PRS.
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 it is for this reason that many people, who may have managed their properties themselves for years, are now considering using agents to help them.
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 must 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.
Communication with tenants has also never been as important and, while many landlords and investors have excellent relations with their clients, it is vital that everyone involved in the process understands each situation as it arises and any potential impact.
From virtual viewing, to administrative checks, to the latest on evictions, the information overload on landlords, tenants, and agents has never been greater. Yet it has never been more important to get everything exactly right and communicate this information succinctly and clearly.
Landlords and investors will, rightly, only use an agent if they believe it is value for money and providing a service which they would struggle to match. Advice now is worth every penny paid and landlords will be looking for individuals and firms with a strong track record to support, advise, and guide them through this difficult time.
Many landlords may now be facing financial distress and the prospect of having to manage their properties at the same time as ensuring they remain solvent places an enormous strain on any individual or organisation.
The pandemic has also taught us that an awful lot of future transactions and activity will be done online. There will always be a place for face to face contacts and meeting individuals but clearly, given the current restrictions, any landlords and investors will need to do most of their communication online.
Undoubtedly some will be attuned to using online interactions but for others this may prove too great a challenge. Again, landlords should seek agents who are set up to fulfil all clients’ needs through an online portal. This is the future and is something most tenants will expect and be accustomed to, but I believe that some landlords may struggle with this change and need some help.
With the regulatory and legislative situation changing so rapidly excellent online information is crucial. Most people now run their lives from their phone and agencies which have a clear, easy to understand online service which is accessible 24/7 are more able to readily meet their clients’ needs. A platform which keeps landlords and tenants regularly updated with detailed information on the current legislation and rules for viewing, for tenancy agreements, payments, arrears, and legal processes if disputes occur is essential.
Many landlords were already moving toward using agents and I believe that the coronavirus pandemic may have simply accelerated this process. Some will never want to engage an agent but for others the need to be compliant, to be online, and to be fully up to date with changing regulations means that an agent can offer the best solution in a market that has never been as difficult or as complex.
David Alexander is joint CEO...
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