Let's be honest, very few people have a great love for their letting agent! In fact, many landlords will do anything they can to avoid having to use a letting agent. It would seem the feeling is the same when it comes to tenants, with many tenants having bad experiences with their agents.
For years, it would appear that agents have enjoyed charging a fee for all sorts of things but when there is an issue to be dealt with they are nowhere to be seen. Some agents up and down the country having been charging up to £400 in 'admin fees' to tenants for the privilege of renting their properties. Landlords are charged similar fees leading many to wonder why anyone would want to pay a letting agent!
Recent legislation is working heard to put an end to all this type of ambiguous fees. No more fees can be charged to tenants and letting agents are now forced to be more transparent with their landlords in terms of fees and charges. Letting agents in Scotland now need to be registered with the government and possess the appropriate insurances and bank accounts etc. This has gone a long way to regulate the industry but with so many letting agent out there how do you choose the right one? There are a couple of things to consider. First of all to consider is the cost:
What are the costs?
Most letting agents will charge commission based fees but often use very different fee structures. For example, a quick google search I found agents in Edinburgh charging fees ranging from 5% to 12.5%. I've even heard of an Edinburgh agent offering a years management with no commission! Don't forget that many agents charge VAT on top of their monthly fee so 10% essentially becomes 12% of your monthly rental income. With a wide range of fees surely the lower the commission fee, the cheaper the service. You would imagine it would be but not necessarily. It is important to check what is covered by the management fee. Many agents are now choosing to offer low percentage of commission but opt for charging higher amounts for a change of tenancy, referencing, taking or checking an inventory etc. Other agents will charge a higher commission but will include all services in this one cost, with no other hidden charges.
I could easily offer to manage your property for 0.5% commission but then charge you £40 per inspection, £40 every time I organise maintenance, £40 every time I pay rent to your account, £40 for each email made to you, £100 every time I draw up and sign a lease agreement etc etc. The list could go on and on and suddenly you are paying a fortune!
Make sure you check exactly what is included in the agent's fee structure. Any good agent will happily send you a copy of your contract with all the details along with any procedure documents you want to see.
What do I want from a letting agent?
Another thing to consider is what you actually want from your letting agent. This will help you to decide what will work best for you. Do you want a large corporate company or do you prefer the personal touch of a smaller family run business? There are plenty of both companies out there in Edinburgh at the moment, all providing a great service.
Some landlords simply want to hand over the keys to an agent, receive their rent and hear nothing more about it. For those landlords, perhaps the larger corporate companies would work best for them. Other landlords prefer a slightly more hands on approach and prefer to be kept up to date on a regular basis. For these landlords the personal service of a smaller company might seem more appealing to them.
At the end of the day, you are paying your agent good money so you want them to do the job you want, not what they want! It can be a challenging decision with so many agents out there but putting in a bit of research will help you make the right decision for you.
If you want any more information of Edinburgh letting agents or the local property market please do not hesitate to contact me.