How to choose the right letting agent

Many buy-to-let investors decide to hand over the day-to-day management of their properties to a letting agent. These agents have the knowledge to make sure the properties are marketed properly and are rented out according to the law and local regulations. But how do you decide which agent is right for you? Here are some top tips.

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Go for the professionals

Find letting agents who are members of a professional body such as the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA), Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) or the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA). This makes sure that they meet certain standards of work and abide by a code of ethics. All estate agents and property management companies must be part of a government-authorised Property Redress Scheme, so check this out too.

Be assured they are insured

Make sure the company has professional indemnity insurance in place in case they are sued. Also ensure that the agent has client money protection to protect you against possible fraud or theft of the rent money or tenancy deposit.

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Decide their workload before signing up

Make a list of exactly what you expect from the agent. Do you simply want them to look for tenants or to manage the property as well? If you’re expecting them to deal with the tenancy deposit, check which scheme they are using and ensure that the deposit will be fully protected. You may find some agents specialise in certain areas such as apartment blocks or estates. If this is your area of investment, you may want to look for specialist block management agents such as

Read the small print

Read through the management contract or get a lawyer to look at it. In particular, see how much notice you need to give if you want to cancel your arrangement, how much commission you will pay on tenancy renewals, charges for individual services such as inventories or tenancy agreements, and any fees if a property is empty.

Spoilt for choice

If there are several agents competing for your attention, see which one offers the greatest value for money. If there isn’t much to choose between them, pick the one who has been operating the longest. They are likely to have the best local knowledge, which is useful for marketing, finding tenants and setting rents.

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