Property Letting Top Tips
When it comes to letting your property, what do you need to do and how do you choose between letting agents? During this fast paced interview, property concierge Alex Goldstein speaks with Alison Guggenheim from Lentin Smith, to get a true insight into this sometimes misunderstood industry sector.
Property Letting Top Tips
Full transcript below:
Alex: It’s great to have Alison Guggenheim, from Lentin Smith, who are a letting agents actually right in the centre of town here. Great to have you here Alison.
Alison: Thanks for having me Alex.
Alex: Getting straight to the heart of it I suppose, you often comes across and you hear on the grapevine that estate agents and letting agents are all tarnished with a similar sort of brush, they’re not very reputable, that they’re dare I say at times sort of lazy, I dare say you feel that’s a fairly unjustified comment. How do yourself and Lentin Smith sort of fit within that context?
Alison: Ok, well I think it’s simply because those particular agents just aren’t doing their job properly. There’s a lot of different aspects to leasing and property management and what you need is a experienced team of property managers in place to deal with the complex legal and compliance issues that you face, and also people who’ve got robust systems in place to minimise any issues you may encounter through your tenancies. As a firm, as a business we take a very proactive approach to problem solving and try to help both landlords and tenants through our experiences that we’ve built up over 50 years now in property management, to help them through the difficult times.
Alex: As a landlord what do you actually need to look for in a letting agent, what are the I suppose issues they could come across and what they actually need to prepare? They’ve got a property they want to get onto the market, what do they need to be mindful of?
Alison: Ok, well legally to advertise your property you need a energy performance certificate, an annual landlord gas safety certificate to make sure all your gas appliances are safe, check of your electrics, again just to make sure you’re not putting anyone at risk with no harm or anything there, and obviously insurance for the landlords building.
Alex: How can you ensure as a landlord, how do you find the right tenants on the right basis I suppose quickly because you don’t want a property sitting there idle for too much time, what are the thing you need to get right as a landlord, what do you need in place?
Alison: Absolutely, it’s very unusual really for any property that it is correctly marketed to have any kind of void period in Harrogate now. The tenant demand is growing month by month and we are seeing a massive shortage of all sorts of houses within the Harrogate area. So really to make sure you don’t get this void period you need to basically present your property in the best possible way. By that I mean make sure it’s clean and tidy, any external area, gardens are well presented and obviously clean inside and well decorated because you want these people to treat it as a home and if you’re expecting them to move in with sub-standard accommodation, quite honestly they’re not going to treat it as you would want them to treat it and it will lead to further problems down the line.
Alex: So, it’s almost like having it in if you like, show home type standard.
Alison: Absolutely yes.
Alex: And I’m assuming sort of does it matter if it’s furnished or unfurnished, is there a preference where we are at the moment?
Alison: I think generally it’s easier to let properties which are unfurnished and then perhaps to have an agreement where you may be willing to provide one or two pieces of furniture if required. It depends if you’re talking about a big detached family home or a small bedsit or two-bed new starter home something like that. But generally, it’s better to let the properties unfurnished and then as a landlord you don’t have that issue at the end of the tenancy where your family heirlooms or items of high value have been left in the property and perhaps have been slightly marked or damaged or just general wear and tear.
Alex: Bit of hot topic but Menwith Hill, the number of employees there I gather, and everyone sort of understands they’re all going back to the States and they were a massive driving force behind this sort of letting market. Have you noticed much of an impact at this point?
Alison: Yeah certainly the last 18 months, the decrease in the number of Menwith Hill workers has had a big impact on certainly the luxury end of the Harrogate housing market, and I think that’s particularly come through in the upper end of the two-bed apartment rates. We’ve seen they’re certainly coming down slightly in price and there’s less demand for those at the moment.
Alex: Then I suppose on the flip side if I’m a tenant and I’m actively looking, how can I, I suppose, put myself in the best position so that Alison knows about me and I’m going to find that great property to rent out. What do I need to do from a tenancy perspective?
Alison: Ok, you need to make sure that you can move quickly and when you go to the viewing if your happy with it and you’re in a position to decide quickly.
Alex: There and then do you mean you can strike a deal.
Alison: Strike a deal or yes certainly within 24 hours at the end of the day it’s not our decision who gets to let the properties it’s always the landlord, so we have to get as much information as possible to give to the landlord after viewing for him or her to make that decision. But you know if we feel that person is the right person for the property then you know then let’s close a deal.
Alex: Does it matter about credit reference and that side of things? So, again if you’re a tenant prior to going down the route with yourselves and finding a property, you almost want to go on one of these websites and do all the background checks and ensure that’s all-in line, you look into that nowadays as well?
Alison: Yes, before anybody can move into a property, we’ll do a full credit reference check on them which will include employment checks, salary checks, previous landlord reference, credit reference as well. So, anything that could come back, you’re much better to be honest and upfront about that at your viewing because it’s not something we would look brightly on if it comes out at a later date once the application has been and fees being paid.
Alex: Ok, understand, I mean do most letting agents do that? Is that the standard doing that number of checks?
Alison: That’s the standard now yes.
Alex: How do you get around it? I mean, again, you hear scaremonger albeit that I don’t know, the tenant abuses the property, they paint the walls all black for example, what do you do from a letting agent perspective and indeed a landlord perspective to mitigate that, to ensure that doesn’t happen, or there are no real guarantees, what can you do to protect yourself?
Alison: I can reassure your listeners that it happens very rarely in Harrogate, we’ve got very good properties and very good tenants and very good landlords on the whole. And where there is accidental damage or where there is excessive wear and tear during the tenancy, most tenants are happy to contribute towards the cost of repairing or replacing that at the end of the tenancy. It’s really important that landlords and agents do make regular inspections of the property so any issues that may come to light, you can deal with effectively at the beginning of the tenancy, rather than at the end of the tenancy and we lodge all our deposits through the deposit protection scheme.
Alex: I was going to ask about that, how does that actually work? This is relatively new all of the deposit schemes, just sort of fill everyone in on this.
Alison: So, the deposit protection scheme or the DPS, is a government backed scheme where an agent or a landlord taking the deposit is required to lodge that deposit within 30 days of the start of the tenancy. What a good agent will do is they will go round at the start of the tenancy before they hand the keys over and make a full written and photographic inventory of all the items in the house and the condition at the time the tenants make that commitment to sign the tenancy agreement. That then stands as a benchmark to assess any wear and tear or damage or dilapidations at the end of the tenancy, when another inventory is undertaken with the photographs and you can compare photographic evidence on the table. There are occasions where it isn’t possible to agree the retentions and the dilapidations and at that stage it unfortunately has to go through the DPS adjudication process.
Alex: So, it goes a bit more legal in that case within it actually goes through the government scheme for them to resolve?
Alison: That’s right, the DPS actually hold the tenants deposit, so the tenant doesn’t need to worry that its held with the agent or the landlord, so they can take increased confidence that their money is being held by a third party.
Alex: Is there any sort of major or significant difference I suppose from a tenants view point that if the property they’re in is managed either by you as the letting agent or indeed I suppose is managed privately by the landlords, are there things from a tenants point of view that you should be mindful of when entering into a agreement or because of again these government schemes there, it doesn’t really necessarily matter these days?
Alison: I think if you’re renting from a private landlord always check where he’s going to lodge your deposit and make sure that you get the appropriate paperwork so you know where that money’s held and make sure that obviously you’re renting from someone that you feel that you can get along with, perhaps someone that’s local and has local contacts in place if you’ve got a repair, you’re not dealing with an overseas landlord where it may take 2-3 days to get in touch with and that obviously repairs can be actioned promptly.
Alex: There are some very significant organisations really that are specialists in the letting side of things and they use sort of two or three offices locally, where do you feel that Lentin Smith adds value or does something that’s different in comparison to the bigger set-ups if you like?
Alison: As a business we’re set up and run by landlords and they’re a very experienced team of property managers and we are independent, and we do offer a very specialised property management service. We are extremely proud of what we’ve built up over the last eight years and we continue to grow and expand really on the recommendation of our landlords and I think that speaks volumes of how we operate. And I would just like to stress that we are local people, who know the market and as a business we’ve invested in technology to be able to offer our landlords and clients a login portal to access their property information 24/7, which obviously helps them at that awful time of year when you have to do your tax returns or any other accounting information you need to do. We offer wide angle photography, 360-degree virtual tools and floorplans on all our properties now. So, the other tip for landlords when they’re marketing their property is to make sure that the agent has time to do a thorough market appraisal of your property, make sure you’ve got the best photographs and it’s presented in the best light. Also, my advice would be don’t necessarily go with the agent who thinks he can get you the best price. Sometimes its that time it takes holding on to that final £25 or whatever it is you’re looking for, that will eat into your costs because you’ve got a longer void period and sometimes its those tenants that feel they are paying top dollar on their rent will demand everything to be 100% perfect in their property, 100% of the time, which may cost you more in the long run with monthly repair bills.
Alex: Now, I have from my experience, certainly the marketing side of things, so many letting agents just don’t even bother doing floor plans and it can be sort of infuriating if you’re trying to point a client in the right direction. I suppose almost to finish on this I suppose, you’ve got the luxurious position someone like you that you’re seeing a lot of properties, day-in day-out you must have a lot of funny stories up your sleeve that have happened in your career, please share.
Alison: Well it never ceases to amaze me how many tenants and people will open the door with no clothes on! Not something I’d do but there’s a lot of people out there who don’t seem to mind.
Alex: And they’ve just been caught out!
Alison: Yes, not that they’ve been too embarrassed.
Alex: It does happen. Just remind everyone Alison if they wanted to sort of touch base with you, what’s the best number to reach you on?
Alison: Feel free to call me at the office its 01423 817777 or you can contact us via our website which is www.lentinsmith.co.uk
Alex: That’s great Alison, really appreciate your time and thank you for coming in.