More than 10 years ago, when I needed to find tenants for the very first time, I fell into the comforting arms of a local letting agent. A few years later, when I felt confident enough to “go it alone”, I tried to find tenants myself, advertising in the classified sections of the local newspaper and on Gumtree, which were the only real options back then – and I fell flat on my face.
I got very few enquiries and so, tail between my legs, I had to go back to the local letting agent, who easily found me tenants at a rent I hadn’t dared to dream of.
However, that was a long time ago, before the rise of online letting agents, and now things are very, very different. Keen to reduce the costs of finding tenants, I switched to advertising my properties via an online letting agent about four years ago and I’ve never looked back.
Online letting agents enable landlords to advertise their rentals all over the internet, including on the biggest property websites like Rightmove and Zoopla, giving them the same reach as traditional letting agents, but at a fraction of the cost.
Not only is it much cheaper to use an online agent, but it’s also enabled me to find cracking tenants, each and every time. I don’t find it’s any more hassle than using a high-street agent, in fact, not having a middle man to get in the way sometimes makes things simpler.
I do all the credit checks online, the online agent takes care of the deposit protection and drawing up the tenancy agreement, but it costs me significantly less than using a traditional agent.
Best of all though, I’ve found that over the past couple of years or so, the tables have turned and now I’m actually getting a higher rent for my properties than I would get if I used a high street letting agent.
The reason for this is quite simply that the majority of tenants start their search for their next property online and some are actively trying to avoid going to a letting agent, preferring to rent direct from landlords instead, so they will scroll passed the agents’ adverts and seek out those from private landlords instead.
If you don’t want to take my word for this, take the word of a sales consultant for a prominent high street agent who told me recently that his firm was struggling to get tenants through the door.
I’d invited him to give me an up-to-date rental valuation for one of my flats and the next day I advertised the property via an online agent instead for 10 per cent more than what he’d said it was worth. Within hours I had at least half a dozen tenants waiting to view and by the following evening I’d had an offer at the full asking price.
Now, I realise that self-letting isn’t for everyone, some landlords don’t have the time to conduct viewings and for them the high street agent is still the best option, but I think many are held back from self-letting by naivety.
Several landlords who still use traditional agents to find tenants have asked me what I’ll do “if something goes wrong”. I ask them what they’ll do “if something goes wrong” because a letting agent is unlikely to get involved in disputes with tenants.
I once had a problem tenant, sourced via a large high street agent, and they gave me no assistance whatsoever.
If you’re tempted to self-let but not sure if it’s possible, I’d say give it a go and see. You’ll probably save a fortune, but if you find it’s not for you, you can always return to the high street agent. You know what they say, nothing ventured, nothing gained!
Find out how much you could save by becoming a self-managing landlord.