There has been a surge of predominantly sales-focused estate agents around the country who have raised their game in the way they run the lettings element of their business, which in some cases had previously been merely a sideline. A significant number have actually opened a lettings subsidiary from scratch in recent years, recognising that in some cases this may represent their salvation. In most areas, the rental market is blossoming.
During consultancy work that my company has carried out for estate and lettings agencies over the past twelve months, it was noticeable that the manner in which companies run their lettings and property management businesses varied dramatically in quality.
In assessing the standards of lettings operations, the first job is to establish how they handle the three key lettings processes – the Instructions process, the Tenanting process and the Management process..
The first of these is naturally critical to success as it incorporates every key stage in achieving the right amount of instructions, at the right rent and on the right terms - Generating Valuation Appointments, Booking the Appointment, the Appointment itself and Follow Up.
The generation of appointments is obviously vital as every subsequent stage is reliant upon getting this right. Your firm must be on the radar of all local landlords – an objective which can be achieved by a number of basic actions. Ask yourself the following questions to establish your company’s effectiveness at generating appointments:
Does your office window display give a clear message that you offer free rental valuations and include “hooks” to secure enquiries from landlords? Does your newspaper advertising and website highlight why a landlord should use your company rather than one of your competitors? Do you run a landlord database which can be built up with the details and portfolios of all potential landlords active in your area – such databases are essential to maintain quick and regular communication with all potential clients and are often cheap to run in terms of a monthly fee. Once the database is in place, it can be populated with every possible landlord in the area by cross-referencing local “To Let” properties with the Land Registry website as well as every buy-to-let applicant on your mailing list past and present. One very successful lettings agent for whom we run training has developed the habit of asking every tenant or buying applicant in rented accommodation that they register whether they know the name of their landlord – if they do, that name becomes another one on the database. Have you contacted all your unsold vendors to offer them your lettings service – far better to do this than to find they have approached a competitor to seek advice. Have you promoted your lettings services to “let-to-let” applicants on your mailing list?
The booking of the appointment is often underestimated in terms of the part it plays within a landlord’s decision making process as to who to instruct. Engaging the potential client in a detailed conversation about their reasons for letting, desired timescales and previous experiences will illustrate that you are more thorough and interested in them as people – this will increase the initial trust and rapport that you create, which are proven to have a favourable effect on success. Gleaning the maximum possible amount of information about the landlord and property ensures the valuer going in with a high level of confidence and fully prepared for the challenge of winning the instruction.
The rental valuation appointment itself naturally is one of the single biggest steps on the road to success. It is essential to stand out from the crowd as potential landlords are almost certain to invite more than one agent out to advise them. Are you spending time at the beginning of the appointment building rapport and trying to establish the landlord’s main service needs (Speed? Communication? Security?) – this will enable you to tailor your service presentation later on in the appointment. It is your responsibility to educate the landlord that not all lettings agents are the same!
As far as follow up procedures are concerned, diligent chasing of failed appointments where the landlord is yet to decide who to appoint might just win you the business. After all, if your competitors fail to contact the landlord to see whether a decision has been made, your follow up call shows that you are keener than other agents to secure the instruction.
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