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Letting Agent Services vs DIY: A Comparison for First-Time Landlords

Weighing up Letting Agent services or renting your property privately? We run through what landlords should consider.

Faye deGavre

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Jun 04, 2021

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5 min read

Letting Agent Services vs DIY: A Comparison for First-Time Landlords

If you’re a first-time landlord, you’re probably wondering if you should use a Letting Agent or let your property privately. It’s not always a straightforward decision. Not all property investors are interested in the day-to-day of being an active landlord, whether that’s dealing with property maintenance or handling tricky tenants. But all rental properties need to be managed, and if you’re not suited to being a hands-on landlord, then it’s worth enlisting Letting Agent services. We’ll run you through the different elements of how to let your property yourself or through a Letting Agent so you can weigh up what’s right for you.

Market the property

The first step in letting your property is to market it. Letting Agents use online property portals like Boomin to advertise your property to a range of prospective tenants. This option isn't open to private landlords, so getting your property in front of tenants can be more challenging – though by no means impossible. If you decide to market the property yourself, you'll also need to arrange and attend viewings. 

Find and reference tenants

As a private landlord, you must run background and financial checks as well as character references. You’ll also need to check the Right to Rent and immigration status of tenants by taking copies of passports and other official documents. An agent, however, could take all this off your plate, where they will collect documents from each tenant and verify references.

Draw up tenancy agreements and protect deposits

The letting process relies on landlords/agents knowing the rules, regulations, filling out the correct forms and supplying accurate paperwork.

If you choose to privately rent, the agreements you draw up must be legally compliant and it’s good practice to give tenants a copy of the agreement before they move in. You must also hold a tenant’s deposit safely in a government-approved tenancy deposit scheme within 30 days of receiving it.

Even in the most basic Letting Agent services, they draw up tenancy agreements, collect and hold deposits. They also conduct inventories upon check-in and check-out, signing off on the deposit refund if there are no damages.

Collect rent

You must set the rental price and decide what is/isn’t included. You’ll also be responsible for rental increases and chasing late payments. However, a Letting Agent is also able to collect rent and follow up on late payments, saving you a lot of time (and potential stress).

Comply with legislation

If you choose to DIY, you will need to stay in the know about the latest updates and regulations. The property must be kept in a good state of repair for every tenant. From smoke alarms to electrical devices to any supplied furniture, these items should be regularly checked and maintained. Letting Agents are unable to do their jobs without staying up to date with the latest legislation. They stay on top of the most recent changes, ensuring your property is compliant.

Carry out maintenance and repairs

As a private landlord, you are your tenant’s first port of call when emergencies happen. From a burst pipe to a blocked sink, you’ll be responsible for fixing them, whether that means rolling up your sleeves or arranging a professional to visit. You’ll also need to stay on top of regular maintenance, scheduling servicing as necessary. On the flip side, an agent will regularly inspect the property to ensure it’s in good condition, schedule routine maintenance and handle emergency repairs to keep tenants happy. That means you can turn your phone off once in a while.

What does a Letting Agent do?

When it comes to your property, they can be as hands-on or hands-off as you want them to be. In most agencies, you’ll be given the choice of two to three different levels of service:

  • Let only: A let only service is where the agent markets the property, finds tenants, collects the deposit, carries out reference and credit checks, draws up the tenancy agreement and conducts inventories. As soon as the tenancy begins, the management of the property and relationship with the tenant are down to the landlord to maintain. 
  • Rent collection: The agent finds tenants, collects rent each week/month and chases up any late payments. Everything else involved in the rental relationship is the landlord’s responsibility.
  • Full management: A fully managed service is where the Letting Agent takes care of all aspects of the rental property, from marketing to finding tenants to tenancy agreements, inventory checks, collecting rent, inspecting the property and arranging maintenance. They will also handle the tenancy requests, rent increases, tenancy renewals and contracts.

How much do Letting Agents charge?

Letting Agent fees vary dramatically depending on the property location and level of service you choose. Agents usually base their rates on a percentage of the monthly/annual rent rather than a flat fee, which ranges from 5% to 20%. To ensure you’re getting the best value of service, compare two or three quotes from different agents. Here’s how to find a Letting Agent for your rental property.

Why use Letting Agent services?

  • They’re experts. Qualified Letting Agents are used to letting and managing properties day in, day out. They are experienced, well-trained and know how to overcome common hurdles, so you can be confident your property is always legally let at the best market rate. 
  • They’re resourceful and responsive. Good agents know what needs to be done, when and how. They will have a reliable network of suppliers and contractors. Generally, they can deal with everything much more quickly and efficiently than an individual landlord.
  • They can handle the extensive paperwork. Some landlords simply have an aversion to form filling. The letting process relies on landlords/agents knowing the rules, regulations, filling out the correct forms and supplying accurate paperwork. From tenancy agreements to deposit schemes to inventories, there are a lot of moving parts. Many landlords feel reassured having the forms provided and completed by professionals, knowing they are covered.
  • You’ve got a professional to manage the tenant. If there are problems during the tenancy, the agent will negotiate and resolve the dispute for you. 
  • They are better placed to market a rental property. A Letting Agent will know how much to charge in rent and get the property in front of interested tenants. 

Should you manage your own rental property?

  • You’re in control. Some landlords like the idea of being hands-on and involved. They can choose the tenant themselves and build up a good rapport. 
  • You don’t have to pay agent fees. Depending on the level of service you choose, you can expect to pay anywhere between 12% and 20% of the annual rental income for letting services. Keep in mind that while you don’t pay agent fees, you may not necessarily save money as you will need to market the property, perform rental checks and be on hand for emergencies; all of which costs time and money.
  • It can be a rewarding career. DIY makes sense to landlords if they have one or two properties in their portfolio, where they can focus their efforts on understanding the process. 
  • You do need to know your stuff. There are many rules and regulations that concern the health and safety of tenants – where acting landlords need to stay up to date. The penalties for falling behind on the latest legal changes, even unintentionally, can be severe. If you’re deciding between self-managing and using an agent, the legal side of things should be your biggest concern. Unless you feel particularly confident in this area or are willing to learn, you may be better off using a Letting Agent to start.

Find the right Letting Agent

At Boomin, we work with quality Letting Agents that make letting easy. Get in front of your target tenants before your listing is even live on the market to drive up demand. Book a rental valuation today. It’s your stress-free way to let.

Faye deGavre

Content Writer