I've just let an apartment I haven't even seen and it wasn't as enjoyable as I thought! Is this what it's like to be an Internet based Letting Agent ?

We had a landlord walk into our shop 2 weeks ago on a Friday afternoon clutching a set of keys. He had just purchased a 1 bedroom apartment in The Parklands in Dunstable as a Buy-to-Let investment and was looking for an agent to find him a tenant and manage the property for him. For reasons I will not go into he didn’t want to use the Estate Agent who sold him the property even though they also did Lettings.

After a discussion about Belvoir, his expectations and his disclosure that he was actually an Estate Agent himself although he did not live in the area, he agreed that he would like to use us as his agent and disappeared to look over his new purchase. He was going away for a week, would return, carry out some cosmetic work and then it would be ready about the middle of November.

The following Saturday we received a call to say he was back from his short break so we could arrange to visit the apartment the following week. The same day an applicant walked into our shop and having discussed his requirements and appraised him as a potential tenant I called the landlord to inform him we had someone we considered ideal for his property. The landlord was going there the next day and agreed to meet the applicant at the apartment.

The viewing (by the landlord) went well. The landlord agrees that as a tenant this is exactly what he was hoping for and the tenant who was only in Dunstable for the weekend found an apartment exactly to his liking in one of the favoured locations in Dunstable.

I suppose the big question is ‘Was I happy with how quickly we found a tenant and let the property’? Well the short answer of course is ‘Yes’ but I’m not in this business just to make money and have a passion for property having  worked in Architecture for 28 years.

I enjoy seeing a property for the first time, working with the landlord by suggesting improvements that can enhance the property and general maintenance that is required. Meeting the applicants either in the shop beforehand or at the property allows you that ‘gut’ feeling about them and whether they are suitable. This can be more important than credit checks and employers references and shouldn’t be dismissed.

If I was an internet based agent I wouldn’t have met the landlord who then interviewed me and decided to employ me as his agent when we first meet. (Yes landlords are interviewing us) The tenant who was here for the weekend would not have walked into our shop for me to ‘interview’ him for his suitability. I would not have been able to make the call to the landlord to arrange the viewing whilst the tenant was sat in front of me and the opportunity would have been lost.

This is where being the ‘local’ agent is so very important. Strong Agents will survive on the High Street where they can supply an enhanced service with local knowledge on the surrounding areas, the rental achieved on similar properties and potential properties if the landlord is looking to add to his portfolio. We are all ‘Internet’ agents today but the right high street agent provides so much more.

There are now many Internet based agents who offer an alternative to high street agents, but that is the keyword – alternative. Not replacement.

We have also seen 2 or 3 agents open up in the Dunstable area in the last 2 years who didn’t have a shop front and have all now disappeared. Why? Probably because they have found that even the promise of 5% managed fees or even no management fees for 12 months are no substitute to the security of being able to walk into the shop/office of an established agent to whom you have entrusted an asset of great value. If you had a £200,000 Ferrari you wouldn’t be taking it to a back street garage for a service or would you?