27 Mar 2013
March 27, 2013

Whose Agent Is It Anyway?

0 Comment

I don’t know if I went looking for it but over the past few days I’ve seen a whole lot of bad reviews for a whole lot of letting agents. First from a Facebook friend who posted a status update about the bad service he’d received from a letting agent. The post got one like and 27 comments from others (including me) joining the fray.

I then looked at other review sites and there is a pattern – tenants have the most to say and it’s normally bad and generally landlords have very little to complain about and are either satisfied or happy with the service.

I’m sorry to say there’s nothing unusual about this and I found it out very early in my career when I first joined a letting agent as a property manager. I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me when the lettings guy laughed in the face of someone who had walked in asking for available properties with a budget way below the market rent for the area. The enquirer was treated badly, dismissed and as he walked out the negotiator brushed his hands together as if he were cleaning dirt off them.

What is probably worse is the treatment of tenants is dependent on the market. In a good market tenants are a dime a dozen. Here’s what may happen when you call or go into a letting agency:

1) The property you have seen on the website is no longer available.

2) You ask if you can go on their list to be informed when something meeting your criteria is available.

3) The agent says “Yes” and dismissively takes your name, telephone number and email address.

4) The agent does not confirm back your requirements, ask when you need a property for or confirm you are in a position to pay the rent. This is a sure fire way to know they weren’t even listening to you.

5) You hang up or leave the agency.

6) The scrap of paper or ‘post it’ note they wrote your contact details on goes in the waste bin.

So, why is this? The agent knows in a good market as soon as something comes available they will put it on the Internet, put up a board and the particulars in their window and they will get enough enquiries and viewings to let the property without having to scrabble through their selection of stickers around their computer screens, the index file or whatever other methods they use to ‘store’ applicants’ details. They will not remember you even exist.  Meanwhile you, having phoned every agent in the area and spent your Saturday afternoon going into every agency on the High Street, feel safe in the knowledge you are registered with every possible agent who will phone you as soon as a suitable property becomes available.

In a quiet moment at work, you have a quick look at Rightmove, Zoopla or FindaProperty and see an agent you registered with two weeks ago has the perfect flat for you. You’re a little disgruntled they didn’t call, text or email you but you give them the benefit of the doubt and call them up. And there you are back at square 1.

In a poor market agents will keep your details. Yet, in a poor market tenants have the upper hand with the pick of every property available. The market is slower, the properties hang around longer because, when their is more stock than tenants, they can take their time and look at several properties at a much more leisurely pace. They have breathing space, not as much fear they are going to lose it if they don’t act quickly and time to think. Agents will then keep applicants’ details on file for weeks. They’ll keep phoning, offering them every single property knowing “it’s just perfect for you”. Even when you’ve told them you’ve now found the house of your dreams they’ll keep phoning.

I have very strong views on this but before I share, let me tell you why tenants are treated shoddily.

In a nutshell, you, the tenant are not the client. Even if the letting agent charges you a fee which can seem pretty hefty to you, are insignificant compared to the main income which is derived from the commission for letting the property on behalf (yes, on behalf) of the landlord. The only people many agents are interested in pleasing are their clients.

Does that mean you should be treated any less politely, fairly or honestly than our clients? Should you, who is expected to pay our client rent, month in and month out, look after our client’s property in the manner he or she would like it to be looked after, be treated badly, spoken down to, given false promises or lied to? Hell NO.

In my view and hey, I may be going out on a limb here, you, the tenant, are my client’s client as well as a human being who deserves to be treated in the manner you treat others. Not only that, I have a reputation to think about. Do I want you to tell your friends, colleagues and family how good I am at my job, write good reviews about me for all and sundry (including landlords) to see? Do I want you to be happy and comfortable in your home so you pay the rent and look after my client’s property? Hell YES.

Happy house hunting.