In the property industry, for many years, there has been an ongoing battle between whether landlords should opt for an online or offline letting agent. Although on paper, both options serve the same purpose, there are many differences which help towards making your decision and beginning the letting process.
With this in mind, we have devised a comprehensive guide to online estate agents lettings with a full explanation into the agent type, along with benefits and drawbacks of opting for this particular route.
What Are Online Estate Agents Lettings?
Whether you choose to go down the online or high street route of letting your property, they all have the same goal in mind, to help you to find the best tenants. However, the process in which they use to get to this end destination is the difference. An online letting agent provides the ability to let your property to tenants using only digital methods; there will be no traditional high-street agent involved.
All steps of the advertising and letting process will be completed via either the agent’s website or a call centre. As there are no physical high-street agents involved, opting for an online agent is often cheaper because they do not need to pay out for premises fees, so can focus more money on providing a higher level of customer service. All online letting agents work on a national basis and tend not to be bound to just one geographical location.
There are two different types of online estate agents; these are online-only estate agents and hybrid agencies. Online-only agents are just that, only online, which means that the landlord is required to complete most steps of the letting process independently. The landlord is responsible for tasks such as taking advertising photos, booking viewings and managing offers. On the other hand, opting for enlisting the help of a hybrid agency means that you will still reap all of the benefits of managing your own letting, but you can request the help from local property experts. Your chosen local property experts can assist with trickier tasks such as handling enquiries and negotiating offers.
How Do Online Letting Agents Work?
Online letting agents are often seen as a more straightforward, stripped back alternative to finding the perfect tenants. Using the agent website, you will have the opportunity to create an online property advertisement from the comfort of your home and can add in any specific information that you would like to be featured. This allows you to add a personalised touch to the letting and customise each component to suit how you would like your property to be interpreted by potential tenants.
Once the advertisement is complete, you will need to select a package that is best suited to your requirements and then submit the advert to the letting agent. Using their expert knowledge and experience in the industry, a member of the advertising team will review your advert to ensure that it is a fitting description of your property. If they believe that the advert would benefit from any amendments or extra details, they will compile a list of advised changes and forward them over to you to decide whether to take the information on board.
Not only will the agent advertisement team advise you on any recommended changes to make your property stand out from the crowd, but they will also ensure that your advert is uploaded to the most popular online property resources. Well-known sites such as Rightmove and Zoopla will be included, so you will not have to worry about setting up multiple advertisements on different sites.
How Do You Choose The Right Online Letting Agent?
With a plethora of different online letting agents active on the internet, it can be somewhat tricky to decide on which company is best suited to you. The process can be expensive, so it is imperative only to invest your money into the agent that is capable of providing you with the best return.
Begin with considering the level of support that you require. If you are becoming a landlord for the first time, then an agent that has a head office that you can call for advice seven days a week would be ideal. It means that if you have any questions or queries on the process, support is just a phone call away and experts can aid your decision. For those that are experienced in the landlord process and only need an agent to generate interest, a company who is happy to take a step back would be better suited. Always spend time browsing through the different packages the agent offers.
Any company who is proud of their services and are reliable would be thrilled to share their reviews and testimonials with the world; keep this in mind. It takes more than just a well-built website and team of professionals to run a successful online letting agency. Once you have narrowed down a selection of agents that strike your interest, spend time researching their reviews, accreditations and online presence. Sites such as TrustPilot and Review Centre are fantastic for giving an accurate, honest insight into the quality of the agent.
How Do Online Letting Agents Manage A Property?
How an online letting agent manages your property depends on whether they are online-only or a hybrid agency.
Online-only letting agents are likely to create a property valuation using the online data that is available to them; there will rarely be an expert who will physically visit your home. Many landlords prefer to outsource property valuations to around three firms to determine an average that they will go by, as it does prove tricky to gain an accurate judgment simply through using online data. Hybrid agencies, on the other hand, send a local property expert to your home to provide a valuation.
Similarly to valuations, when using an online-only agent, all property listings will be over the internet, and it is unlikely, without an extra cost, that they will provide you with a ‘to let’ sign to place outside of your property. All listings will be focused on popular websites such as Rightmove and Zoopla, which is equally as effective.
As a default, online-only letting agents will assume that you will carry out viewings independently and again, will charge an extra fee for accompanied viewings. Hybrid agencies are likely to provide this additional service and support within your chosen package.
What Are The Benefits Of Online Letting Agents?
Online letting agents are increasingly more convenient and flexible; both of which prove to be their greatest benefits. When dealing with a high-street agent, it can often prove harder to receive support and ask questions outside of their working hours as there will be no one in the office. During the weekend, working hours tend to be shorter with many closing on a Sunday, meaning you will have to wait until they re-open to solve any issues. Unlike high-street agents, online agencies will have call centres that are open both evenings and weekends, along with the conventional working hours.
For landlords who would like to have more control over their listing and hold the main responsibility, an online letting agent would be ideal. You will have full control over your listing which means that you have access to log in and make any changes, updates or add new photos. There will be no waiting times for others to complete tasks on your behalf.
The lack of reliance on others also works towards your advantage when it comes to property viewings. All viewings will be entirely on your terms, working around your schedule, which is ideal if you have a busy lifestyle. Potential tenants will only be able to choose between the viewing slots that you have allocated. This also means that you will always be kept up to date with any progress in the letting process and have direct contact with all potential tenants; there will be no chasing a high-street agent to give you updates.
On average, letting your property through an online estate agent will save you a significant amount of money in the long run. High street agents charge landlords a percentage based on the value of their property. The cost of using letting agent services is usually around 1.5% of your properties value. Although this may not be a significant amount, it does mean that the more expensive your property is, the more money you will have to spend. Online letting agents, on the other hand stick to a fixed-fee, which means that no matter the value of your home, you will all pay the same.
Are There Any Drawbacks?
Although the benefits of opting to use an online estate agent do overweigh the drawbacks, there are a few key points that we must highlight.
For landlords that are letting their property for the first time, renting your property through an online agent may over-complicate the process. Almost every step of the process, aside from advertising, must be completed independently. If you do feel as if you need expert assistance to walk you through particular processes, it is more than likely that you will have to pay an additional fee.
Those who opt for an online agent must have a considerable amount of time on their hands to carry out tasks such as viewings and negotiation. Finding the perfect tenants doesn’t happen overnight, so you will have to dedicate time to focusing on the job ahead.
Online Estate Agents For Property Lettings
Taking into consideration all of the points mentioned above, online letting agents do often result in being an easier and more flexible alternative. They are ideal for landlords that are happy to take on a large percentage of the responsibility and want to organise each step to meet both their requirements and their schedule.
When creating an advertisement, the more helpful information that you can give potential tenants, the more reliable and trustworthy you will appear to be. Tenants would be more encouraged to book a viewing with a landlord who has their best interests in mind. Within your advertisement, you could add in extra information on services such as reputable storage in Chelsea or removal in Notting Hill, to make their moving process as straightforward as possible!
We hope that we have helped your decision on whether to opt for an online estate agent or high-street. If so, why not share on social media?