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City letting agents could learn from Angus

  • Posted in Industry News on 11/08/16

On surveys of least popular professionals, letting agents usually find themselves at the bottom along with the politicians and the bankers. I often wonder if this number is skewed because the largest number of letting agents are in major cities, because our own experience in Angus is very different.

There is often a sense in cities such as Dundee that high turnover of tenants is acceptable, even inevitable. Well, it’s not. This meat-grinder approach damages the reputation of letting agents as acceptable standards reduce and tenants feel undervalued. For landlords, high turnover damages their financial return as the property is empty for more days a year or irresponsible tenants cause damage which must be paid. This culture of treating tenants as the enemy must change for the long-term good of the industry and I think larger cities can learn a lot from how we work in Angus.

We are embedded in the community and see ourselves as a community-led business. Although profitability is important, we are wholly invested in Angus and the wider industry whilst providing value for our customers. For example, as well as having a direct economic benefit we only use local trades companies for our maintenance and refurbishment work. This generates employment, increases the benefits of our business to the wider Angus and Tayside economies and allows us to provide a better, quicker service for a lower price than our larger competitors who often centralise all of their contracts with large contractors in Edinburgh or Glasgow.

Our team travel extensively around a large geographical area to make sure we fully understand a property, as well as make sure it is fully up to our standards, before listing in order to reassure prospective tenants. We also seek to address broader housing issues in the area to increase supply. For example, we have a large number of traditional rural properties in Angus that may have been neglected. We are able to transfer management to us and work with the landlord to implement short or medium term investment plans to increase living standards for tenants.

More broadly, we convince landlords that proper investment in their property, quickly fixing problems and treating tenants well leads to better care being taken of a property. An improved relationship also leads to tenants staying longer, increasing income for the landlord, as well as the increasing the chances of them recommending our services to others or providing a positive review.

There is often a chuckle from larger letting agents in cities that our approach only works in rural areas and we can’t possibly understand the complex nature of a market such as Dundee. As well as being patronising, this is just fundamentally untrue. We operate a number of properties in Dundee already and our approach works. For example, encouraging 24 hour online reporting of problems or arranging for translators to make sure tenants fully understand a lease before signing, is just as helpful for students in Dundee as it is for the large number of seasonal workers in Angus.

So perhaps the next time one of these surveys comes out about the reputation of letting agents, those cynics in places like Dundee should maybe pause and look to communities like Angus for solutions rather than assuming such a low ranking is inevitable.

- Amanda Wiewiorka - Director, Wardhaugh Property

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