4 reasons why being a letting agent is harder today than 20 years ago


I read somewhere that said whilst the number of rental properties has doubled over the last twenty years, the number of letting agents has tripled. It’s really hard work being a letting agent in 2015 compared to ten or even twenty years ago

Here are four reasons why I think it’s harder and some solutions to make it easier for you.

  1. Have you ever wondered by landlords stay with rubbish letting agents? Those landlords should be dissatisfied, but they are not. In fact, I bet most of those landlords don’t even know that there are better agents out there who could produce much better results. Some of those landlords don’t believe that better results are possible. A good chunk of them are complacent, happy to keep the mediocre status quo. If a landlord doesn’t believe that change is required, there is no reason to change. This is the biggest problem letting agents face .. apathy. Just like you can’t be bothered to swap banks even through you don’t like them, it’s the same with landlords and their letting agents. In fact, I would go so far as to say this is the most harmful problem facing letting agents.
  2. Risk and the Fear of Change: Plenty of landlords know that they need to change. But they are afraid to change agents. Changing agents brings risk. What if swapping agents doesn’t work? What if swapping agents makes things worse? What if I look a prat by changing agents? If I swap agents, how painful will it be? The bottom line is landlords want to be certain the swap will be smooth, without hassle or trouble.
  3. Too many letting agents in town who all look the same: You don’t have to like competition in order to understand that it exists. Your fair share isn’t going to be yours unless you give the landlord a reason to pick you. For most of you, there will be heaps of letting agents in your town. You might not think so, but to the landlords in the town, we look and sound the same. It’s difficult for those potential landlords we want to swap to us know which agent is worth spending time and effort with and who isn’t. Landlords think all letting agents are the same, just like we think all travel agents are the same or all the banks. We know we are different – but how do you expect a landlord to know? We all merge into the background, part of a haze of agents in your town, they think we are all the same with our shiny suited wide boy grab the cash quick attitudes of the 80’s. Take a look at every letting (and estate) agents’ website. The websites bend over backwards to be just like all the others. You can’t identify one agents’ website from another if you delete the name of the agent. Sometimes, we try so hard to fit in we give landlords no choice but to seek out the cheapest. After all, if everything is the same, why not buy what’s cheap and easy?
  4. Cheap Fees and talking of cheap, some landlords think the only thing that matters is cheap fees. They believe that they can have faster, better and cheaper. Then there are those landlords who aren’t even willing to have the free val, if the letting agent won’t surrender to the fact that they will try to meet or beat their current cheap as chips fee they have with their current agent.

So what are my thoughts on all these things………

First up, point 1 – beating Landlords’ Apathy – You make selling your lettings service to a apathylandlord easier when you create dissatisfaction. You do that by not telling them that they are dissatisfied in leaflets with messages such as ‘Does your agent do this, does your agent do that?’ No my friends, you need to show them, not tell them.

You need to show that portfolio landlord what better looks like, but you can only do that if the landlord is prepared to listen to what YOU have to say.

I have said many times on my blog that everyone has the right say something, but you need to earn the right to be heard, but once you have earned the right to be heard, the landlord will listen to what you have to say .. only then will the landlord realise what you offer is so much better … and that is the crux of the issue ..making the landlord listen.

Second, point of Risk. You will make selling your services easier when yRisk-Manager-Alt5-480x300ou eliminate risk and fear. You do that by spending time explaining how you are going to make sure the landlord succeeds and how you are going to alleviate the risk. Again, you can only do that, if the landlord is prepared to listen to what you have to say.

On the third point of too much competition. Bottom line here my friends, you will make selling what you and your lettings agency offers easier when you differentiate yourself and your offering. You will make it easier to win new business when you avoid playing the same game as all the other agents in town. How do you do that? Well I coach all my clients to look at it from the landlords point of view, not their own. If you talk about something the landlord is interested in, they will listen .

The final point of cheap fees, you will make it easier to get the listing by making the case for the right investment and building consensus high enough that you make the landlord cheap-image want such things. You will make it easier on yourself, by occasionally instilling the obligatory fear that your prospective landlord should have around their lack of investment. However, whatever you do, always, always provide proof that spending a bit more gets so much back. Comparables of what you let a property for compared to other agents, Rightmove reports, testimonials .. print it off and present it. However, what you need to do is to get the landlord to listen to that proof and even those fear stories.


My fellow letting agents, you need grab the attention of landlords and ensure they want to listen to what you have to say. To make a landlord listen to you, you have to do something quite simple my friends .. be interesting.

In my humble opinion, a half page newspaper advert or 10,000 leaflets stuffed through local letter boxes, with phrases like ‘landlords wanted’ and ‘properties wanted ‘ is not interesting. It might be to you, but it isn’t to landlords .. they know they are wanted, they don’t need you to tell them. So instead of talking about things that you want and need (properties to manage) and crossing your fingers that the one day your card hits the doormat of a landlord looking to swap agents the very same day because things have just gone nuclear at their existing agent, I’m going to suggest you do something different and quite radical.

Think like a landlord and think what flicks their switch? S8 or s21 notices aren’t at the top of landlords ‘most interesting ‘lists, nor is your ARLA membership. All are very important, but that is what that they pay you for. However, there is one thing a landlord is interested in, in fact any homeowner is interested in … the value of their property. Homeowners and landlords alike want to know what is happening in their local property market. If you are in Maidenhead or St Albans or Tonbridge, what is happening to the UK property market has hardly any direct affect on your property. Local issues like the building of a bypass, Crossrail, a big employer closing down or opening or expanding makes huge differences to the local property market. .. and here is the best bit, most landlords tend to buy in the same area they live in (because landlords like to buy what they know).

My advice to you all, to grab the attention and interest of local landlords, is just to talk about the local property market. Just start writing them .. and if you need some inspiration, drop me a line and I will email back some great agents work in this field, who do it all without any help or guidance from me.

However, many lettings agents do use me to help them. Some of my clients like to write the weekly articles themselves but have asked for feather touch coaching to guide them with their article writing and helping them get those articles in front of the landlords. However, most of clients like me to hold their hand all the way, almost doing everything for them, as we work together, hand in hand , I can provide them with bespoke weekly articles specific to their local property market that they can use them in the newspapers, newsletters, facebook, twitter, linkedin and blogs, in essence a one stop shop for all their marketing needs, giving advice, opinion, coaching on all aspects of their marketing material to attract and keep their landlords.

If you like the idea of talking about your local property market and don’t know where to begin, let’s have a chat. You have a choice as a letting agent what are you are going to change in your lettings business? There are many people out there telling you what to do. Each one is valid.

My principles are, if you want more landlords to use your lettings agency, all you have to do is make them want to come and talk to you, so you can build a relationship with them, so they believe you are a better person than their existing agent, because they like you more, trust you more and you give a better a service .. people do business with people they like and trust . All I do is give them a reason to make them want to talk to you.

Only a few of my blog post readers will do anything different, but perhaps you are one of them? Please, let me know, it will be good to hear from you. christopher@christopherwatkin.co.uk

Want to read more articles like this? Visit my blog www.landlordfarming.com


Christopher Watkin

I teach, guide, support, mentor, consult, counsel, partner many hundreds of UK Estate and Letting Agents in their quest to grow their estate and lettings agencies business. Old school techniques of touting, landlords wanted leaflets, ring us for a free valuation, we have sold this in your street leaflets don't work anymore. There are too many competitor agents .. meaning cheap fees are epidemic, overvaluing is almost a norm to get the stock and don’t even mention about the online/hybrid threat. So a few years ago, I set about looking around the UK and spotted that certain agents (not many mind you) in certain towns were still seen as the ‘go to person on property’, the person the newspaper editor rang up every week for a comment and I looked at what they did and they were doing some thing quite remarkable…. Only one thing but they were doing it so well .. and reaping the reward in terms of decent listings and decent fees, happy staff, decent sales pipeline and exchange income, managed lettings portfolios in the many hundreds .. but more importantly, they really enjoyed the job… they enjoyed getting up in the morning and people looked up to them Over 400 agents around the UK are on a mission to change the way our Estate and Lettings agency profession is perceived and looked upon, doing it town by town, city by city. I guide these 400 agents, teach them, mentor them and support them to be seen in a different light, to be seen as the ‘go to person for property’, actually be the ‘local property expert’ and prove it. Christopher Watkin 07950 147 572 christopher@christopherwatkin.co.uk

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