A landlord who finds you first is more likely to use your lettings agency… than if you find the landlord.

What would you do if a solicitor, out of the blue, one you had never used before, rang you up and asked if you had a legal issue that needed sorting? Bet most of you would tell them to get lost wouldn’t you? Ok, how about this one, What if, out of the blue, a dentist you had never spoken to or visited before, rang you asking you if you wanted a new dentist? Sling your hook? No one likes cold calling.

OK, what if it wasn’t a cold call, let’s say your own GP rang you at work, asking if you might be looking for help fighting a nasty bug, as there was one going round? Even though it was your GP, you would politely decline, because if YOU had a problem, you would GO TO your GP .. not the other way round. With your GP, he/she doesn’t find you, you find them. And when you do see him, they tell you what medicine you need to take and guess what .. you take it. Even if he/she says you need surgery, you will most likely end up taking the advice, no matter how painful or inconvenient it is.

OK, here is a good one to ask … Do landlords respect letting agents as much as they respect their GP? ‘Don’t be stupid Chris’, you might say. Well why not, the landlord is asking you to look after his/her £100,000/£200,000/£300,000 rental property … to some people, that is more important than some people’s own health. The GP went to medical school and looks after your health, you have done training and now (especially if you have done your ARLA exams – you are qualified) you could look after the landlord’s property that is worth a lot of money. You have expertise. You know how to solve difficult problems. So what’s the difference?

The difference is positioning. The GP is perceived to be an expert, so you seek their guidance. You might see yourself a letting agent, but if all you do is collect the rent and ring the landlord every time there is an issue, you aren’t a letting agent – you are a rent collector. (and here is the important bit …. you are no expert my friend).

So how do you become an expert, seen on the same footing as a GP? Well let me tell you fellow letting agents that if you believe all you have to do is believe passionately in your lettings agency service, become ‘Captain Motivated’, be nice to people, know your section 8’s from your section 21’s, be really motivated, work like a ‘whirling dervish’, know your landlord and tenant law, thinking positive thoughts whilst remaining even more motivated than yesterday and even more than the day before .. then if you do all that and you are the most motivated letting agent in your town, eventually you will become the most successful letting agent in town and you will win the admiration and trust of all those potential landlords needing your advice and capabilities in looking after their hard earned buy to let property.

Hold on a minute and let us get back to the real world here. Stop and think about it for a minute. How many times have you bust a gut at work, been ‘Captain Motivated’ and not got a thing back. I have worked for hundreds of hours overtime for other people and I was working very hard believe me and ask the Wife. But it wasn’t working, and every month I was falling further and further behind. You can only do that for so long before something finally gives. .. and once it gives, your motivation tank is on vapours.

You see motivation isn’t your actual problem. Bottom line is this, you need landlords, you need landlords to trust you with their property to let out. You know you are better than any other letting agent in your town, it’ just you can’t prove it to those landlords. All you need is something that makes landlords pick up the phone to you, hey even walk through the door. Landlords would call you instead of you having to call them. If you had a steady stream of qualified landlords to talk to, you wouldn’t have a motivation problem in the first place, would you?

Have you ever heard of the phrase, ‘working smarter, not harder’? Being MORE motivated isn’t the issue. Why? Because most letting agents are already more than motivated to begin with. The problem with letting agent agents is they can’t see themselves through the eyes of their customers .. the landlords. You see if the landlords find you, instead of you finding (aka touting/ hardsell hunting) the landlord, the perception of the landlord of you is different. The landlord perceives you as a consultant, not a salesman / hawker . Customers don’t respect salesman / hawkers as reliable information sources.

If you just collect the rent, you are no expert. If you just the let house out and collect the rent .. you are no expert. But if you talk knowledgeably about stuff that interests landlords, ie by becoming the local property expert, comparing the property market in one street vs another street in your town OR by talking about why one London suburb has gone up in value by 148% in the last 16 years but the next door London suburb has gone up by 198% OR why yields on 2 beds have dropped in the last 10 years but risen on 3 beds in your town in the same 10 year time frame OR Why the local council estate’s housing market in your town has outperformed the nice housing estate in your town OR Why a town’s property values have risen by £568 per week, but the surrounding areas have only risen by £456 per week OR Why semis in one housing estate have gone by 46% in the last 5 years in value but only 36% in the next door housing estate OR How property prices in your town still have 7% to reach back to 2007 boom prices, comparing that with two other neighbouring towns and their individual %’s….

At the core of what landlord farming is .. you write (or you can ask me to write) four articles a month (ie one a week) about YOUR own local property market. Local people are INTERESTED in what is happening their local property market .. it’s a British obsession. These articles need to be put in front of the movers and shakers, the middle class landlord sect in some form of combination of newspaper advertorials, newspaper editorials, local magazines, local property newsletters and a local property blog. You use the same articles in all delivery methods. This makes you the local property expert, and as long you put a very subtle call to action (you will love it when I tell you.. its so effective).. they (existing and new landlords) will make contact with you, because they want to know something only you would know.

… but before I go, note I don’t suggest you write the following … ‘s8 vs s21 notices, which is the best?’ , ‘What clauses should you put in your AST?’, ‘Who is responsible if a tenant looses their key’, ‘What does Superstrike mean for you’, ‘Top ten tips for landlords’, ‘Should your letting agent by licensed?’ and ‘Landlord Insurance – everything you need to know’ … these are not interesting and the only expert you will be is an expert in boring boring boring.

Only talk about the local property market; comparing the property market by talking about street vs street, housing estate vs housing estate, area vs area, town vs town. Over time you write this stuff, drip … drip ….. drip and eventually you get inside their heads, and like I said above, as long you put a very subtle call to action, and it takes quite a few months before they act, a trickle to start with then more as time goes on, landlords will make contact with you, because they want to know something only you would know. .. Because you are not a letting agent … you are the property expert (who just happens to let houses)

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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