Foxton’s and £1.32bn in lettings fees 

What is the lifetime value of a landlord to your lettings agency? … then ask yourself, how much does it cost to get a landlord to use your lettings agency?

Most letting agents will say each property will earn them between £900 a year in North all the way down to £3,000 a year in central London, so let us pick somewhere in the middle, Hertfordshire? I would hazard a guess at £1,250 a year in fees if you add all the little extras where lettings agents can earn money.

But I asked for the lifetime value of a landlord? I think it’s fair to say most landlords do tend to stick with the same agent. It also fair to say most landlords tend to hold on to their portfolio, most see it as a future pension and the tax is silly if you sell up. So it’s fair to say, most landlords tend to buy and keep BTL property for a while (I think twenty years is a very fair figure) considering most landlords tend to hold on to property for a long time. So if it is twenty years, our landlord is worth £25,000 (20 years x £1,250) over the next twenty years. Do the numbers for your town.

But most landlords own a number of properties (many commentators have a consensus that they believe just under 1.25 million private landlords own the 4.2 million private rental properties in England and Wales), meaning,  if our landlord is an average landlord, he or she should own 3.34 rental properties , so our landlord is potentially worth £4,175 per year or £83,500 over the lifetime of a BTL portfolio. Not every landlord is worth £4,175 per year or £83,500 over the average lifetime of an agency. .. some more and some less.

So what will it cost you to get that landlord to use your lettings agency? Rightmove and Zoopla are there to get tenants, newspaper advertising doesn’t work … so quite frankly, not much at all, especially if people are recommending you .. it’s free. Isn’t lettings great? Landlords cost hardly anything to attract but can be worth  £4,175 a year or £83,500 over a lifetime!

Ok, less of the numbers for a second…

If you make a service people only need to buy say, once every seven years, it’s very different than if you make a service people are going to use every month for twenty years. .. But that is the argument between estate agency (every seven years) and lettings (every month) .. and here is the worst bit, they probably won’t come back to you in seven years to resell their house !

So, to carry this forward, why are Foxton’s willing to spend to get established in a London suburb? The answer is probably conservatively £670,000 (£250,000 refit and six months without any fees and another six months with reduced fees, with an office costing £35,000 a month to run). They are willing to spend £670,000 on the set up a cold start to get one office set up because their lifetime value is much, much more in lettings alone.

Foxton’s profit per branch for 2014 was £920,000 but that does include resi sales. In 2013, (the last year we have the figures for), lettings fee income for Foxton’s was £66.3m from 20,538 rental properties under their remit in their c.50 branches (earning them £3,231 per property a year). That means Foxton’s are sitting on a life time value of lettings fees of £1,327,165,560 (£1.3bn).

But lets bring it back to branch level, as they have c.50 branches, assuming that each of Foxton’s branches has the same number of rental properties,  each branch would have 410 rental properties …. 410 rental properties at £3,231 in fees per year for the next twenty years, means each office is sitting on a life time value in lettings fees of £26.5million.

Not bad, when you consider you have sales income on top of these figures?

When someone is competing with Foxton’s, they say, “It’s not fair. The rent is too high.” Foxton’s says, “No, no, no. The rent is not too high because we are creating 410 landlords every time we put in a new branch.” They are taking the correct view in a competitive market.

So, Mr or Mrs Letting Agent, how do you compete against Foxton’s or the Foxton’s equivalent in your town? Well the first thing is, have you got £670,000? No I didn’t think you had.

But why do you try and play Foxton’s at their own game? Cheap fees, 0% fees, flash offices, fleets of Minis, their brand name, their superb marketing machine, their well know brand, their awesome landlord database, their proactive business generation …. no you haven’t got that backup, that money have you?

I have told you what an average landlord is worth. Work it out for yourself.

Average fee’s generated from one property at your office multiplied by 3.34 multiplied by 20.

Now, surely that figure is worth fighting for? (£4,175 a year or £83,500 over a lifetime if you are in Hertfordshire). Most landlords only tolerate their lettings agent (just like people only tolerate their banks). All you need to do, if you want a slice of the action, is stop thinking like letting agents, stop talking about yourself, stop talking about your firm, your agency fees, your services, how much better you are than the competition, how many properties you have let or sold this week or month … no one (not even landlords) care about all those things and they most certainly don’t care about you Mr (s) Letting Agent, because people only care about themselves or people they have direct connection/relationship with.

However, talk about something that does interest landlords, and you will be onto a winner. All you have to do is talk about the local property market, in depth, day in day out .. and I guarantee you will get a lot more business, more landlords and unfortunately for those who sell property, more sales valuations.

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 [email protected]

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