The accidental landlord: bricks and mortar is so yesterday

The accidental landlord saves herself a fortune in fees by hiring an online letting agent to ensure she stands out from the crowd.
Although it took longer than I expected, I have  re-let my one-bedroom flat and I’m thrilled that I found new tenants for just £60 by marketing the property using an online letting agent, rather than relying on a high street letting agent to find tenants for me.
 
A little more than two years ago, I paid an old-fashioned bricks-and- mortar agent more than £2,000 to let the flat, so by finding tenants  myself, this time I’ve saved £1,940, assuming all goes well and they pass the credit checks, which are still  ongoing as I write.
 
Admittedly, the offer I received is a little less than the current tenants are paying, but I’d previously invited several high street agents to value the flat with a view to hiring their services and none of them seemed to think they’d get more than £5 or £10 a week extra.
 
A high street agent might have found me tenants faster, but the couple I found want to move just two weeks after the current tenants leave, so I’ll only have a short void. I’ll use the time to carry out some essential electrical repairs and repaint a couple of the rooms, which should brighten up the flat and make it easier to re-let next time.
 

The £1,940 I’ve saved in agency fees will cover the cost of the work and the mortgage while the flat is empty. I advertised it via easyProperty, one of the newest online letting agents. As with all these self-service agents, of which there are many, you create your own advert for them to place online and they pass all enquiries on to you so you can show people around.
 
EasyProperty’s Economy Plus package, for which I paid £59.99, includes three months’ advertising on all the major property sites, including, of course, Zoopla, and a To Let board.
 
It also includes a tenancy agreement and, if you take a deposit from the tenant, easyProperty will protect it for you, which can remove much of the administrative burden. Once you’ve found tenants, easyProperty will carry out credit checks and referencing, for which the tenants are charged £50 each. Other services are available, such as professional photographs and floor plans, and even hosted viewings, but these cost extra.
 
One of the reasons I chose to advertise with easyProperty, rather than one of the other online agents, was for the bright orange, some might say garish, To Let board, which I hoped would attract viewers as my flat is on a busy main road with lots of passing traffic.
 
One or two residents in my block of flats mentioned they were worried the To Let sign in the garden would attract burglars who might think the property was empty, but they were fine about it when I explained that as it was such a difficult time of year to re-let a property I needed to use every tool available.
 
And I’m glad I stuck to my guns because it was that To Let sign that got me the offer. A young couple spotted the board when they were wandering around the area, having been to view another flat nearby, and immediately called easyProperty.
 
I arranged to show them the flat the next day and they made me an offer less than an hour later. I was relieved because I’d only had three other viewings, even though I’d been advertising the flat for nearly two months. However, this proves that you don’t necessarily need to show hundreds of people around a property to get an offer, you just need to attract the right ones.
  • Victoria Whitlock lets three properties in south London. To contact Victoria with your ideas and views, tweet @vicwhitlock

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