After a recent difficult letting problem, I remain sceptical about the usefulness of agents. Let's say that I am in two minds about them: I admit that one advantage of marketing your property though a letting agent is that they're more likely to get useful feedback from viewers than you'd get showing people round yourself.
I find that viewers are reluctant to give me an honest opinion about my flat, probably because they don't want to offend. They'll smile politely and say the place is really lovely, when I can see that actually they hate it. Rarely will they tell me the reason why.
Honest feedback is vital because if you know what people don't like about a place you can sometimes change it. For example, if people are put off by the décor, I'd be tempted to whitewash the walls, or if they say the furnishings are a bit drab, I'd chuck them out. The furnishings, not the viewers, obviously.
If viewers think the place is a bit dark and gloomy, it might be a simple case of making sure all the curtains are open or turning the lights on before viewers arrive but if you're getting a lot of negative feedback about the interior, it might be time for a total revamp - it'll pay off in the end.
However, there's one thing about a property you can't alter and that's the location. A letting agent has failed to get any offers on my four-bedroom flat and she says the only problem is that it's on a housing estate. As she says, short of putting the property on a lorry and driving it somewhere else, there's nothing I can do.
Except lower the price, she suggests. This is the only solution agents ever come up with when a property won't shift. However, in this case, the agent is right. She overvalued the flat at the outset, I told her she was asking way too much, but did she listen? No, she did not and now she wants to drop the price for the third time.
To tell the truth, she's worked hard at marketing my flat. She says she's done more than two dozen viewings. She's exaggerating. I'm aware of only about 15, max, but that's still a lot.
However, it's clear to me that the agent isn't attracting the right sort of viewer. She's dragging round lots of young professionals but this particular property appeals to impoverished students and immigrant workers on low wages. Not surprisingly, she hasn't got many of these on file. Such tenants don't look for properties via letting agents. They can't afford their fees.
I reckon it's time to shake off this agent and start marketing the place myself. I can knock at least 10 per cent off the asking price because I won't need to pay her commission and that should lure in the right sort of tenant.
Even though I've had little response to my ad on Gumtree for the one-bed rental flat I've also got available, I know from past experience that Gumtree is still the best place to advertise this ex-local authority four-bedroom place. I place my ad and wait for the inevitable flood of calls... from letting agents wanting to market it for me. Fools!
As usual, there's always one who won't take no for an answer. This one tells me I've underestimated how hard it will be to let a property myself. He says the flat will be empty for WEEKS. I'll have a nervous breakdown. My marriage will break up. My kids will leave home. We'll all starve.
"No," I tell him. "No. Non. Nein." "Well you'll never get a tenant through Gumtree," is his parting shot.
We'll see, sunshine, we'll see.