The global pandemic has impacted everyone in some way, and the rental market is no exception. Letting agents have had to adapt to huge changes which took place in a short space of time, completely transforming the lettings landscape for good.
How has the lettings market changed as a result of Covid-19?
The most significant change has been the move to virtual viewings. Foxtons reported it held over 300,000 virtual viewings amidst the pandemic last year and the new way of working is here to stay. Zoe Bywater, director of lettings at Belvoir Bedford says the new technique helps letting agents “weed out the time wasters”, and identify who are the more serious prospective tenants. This speeds up the rental process and results in fewer void periods, putting both agents and landlords in a much more profitable position.
Since the lettings market opened back up after the first national lockdown, there has been an influx of movement. According to a Savills report in July 2020, there were 60% more new applicants registering in prime rental markets compared to the 12 weeks before lockdown. The Guardian also reported that the number of properties let between May and September last year was up by 1.3% in the top 10% of neighbourhoods.
But that’s not all, the increase in lettings hasn’t stopped as we moved into the new year. A new report from the Property Industry Eye shows that estate agent website traffic has hit an all-time high, with demand increasing consistently for the 6 weeks following Christmas.
The way the pandemic has forced the industry to adapt has also resulted in more tenants moving in and out of properties. Many landlords are now offering shorter rental periods to provide some much-needed flexibility in an uncertain time. With 6-month tenancies now a lot more common, compared to the more usual year-long agreement, tenants are changing properties more often.
How do letting agents need to adapt to the increasing demand?
With the growing demand for rental properties, and shorter tenancy agreements on offer in 2021, letting agents need to focus on the efficiency of their check in and out process. Getting new tenants in quickly whilst maintaining a great standard of service to both the tenants and your landlord is key in growing your letting agent profitably.
With tenants moving more often, knowing the availability of your property service suppliers is incredibly important. You need a cleaning and maintenance supplier who can move quickly and attend a job with just a day’s notice. Delays caused by not being able to get the right team to service a property, only results in unhappy tenants, and a longer void rent period for your landlords. Having a supplier who you know has the capacity to take on every job you need will make your letting agents much more efficient and profitable in the long run.
Although quick turnaround times are a top priority, the service you deliver to both your tenants and landlords still needs to be to a high standard. Welcoming tenants with a clean, well maintained property will help keep them satisfied and increase the chance of them reletting which is the end goal.
A high level of cleanliness is even more important since Covid-19, so if you haven’t already, make sure your property service supplier has quality control checks in place. This will help ensure that your properties are left spick and span in between tenancies, and that you’re completely satisfied with the job. Having quality control measures in place, will save you from any potential hassle dealing with complaints from tenants who find the property in a bad condition once they’ve moved in.
How detailed are your end of tenancy cleaning reports? Your supplier should be providing a detailed and informative report, delivered just a short time after the job has been completed. End of tenancy cleaning reports with before and after photos are a fantastic way to show your landlords the excellent service you’re providing them and it can also reduce disputes once tenants move out, as you’ll have detailed evidence to refer back to.
The pandemic has meant there’s an even greater need for communication, and landlords are dependent on receiving up to date advice and information from you. Fostering a closer relationship with your landlords by providing them with valuable information during your end of tenancy processes as well as throughout tenancies will help you prove your value through this crucial time.
Using technology to increase re-lets and secure long-term tenants
Reducing void periods in between tenancies and finding new tenants quickly is also priority in such an uncertain climate. Despite the growing rental demand, we’re living in a world where people’s finances have been impacted significantly, so make sure you’re maximising the chances of securing long term tenants for your landlords. Adapting to using new technology is an important way to improve your letting process and attract tenants.
Virtual viewings are here to stay, but what else can you be doing digitally? Since lockdown began last year, consumers have flocked to digital channels and are using technology like live chat as their preferred communication channel as opposed to more traditional routes like picking up the phone. Making sure your website is equipped with this type of technology will help you engage with potential customers, and also speed up the rental process as it can automate a lot of it.
Before the pandemic, agents sometimes neglected basic things like their digital property listings, but now’s the time to focus on them. Making sure your listing includes accurate information on the rent, amenities and tenancy will help to attract people who are right for the property. Also, using high quality photos or a video walk through tour, allows prospective tenants to clearly understand what is on offer. All of these things increase your chances of attracting serious tenants who are willing to move further with the tenancy, and avoid any time wasters.
Technology can also be used throughout the tenancies to improve your communication with tenants, keeping them happy and upping your chances of reletting. Using digital platforms where tenants can easily log maintenance issues, and get updates when works can take place safely is a great example of this.
There have been many changes in the lettings landscape over the past year, and now’s the time for agents to adapt to the new ways of working. Taking advantage of the tools and services that can help make the letting process more efficient and profitable is a top priority for 2021.