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“Right from the start, our focus is on making sure we get the best possible tenants and then we match the best possible tenants with the right house,” says the Lettings Director of the leading specialist lettings agency in Oxford. “If you get the tenant right, everything else is much easier - we have longer term lets, we have straightforward, easy rent collection, and we have properties that are looked after well, without dilapidation.”
The importance of finding a good tenant is “crystal-clear” to everyone at College and County says David Gilson, which is why the entire business is geared towards achieving this, including doing away with commissions for their negotiators.
"We don’t want anyone to feel that they just have to get the deal through,” he says. “It's much more about making sure that the team as a whole is successful and the best way of doing that is to ensure that everyone's working towards that common goal of getting the tenant right. If you get a bad tenant, then you've got property managers sitting five minutes away from you who then have to deal with the problems associated with that tenant.”
Gilson believes its a "false economy" for negotiators to push for the last pound they can get out of a property at the expense of finding good tenants. “That means you've narrowed your pool of tenants to such a small percent that the chance of getting the ideal tenant is much slimmer,” says Gilson.
Oxford does have a strong lettings market, he admits, which gives College and County the luxury of cherry picking, but it’s a model that more agencies should adopt. “The more that we focus on making sure the tenants are right at the start, the more efficient we can be as an organisation, the more we can then concentrate on what really adds value to our clients, rather than having to spend time firefighting.”
College and County’s landlords appreciate this approach. “Anyone can let a property - you could put your property on a portal online and find a tenant very quickly - but we have attracted good, understanding landlords in Oxford, who really appreciate our considered approach,” says Gilson. “That's how we’ve built trust with our landlords and what gives us time to look at ways we can improve and exceed their expectations above and beyond lettings.”
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