3 tips to help make your new lettings agency a success

13 January 2021

This agent made the decision to set up a new lettings agency, Cloverhill Properties, bringing together her in-depth knowledge around relationship building and implementing digital solutions to create an efficient business with unique selling points from the get-go.

How can you differentiate yourself when starting an agency? That’s the question Catrina Merrigan asked herself when setting out to create Cloverhill Properties. With 10 years' experience in the lettings industry, she’s seen what works and what doesn’t. In her new business, she’s applied the best bits.

Start digital

“I wanted to go paperless, so I could operate in the most efficient manner,” says Catrina. Choosing Goodlord’s letting software was one of the first steps in this approach, which quickly grew to encompass digital viewings when the first lockdown struck in March 2020, only a month after launching her new agency.

Implementing these new digital measures shouldn’t come at the expense of highlighting the human touch, says Catrina. “You'll find some agents are walking around the property in the video, but there is no communication. There's no face behind the camera. Tenants give feedback that it's lovely to see a person and to hear a voice.”

Focus on trust when building your customer base

The introduction of the new viewing process can be reflected in the tenancy agreement, to engender trust. “I put a clause into the contract to say that they were taking the property from the video viewing, rather than an actual in-person viewing, and they were happy with that.”

Having a strong channel of communication and understanding with tenants can also reassure landlords. “As a landlord, if you're not doing the viewing, you're putting all your trust in your agent,” says Catrina. Landlords need to know that “even though your tenants are signing their contract electronically, there's always that one-to-one communication.”

Agents should also think about how they connect with their landlords directly, from the beginning. “For a landlord to leave an agent that they've been with, having a coffee and a chat gives them that confidence to be able to do that. I don't want to grow too quickly for that reason because I do want to keep that personal service with them.”

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Have a point of differentiation...

“I try to work with landlords who are happy to allow families to have pets, as there’s a high demand for these properties” says Catrina.

Landlords are often reluctant to accept pets because of a lack of understanding around the best approach to take. “I explain that we have the property professionally cleaned before the tenant moves in and we put into the contract that the tenants have to keep the property in good order and have it professionally cleaned when they move out,” says Catrina. “I think we need to educate landlords that it’s written into the contract.”

...or two

“I went into the holiday let side as someone had sold their property and they wanted somewhere short term to stay because they didn't want to be in a chain and they wanted to avoid signing into a six month AST,” says Catrina. “We had fully furnished properties with all utilities included. The short-term tenant got to live in a nice property while their own furniture was in storage.”

Although this was a decision made before lockdown one, the popularity of the service grew during the first few months of the pandemic. “During lockdown, short terms lets increased,” says Catrina. “A lot of people were buying houses in new developments but, because of a shortage of bricks and other materials, the building sites came to a stand still. So there were people desperate for a short-term let.”

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