“Today’s tenant could be tomorrow’s landlord. They’re going to remember the experience they had, so if you don't provide those people with a good experience because they’re not directly generating new business, if they do ever become a landlord, they're not going to come back to you,” says the Group Lettings Manager at Gibbs Gillespie, one of the largest estate agency groups across Middlesex, Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire. “Traditionally, the tenant wasn’t considered a customer but now, more than ever, you have to treat everyone the same. You have to think of them as tomorrow’s landlord. You really do.”
The emphasis on the tenant experience has changed “drastically” since Nicholas Edwards first entered the industry as a trainee negotiator more than a decade ago at Gibbs Gillespie. “Renting was almost a dirty word when I started - people were renting because they couldn't afford to buy,” he says. “Now, renting is a chosen lifestyle for a large part of the market - it hasn’t got the same reputation that it did previously.”
He thinks the evolution of renting as a lifestyle choice has played a big role in tenants shifting expectations of the private rented sector. “The level of information available to people now - the way people can discuss your company online - definitely means that tenants are more educated and more aware of what they can get from you and what other companies can provide,” he says. “So if you don't treat them as a premiere customer, they know they can go elsewhere where they will be treated as one.”
The importance of tenant experience is reflected in an increasing array of services being offered to tenants, particularly in the build-to-rent sector, says Edwards. “I think the market is heading towards concierge-type services for tenants, where they move in and everything is sorted for them - they won’t have to worry about anything. Over the next five to ten years, you will start to see tenants expecting that, on the day they move in, the bed is made, there’s a towel in the bathroom and everything is ready to go,” he says.
“A lot of the build-to-rent developments are already heading towards that model - maybe not to the extent of milk in the fridge, but many of those schemes have really embraced the idea of being totally ready for tenants to move in and everything working the second you step through the door,” notes Edwards.
“I do think that part of the market will certainly be developing further in the next few years and any good agent now has a lot of additional strengths to their bow and will already be offering a lot of the services that tenants are looking for,” he says. “Making sure that tenants have a smooth moving process is just as important to us as new business generation - and we’re well-equipped in every department to make sure that happens.”
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