It is a happy coincidence that you raise this issue as just yesterday I had a very interesting conversation with an acquaintance who is a ‘small landlord’. She is on the lookout for a couple of properties to add to her portfolio and, to use her words, is “absolutely gobsmacked” at the service, or rather lack of service, that she has received from the agents she has contacted.
Not all investment buyers want, or necessarily deserve, exactly the same treatment and it is obviously critical to qualify all applicants thoroughly to assess how good a prospect they are. In this case, the investment buyer is reasonably motivated if the right property was available, capable in terms of finance and realistic as far as her property requirements are concerned.
On establishing her frustration at how agents had dealt with her, I couldn’t help but use it as a learning exercise to get a ‘from the horse’s mouth’ guide on how agents might treat such people.
“I don’t expect too much,” she said. “But it seems the basics of politeness, being interested, listening to what I say and good all round knowledge are not boxes that many agents tick. With many I sensed that they hadn’t seen the properties I was enquiring about which didn’t fill me with confidence. To ask about what work might be needed on a property to ensure it rents quickly doesn’t strike me as a particularly challenging question but it was one that met a blank response from the agent, as did queries relating to yields and specific levels of tenant demand. It became clear to me that in many cases the agents responsible for selling properties had little or no knowledge nor particular interest in the rental side of the business.
I want someone I can trust to help me find the right property and then look after it, bearing in mind I’m buying in an area I don’t know well but which has been recommended.
“I want someone I can trust to help me find the right property and then look after it on an ongoing basis, bearing in mind I’m buying in an area I don’t know well but which has been recommended. Not one agent actually had a proper conversation with me or built any degree of rapport.
“I didn’t feel listened to or valued. Perhaps the agents have so many buyers like me that I’m of no significance.” I then asked her what else she had hoped for:
“After that first conversation, I want somebody to be proactive in helping me find me the right property. As I said, trust is the key. I can’t believe the advice or suggestions of someone I don’t trust. So, listen to me – repeat things back so I know you’ve got things clear. It’s no different to when I order a meal in a restaurant – read it back and I can relax in the knowledge that you ‘get me’.”
Disappointment and frustration
“I know I can self-select off Rightmove and that’s all well and good, in fact it seems to be what agents would prefer me to do. But I’d really appreciate agents broadening my horizons and telling me about other options, ones I maybe glossed over when searching on the internet, ones which might be coming on the market in the near future and so on. One of my existing portfolio that I bought three years ago is a property that the agent had valued but which wasn’t due to come onto the market until the owner finished off some bits and pieces. The agent persuaded him to accept me as a one-off viewer and I persuaded him that I’d be happy to buy the property as it stood. That strikes me as an ‘everyone’s a winner’ scenario but I’ve not got close to that sort of situation this time around.
“From start to finish I’ve been disappointed and frustrated with the vast majority of agents. Maybe I’m expecting too much?”
That final question really is the key to your dilemma and indeed for any other agent looking to do business now and in the future with investors. If yours had been one of the agents in this buyer had contacted, what would have been the quality of her experience during that initial point of contact and going forward?
If it would have been anything less than exceptional, it is time to raise your game and train your troops to deliver above expectations. Those agents who fail to do so will inevitably regret it.