Can You Let Your House Out Without a Letting Agent?

There’s no rule that you have to use the services of a letting agent when you decide to rent out your property. There are plenty of private landlords who decide to manage everything themselves rather than leave it to a third party. On the other hand, there are those property owners who don’t want to be involved in the day to day running of a house or flat and prefer to pay someone else to do it.

As a landlord doing all the donkey work, you will be on call 7 days a week and may find yourself fixing a blocked sink or organising an emergency repair on a Sunday morning when you should be in bed reading the newspaper. Renting out a house without using a letting agent may have its upside but it has some pretty important cons too. For instance, keeping up with the legislation can be a problem – Liverpool Council have recently introduced a licensing system for landlords which other regions may well be set to follow.

The good news is that most letting agents offer several layers of service which means you don’t have to go all in if you want to handle some of the administration of the property yourself. You can opt for let only where they help you with getting the right tenants in the first place, as well as handling payments and the legal requirements such as contracts.

If you do want the full service you can get them to manage the property for you which will include repair call outs and monitoring the tenants whilst they are in the flat or house, all for an extra cost of course.

The Benefits of Not Using a Letting Agent

One of the primary benefits of going it alone is that you get to choose your tenants personally, which is great if you have someone in mind. Letting agents who handle tenant selection may be in too much of a hurry to install someone in your property, particularly if they want to bill you for the service. Having said that, if you’ve chosen the right letting agent and built a good relationship with them, this shouldn’t be a problem.

Of course, not using a letting agent will save you money because you don’t have to pay them any fees and if you then get the right tenants in place this is a big bonus. Unfortunately, if you make a mistake in choosing those tenants it could cost you more in the long run through legal bills and damage to the property.

If you are deciding to manage everything yourself, then you have to keep tabs on the property as well as the tenants. Letting agents that handle this side of things through a managed service can keep assuring you they are on top of things but you can never be completely sure. Agents generally deal with a large number of clients and properties which means their monitoring could well be spread a little too thinly for your liking. Again, this comes down to the letting agent you choose – pick the right one and you shouldn’t have much to worry about.

Finally, the other side of letting out the property yourself is that you can build a stronger, personal relationship with the tenants. That means you can foresee problems more easily and keep control of the lease, managing everything more effectively.

Guide to Self-Letting

If you are heading out alone and you are a beginner landlord then you are probably going to be on a sharp learning curve for the first few months.

  • A good place to start is with the current legislation that applies to landlords and what you need to have in place before you get a tenant in. The legal aspects are always under review and you will need to keep on top of these if you don’t want to fall foul of the authorities. For instance, landlords are now required by law to install smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in all properties.
  • Before you rent out your property you need to make sure that it is in the right condition – the more you update the less likely you are going to have to call someone out to fix a problem. Whilst this may well cost a little more initially it could well save you money in the long run.
  • You will also have to put together a contract for the tenant and for this you are realistically going to need to employ a solicitor. Letting agents handle this as a matter of course but for a DIY landlord it can be one of the more challenging pieces of the letting puzzle to get into place.
  • Finding renters is less of a problem than it used to be with plenty of online platforms where you can advertise your property to potential tenants. It’s also a good place to check what other people are doing and how much you should charge for your flat or house.
  • Checking the background of your future tenants is also more of an issue for landlords who are going it alone. Letting agents normally have the right processes and technology in place to do something like a credit check. The good news is that there are plenty of companies available online that can provide tenant checks for a small fee.

The Benefits of Using a Letting Agent

Whilst it may cost a little more, using a letting agent does have certain advantages over being a DIY landlord. First of all, they are going to save you quite a lot of time because they handle the selection and vetting of potential tenants as well as advertising on sites such as Zoopla and RightMove. This is a great advantage particularly if you are working and have little spare time to devote to your landlord duties. Although you are going to have to fork out as much as 10 to 15% of your rent collection to the agent, these are tax deductible, as is the money spent on repairs and management of the property.

How to Let Your House Privately

If you have a property and want to harness more than just its appreciating value on the housing market, then one area where you can benefit is letting. Most beginners and quite a few hardened landlords do this by going to a reputable agent who can handle all the different legal and administrative aspects including contracts, insurance, and on-going maintenance.

The other option is to do the work yourself and let your house out privately. The benefits of this are that you don’t have to pay a third party, such as a letting agent, fees and you can keep more of the profits yourself. The downside is that you have to handle everything from finding tenants to carrying out maintenance, which is fine if you have the time and energy.

Contacting your Mortgage Provider

Before you begin: If you are still paying the mortgage on your property then you will need to make sure with your mortgage provider that it is permissible to rent out your home. You may need to change to a buy to let mortgage and this could involve higher rates and additional costs. If you are starting from scratch and buying a property specifically to rent out then you will need a deposit of between 15% and 25% depending on the lender and you may find it all but impossible if you are a first time buyer.

Preparing the House for Rental

Whether you are looking to rent your property privately or go through a letting agent, you will need to make sure that your house or flat is in the right condition to let. This could involve a little makeover such as laying down new carpets and painting the walls or more substantial renovations. In addition, you must have valid Energy Performance Certificates and Gas Safety Certificates before renting.

Whilst self-furnishing properties are acceptable, most renters will expect the basic amenities such as a cooker and fridge. Even though rental properties are at a premium and in high demand, particularly in certain areas, such as inner cities, you will need to make the house or flat appealing if you want to attract the right prospective tenants.

Finding Tenants

The biggest problem for private letters is that they have to find suitable tenants and this can be a time consuming process. A large part of letting agent initial fees go on finding tenants, though there is a misconception that they provide the kind of vetting service and experience that a novice landlord might find difficult to duplicate. Whilst this may true in some cases, with a little attention to detail you can make sure that you cover all the bases.

Nowadays, things are made much easier with the online world because you can use online agents to cheaply access online letting platforms such as Zoopla and Rightmove. Letting agents use these as a matter of course anyway to drum up interest in a property. These online solutions also provide you with the right tools to check out the market and sort out the level of rent you are going to ask for the property, as well as how others present their own information.

If you are letting privately then you are going to need to interview tenants, show them round the property and get references and other personal details. Carrying out a background check is not easy if you don’t have the experience and you might want to consider employing the services of a referencing agency before you get out the contract, most online agents provide referencing services, generally paid for by the tenant.

Sorting Out the Contract

Having the right contract in place for your tenants could well save you a lot of heartbreak later. Whilst there may well be examples you can copy online, it is always best to employ the services of a competent solicitor to make sure everything is legally correct and protects you and the tenant. It will cost you a bit extra but will save you a great deal of money if any disputes arise.

On-going Maintenance

Once you have your tenants installed you will have to provide an on-going maintenance service that could include anything from mending leaks to roof repairs. If you have prepared the property well in the first instance, this should be kept down to a minimum for at least the first year but it’s a good idea to get to know some reliable plumbers and electricians you can call on in the event of an emergency.

Maintenance will need to be carried out in a timely manner and you must ensure that areas such as gas and electrical systems all meet the required safety standards.

Paying Tax and Insurance

Whether you are going through a letting agent or renting out your property privately, you will need to pay tax on the profits and inform HMRC of the additional income. There is plenty of advice on paying your tax as well as the service you provide to your tenants on their website.

You will also have to get landlords insurance that covers you for a variety of situations. With the rise in the number of rental properties over the last few years, the landlord insurance market has become quite competitive and you can get some excellent deals if you shop around.

Monitoring Tenants

Whilst your tenants may well be the best-behaved people on the planet, it’s not always the case that things run smoothly. If you have the right contract in place and maintain regular contact with the tenants, as well as employing the services of a capable solicitor, you should be able to negate any problem areas more efficiently. Monitoring tenants is not just about making sure they are behaving themselves but also ensuring that they don’t have any problems.

Private Vs. Agency Letting

There’s no doubt that if you find the right letting agent it takes a lot of the heat out of renting your property and allows you to get on with other things whilst earning an income from a home or flat. Private letting can take up more time than you think but it can save you on agency fees and leave more money in your pocket if you do it properly. For most, it comes down to a question of preference and whether you want to leave the day-to-day running of your property to a third party.

2015 Budget Reaction

In light of George Osborne’s first all-conservative budget, CEO of My Online Estate Agent, David Grundy takes a look at what it means for the property market. You can read his reaction below:

 

“Cutting tax relief on buy-to-let mortgage interest is counterproductive. There is always an argument for trying to create a more accessible market for first time buyers, of course, but I question whether this tax measure will have a significant impact in that regard.”

 

“What it will encourage is a rise in rent charges from landlords who are looking to recoup their losses. For tenants who are trying to save up for a deposit in order to get onto the property market, increased rents will be a major set-back. At the same time, potential buy-to-let landlords will think twice about entering the market so the number of rental properties available will be reduced. This will make it harder for young people who are looking for that first bit of independence to find affordable rental properties.”

 

“Every business benefits from tax relief on interest so why shouldn’t landlords? They differ from ordinary home-buyers who do not have to pay tax on the gains they make on their properties. The rate of tax relief enjoyed by buy-to-let landlords was totally justified and cutting it, with a view to phasing it out altogether doesn’t make sense.”

We’d love to hear your views on the budget so please comment and let us know what you think!

Advice on Selling with Tweens and Teenagers

Here at My Online Estate Agent, we recently carried out some research that revealed the most common faux pas and biggest turn-offs committed by people looking to sell their home were untidiness and loud music.

 

These findings swiftly lead us on to selling your home with tweens (those aged 8-12 years old) and teenagers – often the major culprits when it comes to the abovementioned turn-offs!

 

So, what can you do to get your children on board in order to make your viewings go as smoothly possible?

 

Emotional attachment

 

Firstly, understand that if your tween or teenager doesn’t tidy up or purposefully continues to play loud music during viewings, it may not just be them rebelling. It could be their way of making a stand against a house move.

 

Children – especially those who have grown up in the same house for most of their lives – can get very emotionally attached to their home. A move to them may not just mean a change of house, but a new school, new friends and a new routine.

 

Even if you are moving locally, so your children remain at the same school and have the same circle of friends, it can still be very hard for them. So …

 

Talk to them

Ask them how they feel about the move and whether they have any questions.

 

Try and allay their concerns, if you can. For example, if they are worried about losing touch with a best friend, suggest ways in which they can still talk face-to-face (eg: Skype or Facetime). Agree a plan where you will drive them to see their friend every week / month (depending on how far this is). For really long distance moves, promise sleepovers.

 

Make your children understand why you are moving (maybe you are up or down sizing, or need to move for a new job) and explain the benefits to them (they may have a bigger bedroom or have more things to see and do in the area and so on).

 

Bribery, while not in the Good Parenting Handbook, can help. For example: “Once we move, we will get you a new (gadget / toy / bicycle)” or “There are stables / a dance school / skate boarding park nearby that you can use …”.

 

Once your tweens and teenagers have started to warm to the idea of how moving will benefit them, you can start getting prepared for viewings as a family.

 

Preparing for viewings

 

Get your children involved in de-cluttering the house – and their own rooms in particular:

 

  • Get them to make three piles of toys / books etc. Those they want to keep to hand; those they don’t mind storing away; and those they no longer want
  • The second pile can be stored away in a box
  • Suggest that with the third pile, you have a family garage or boot sale so you can all sell your unwanted bits and pieces – they can even help out in return for getting a share of the money.

 

In a multiple tween household, run competitions for who can keep the tidiest bedroom (or their half of the room). This will encourage them to keep their own space tidy. You don’t have to give big prizes, it can be as simple as letting them watch their favourite programme or staying up half an hour later.

 

For teenagers, tell them they now need to earn their pocket money by keeping their room up to an acceptable standard. If they don’t, deduct a percentage, or limit their time online.

 

On the day

 

Get the children out of the house if you can. On viewing day, if at all possible, get your partner or a friend to entertain your children around viewing time but taking them out to the park or the shops. Then you can have one final tidy up without worrying about messy youngsters or surly teenagers in the house!

 

If this isn’t possible, assign one room in the house where they can have their own space. Get some headphones for your teenagers to listen to their music and keep the younger ones entertained with something non-messy (ie. activities that don’t involve food, baking, crayons or paints etc).

 

Keep the boot of your car empty

 

30 minutes before any viewing run around the house and gather clutter together in a bag or two and stick it away in the boot. This goes for the tweens’ and teens’ rooms too.

 

Smile!

 

When your viewers turn up, smile! Not only will it make them feel at ease, but hopefully their first impression will be of a nice, tidy (ish), comfortable home that they can see themselves living in.

 

Good luck!