Letting services look very different to how they did a year ago. Although business continues (people still need somewhere to live, after all), tenant expectations have dramatically changed and agencies are being forced to adapt their practices to keep transactions moving.
Even when COVID-19 is under control, it’s likely that the pandemic will have irreversibly changed the face of the housing industry. Renters are looking at potential homes through a completely different lens, and faster, contact-free agent services will be the norm. Fostering good relationships between landlords, property managers and tenants will be essential for long-term stability.
So, how can letting agents stay on top of these changes and maintain the trust of their landlords? Here are our top tips for meeting the needs of renters in 2021.
Adapting to Changing Consumer Tastes
Let’s start with one of the simplest adjustments: appealing to new tenant expectations.
Reframing what’s in your portfolio
Faced with many more months of lockdowns and social distancing, tenants will be prioritising space alongside affordability. Boost interest in your listings by focusing on outdoor areas (no matter how small), nearby recreation spaces and interior layout flexibility. De-prioritise emphasis on commuter options, and encourage your clients to stage spare bedrooms and dining rooms to highlight home-office possibilities, with tips on making home workspaces feel welcoming.
Speed up applications
Nobody needs an uncertain, drawn-out application and contract procedure right now, so make your new-tenant process as transparent and efficient as possible. You’ll encourage renters to choose your agency over others and keep landlords happy by filling vacancies quickly. Boost this along using technology (more on that in a moment), and by ensuring safety inspections, cleaning and repairs are carried out as soon as the property is vacant.
Delivering Contact-Free Services
To keep deals moving, the property industry has been pushed to adopt various types of technology much more quickly.
Video tours were previously there to give a flavour of a property, but they’re often now the only way potential tenants will see the property before committing – make sure yours don’t let you down. Software like Giraffe 360, Mattterport and iStaging make it easy to capture professional-quality virtual tour footage from a smartphone the company’s livetour gallery gives you an idea of what’s possible. There’s also an innovative offering suited to new and in-progress developments from DCTR (formerly Doctor Photo) called DCVR.
Digital contracts and eSignatures
Avoid paperwork delays by using digital contracts for tenants and contractors. It speeds up the process of getting signatures and you save yourself the hassle of dealing with physical documents and filing. Compare eSign products for the best price points and look cross-compatibility with any other software you use – this list covers some popular choices.
Building Relationships with Landlords and Tenants
Nurturing your active relationships to protect your current income is the best thing you can do if new business is slow.
Communicate with tenants and landlords
Over the last year, people have faced financial instability, job loss and changes in family circumstances, all of which could be affecting their housing. However, you won’t understand how your clients and tenants (potential or existing) are directly affected unless you ask. Like the application process, fostering transparency will help you navigate any foreseeable issues, either with new tenants or struggling existing clients. The government has excellent guidance that you can pass to landlords or tenants to help support them and build trust.
Managing rent arrears
Discuss solutions for your landlords to remain financially stable even if their tenants are struggling to pay rent due to pandemic-related issues. Rent deferment (postponing rent until it can be paid back in future instalments) is preferable to rent abatement (agreed non-payment for a set period of time), but either is better than having to maintain an empty property, especially if tenants can still cover bills and council tax.
Planning repairs and maintenance
If possible, resolve any maintenance issues that have been delayed due to social distancing measures. Tenants in comfortable properties tend to stay put, and it will prevent landlords being hit with costly repairs in one go. Landlords are allowed to carry out essential work as long as they follow the COVID-19 legislation and current public health advice.