On paper, it sounds appealing to look after your own property and not have to involve an agency to help. The major factor is normally about saving money. But what about the downsides?
Social media is awash with titbits about the pros and cons of being a DIY Landlord versus using an agent but often with very little detail to back this up. Agents are often maligned as caring nothing about their clients and just looking for profit.
In this article, I’m going to look at both sides in detail to enable those would-be landlords and those currently DIY landlords to assess whether this is a road they want to travel down or to stay on.
Responsibilities of a Being DIY Landlord
It sounds great that you have a property, you rent it out and collect the rent and hey presto, I see lots of talk about passive income etc. But the reality is it’s not so easy and any income generated is far from passive!
There are some important activities DIY landlords need to address and questions they should ask themselves so let’s take a look at these.
Do you really have the time alongside your existing professional and personal commitments, to efficiently manage a property and deal with unexpected issues? Be aware it can be enormously time consuming.
Are you confident of fully understanding the often complex legal and regulatory framework around letting property in Scotland? Currently there are more than 170 pieces of Scottish legislation that a landlord is required to comply with. You also need to be fully committed to keeping up to date with changes when they occur.
Do you really fully understand the local market, with its varying rent levels and vagaries? The rental market is notoriously complex with rents varying seasonally and by location sometime street by street. Setting the wrong rent can result in loss of income due to increased voids or pitching a property below the market level.
Are you a good judge of character? Finding reliable tenants, even with the right checks in place, isn’t as easy as people might think. What processes will you follow to do your checks? What credit checking facility will you use? Will you implement a rent guarantee insurance? Winging it comes with risks.
Are you experienced in dispute resolution? Do you have the time and patience to deal with disgruntled tenants when things go wrong? And they will! Are you willing to build a working relationship with tenants to reduce the chances of disputes and increase the chances of them staying long-term?
Do you feel comfortable doing the necessary admin involved? Paperwork, including everything to do with finance, insurance and maintenance, needs to be kept in order to meet a landlord’s legal and regulatory obligations.
Maintenance and Repairs
Can you manage maintenance and repairs yourself? You can end up dealing with everything from a leaking tap to possibly upgrading of property. You may also be called at any time of the day or night and do you know trustworthy tradespeople who can sort things out when needed?
Do you have an entrepreneurial spirit? Letting property is essentially running a business, no matter how small, and as a result, people need to be commercially minded to make it a success.
So, in short, a landlord needs to:
- Research and understand the local market, set correct rents,
- Find and reference check reliable tenants, deal with their enquiries.
- Stay on top of all the paperwork.
- Adhere to all necessary laws and regulations.
- Deal with all repairs and maintenance.
No one should underestimate the hours they need to put in. Just keeping up with Scotland’s ever-changing property legislation is a major job in itself especially at the moment with the number of changes that are coming through. And this is just one of the parts of being a DIY landlord.
So landlords who feel they can tick all the boxes above the self-managed route might be the best option.
Lastly let’s not forget that you are letting a home to someone and anyone who does this, we believe, also has a moral obligation to ensure that a property is safe, warm and well maintained.
For those who don’t feel they are willing to commit the time and effort required to properly manage their own properties then they should look at the having their properties managed by a professional agent.
What are the benefits of using a professional agency?
Agencies are Specialists
As mentioned already, having a buy-to-let property is essentially like running a business with a large number of legal and regulatory responsibilities that need to be met.
This is what agencies do. Not many of us would choose to service our own car these days. It’s a specialist field requiring the knowledge and tools most of us just don’t have. If you don’t trust yourself to service your own car, why on earth would you trust yourself with a vastly more valuable asset like your investment property?
Reduce time and stress
Using a good agent should mean more time available to enjoy oneself and reduce stress. A good agent should be focused on mitigating risks and reducing stress and hassle for their clients freeing up time.
The best agents are really asset management companies, the asset in this being property. They should be focused on ensuring their clients benefit from the best possible returns from their investments. They will have an intimate knowledge of local market conditions, trends, demand levels, tenant demographics and for these reasons will ensure they set a realistic market rent and seek to keep void periods to a minimum.
Recent research conducted by insurance firm Endsleigh backs this up. In a survey of 500 landlords, it was revealed that those who use a letting agent estimated they save £1,910 a year by not taking on the responsibility of marketing and managing the properties themselves.
Most of these savings come as a result of the guards against costly void periods, with letting agents offering a number of services to make these periods much less likely. What’s more, 76% of the landlords surveyed said that their agent tends to help them find tenants in a proactive manner, as well as offering expert assistance on key financial and legal matters.
Finding Suitable Tenants
A good agent should constantly seek ways to mitigate their client’s risk and one of the ways we do this is by finding the right tenants. They will carry out accompanied viewings so they meet any potential tenants and also conduct all the appropriate checks that lead to a suitable tenant and thus reduce the risk of rent arrears and potential damage to their client’s asset.
Whether it’s a broken boiler or a pesky pest control problem, maintenance of your property is a foregone conclusion. Good agents will have a comprehensive network of tradesmen available at their fingertips and will get problems resolved quicker than a homeowner will. They will also handle those emergency calls outside of office hours, which is trickier for landlords to deal with.
Peace of Mind
With the ever-increasing levels of regulation around residential property letting and changes to the legal framework, a private landlord faces many pitfalls that could end in loss of income, prosecution and, in the worst case, criminal charges. A good agent will take on that burden and fulfil the majority of a landlord’s obligations on their behalf. In Scotland, all agents now are required to be registered and adhere to a code of conduct with a minimum level of staff training. Staff also are required to undertake ongoing CPD so they stay up to date with changing regulations. In addition, some agents are also members of various trade bodies, like ARLA Propertymark and The Property Ombudsman. This is further reassurance that you’re dealing with a quality agency.
Whether you’re a first-time landlord or an experienced old hand, if you choose the DIY landlord route you need to commit a considerable amount of time to stay up to date with the lettings market, as well as the day-to-day running of your property. If you measure your time, you will find that everything takes a lot longer than you first suspected.
A good Edinburgh letting agent, will immerse themselves in the market and as a matter of course stay up to date with all the latest legislation and regulations. They will have the systems and processes in place to help them run their operations efficiently and effectively, but can also react quickly to any changes that take place in the market that might have an impact on their clients’ returns.
When deciding whether you choose the DIY route or use an agency do not underestimate the commitment you are making. Not only to yourself and how you spend your time but also to the tenants you are providing a home to
If you’re looking for help looking after your property to maximise the returns, get in touch today.