In today’s hyper-connected and arguably overly-digital environment, it is no surprise that even the most traditional services are moving to an online platform. Over the last few years, real estate has felt the shift in digitization, bringing with it both benefits and drawbacks on both the buyer and seller side of the line. In the letting market, high street letting agents have experienced this growing trend as well. Online letting agents are now popping up on nearly every corner of the internet, giving prospective and current landlords more options than the conventional brick-and-mortar shops. However, even in the burgeoning digital age, high street letting agents continue to thrive.
In a recent market report highlight letting agents in Mayfair, one of London’s most exclusive neighbourhoods for both purchasing and letting, statistics show that an impressive 47 per cent of property owners prefer to use a high street letting agent. Although online letting agents are growing in popularity, there are distinct differences between the two that continue to allow high street agents to keep the upper hand in the letting market.
Differences Between High Street and Online Letting Agents
The most notable difference between traditional high street and online letting agents is the physical location interested individuals may walk into to seek out professional help. High street letting agents offer an in-person experience, as opposed to what some deem a colder, less tailored approach from online letting agents. The ability to visit a human and discuss specific needs face to face can prove more powerful, and ultimately, beneficial, to property owners.
However, having an actual location one can visit may limit the hours of operation a high street letting agent has available to clients. Online letting agents are notorious for being “always on,” making it easier in some instances to receive timely communication.
In addition to a brick-and-mortar location, high street letting agents have the advantage of the experience on their side. Although some online letting agents have substantial expertise in letting laws and advertising strategies, high street professionals have often been in the same neighbourhood for several years. This gives them an upper hand in determining pricing, finding tenants, and negotiating deals for landlords when those needs arise.
Online letting agents do have their benefits, though, compared to high street competitors. Many are drawn to online letting agencies for their unique ability to promote a tenancy digitally. The use of social media and other online mediums can come in handy for potential landlords wanting to sign a tenant quickly. High street agents are coming around to the digital age from a marketing perspective, but most online agencies win in this category. Additionally, online letting agents may have advantages using online platforms to help coordinate bookings, viewing, and ongoing management. The speed and efficiency of these tools can reduce both the time and effort put in by the landlord.
Preferences Among Landlords and Tenants
The statistics showcasing the preference among landlords to use high street letting agents are clear. This nod to the traditional way of doing business in the letting market may be tied to the personalisation of the process, as well as the expertise that takes place behind the scenes. However, a small number of landlords – and now tenants – prefer online letting agents thanks to the convenience factors built into the process.
One significant factor driving more landlords and tenants toward online letting agencies is the cost difference. Because there is no physical location for clients to visit, online letting agents are notably less expensive than high street agents. On average, the cost of utilising the expertise and ongoing management skills of a high street agent comes to 15 per cent of the monthly rents. An online letting agent may only charge a fraction of this fee, averaging nearer to 8 per cent. In some instances, getting a lower cost for these services means having the ability to charge a lower rent – a benefit to tenants and landlords looking to lock in a lease quickly.
Although a lower price point may be a draw, landlords need to take a close look at what they want from their letting agent. For those who live far away from a property and cannot lend a hand with viewings or vetting of potential tenants, having an in-person letting agent from a high street agency can be incredibly helpful. Landlords who are solely focused on cost may benefit more from an online letting agent, but it is essential to weigh the pros and cons compared to a traditional high street service.