Property prices are rarely out of the news. And the story is often the same: they're too high for first-time buyers. Millions of people in the UK would love to get on the housing ladder but simply can't afford to.
That means rental accommodation is the only realistic option for many. It’s no surprise, then, that the property lettings business is expanding all the time – helped also, somewhat ironically, by the growing numbers of landlords buying properties to let. It could be seen as an illustration of another hot topic in the media – the inequality of wealth in the UK. On one side are the “haves”, on the other are the “have-nots”, and in the middle is the property lettings agent, making the most of the business opportunities created by the situation.
If you’re thinking of entering the property lettings and management industry, one of your options is to start a franchise business. This can help to give you an immediate foothold in the market as you’ll be trading under a familiar brand and working with a business model that has already been tried and tested by other franchisees. You’ll need to pay a lump sum for the privilege as well as ongoing fees, but the franchisor will provide help and support in setting up and marketing your business.
You don’t need qualifications or even experience in the industry to start a lettings agency – although the latter would certainty help. However, you do need certain qualities to make your venture a success.
Good communication and customer service skills are a must – you’ll have to liaise between landlords and tenants and look after the interests of both parties. You need to be good with numbers and words – as well as working with figures you’ll have to market the properties to let – and with the latter in mind it helps if you’re a natural salesperson.
Your problem-solving skills will also be put to the test regularly, especially if you’ll be managing the properties as well as just letting them. Tenants and landlords will be reliant on you to deal with any issues or complications promptly and with the minimum disruption to either party, so you’ll be arranging maintenance and repairs, etc. You might also be called upon to mediate and settle any disputes that could arise.
Much of your time will be spent out and about, meeting landlords and tenants, supervising viewings and carrying out checks on properties, etc. In some cases you can start your business from home to keep overheads at a minimum – however, you’ll need to consider office premises as you grow, especially if you take on employees.
Building a portfolio of clients takes time, so you’ll need sufficient funding to keep your business going through the startup phase. Although banks are often more willing to lend to franchise businesses than ordinary startups because they’re perceived to be less risky, you’ll probably have to find at least a third of the necessary funding yourself – possibly more.
Don’t sign up to one franchise before you’ve researched all your options. Compare the fees and find out what you’ll be getting from the deal. Ask to see sample contracts and talk to the company’s other franchisees to gauge the level of support you’re likely to get.