You can avoid giving away 10% +++ of your rental income to a high street letting agent by finding tenants yourself and it isn’t hard to do if you use an online letting agent. Instead of charging you a hefty commission, they charge you a smallish flat fee to advertise your property on all the main websites and some even offer free ads for a limited period.
It does take time and effort so if you’ve got a busy life, a full-time job, you’re juggling young kids or your rental property is miles away from where you live, this section isn’t for you. You might want to read about Choosing a Letting Agent instead.
However, for those who can spare the time, I’d say it’s well worth trying to find tenants yourself. Remember, you won’t only save the 10% commission charged by high street letting agents, but also the additional charges they load on top plus their renewal fees – and you’ll be saving your tenants hundreds of pounds too.
So how do you find tenants for free without using a high street letting agent?
As the vast majority start their search online, you really need to advertise your property on all the main property websites, including Rightmove and Hoopla. To do this you need an online letting agent. There are loads to choose from, but my favourites are OpenRent (which offers limited free ads) and UPad. Some of them will place your ad on their website without charge, meaning you might find tenants for free, but for a few quid they will also place your ad on all the major property sites, including Rightmove and Hoopla. Most charge less than £100 for this.
You can also pick and pay for other services you need, such as photos, tenancy agreements and inventories, floor plans, Energy Performance Certificates and even a rent guarantee , or you can do all the rest yourself. You only pay for what you need, saving you money.
Some, including Upad, also offer a full property management service too, but for less than high street agents, however you will still have to do the viewings yourself.
Which online agents should you use?
Of the 3 online letting agents mentioned above, all of which I’ve tried and recommend, OpenRent is the cheapest –in fact, your first advert will be free for a limited period. After that, its charges start at just £29 to place your ad on all most of the major property websites, including Rightmove and Zoopla. It is definitely worth this fee as advertising only on the agents’ site is unlikely to bring you enough traffic.
What I love about OpenRent is their Rent Now option, which means that for £49 you get an ad, and a To Let board (which they put up) plus, once you’ve chosen tenants, you ask them to click the Rent Now button on your ad and Upad will start the referencing process, generate a tenancy agreement, collect the first months’ rent and collect and protect the deposit. It’s super cheap and super easy!
If you’re letting a property for the first time, you can find self-letting tips here. But if you want your hand held a bit more tightly, I suggest you look at Upad or easyProperty. They both provide lots of advice and a pick and mix range of extra services, such as professional photos and floorpans. Upad also allows you to advertise individual rooms.
One benefit of using EasyProperty is that it will carry out the viewings for you, for an additional fee.
So how do online letting agents work?
1: You sign up to one of the online agents. I strongly recommend OpenRent and UPad (there are others, lots of them, but I’ recommending these two because they’re easy to use and offer, IMO, the best value).
2: You upload your property details (including photos) to one of their websites and within a few hours, hey presto, your ad will appear on Rightmove, Zoopla and often Gumtree as well as all the other major property portals alongside those of all the high street letting agents.
3: When the ad generates enquiries from tenants, their contact details will be forwarded to you by text or by email so you can get in touch and arrange the viewings yourself – although, as I mentioned, easyProperty will also show prospective tenants round your property for an hourly fee.
4: If you need additional services such as Energy Performance Certificates and Gas Safety checks, most of the online letting agents can arrange these too, although they often charge a premium.
5: When you’ve found a suitable applicant, you can arrange to reference the tenants yourself, which is really easy, and write your own tenancy agreement, or you can pay the online letting agents to do all of this for you. As already mentioned, OpenRent has a Rent Now service covering all of the above plus it will take care of the first month’s rent and deposit collection and collect the deposit for just £49.
If you like, online letting agents can also arrange the inventory and check-in and check-out reports, but again, you’ll pay slightly more than if you arranged these independently.
Basically, the more services you use, the more you’ll pay, but your final bill will still be £xxs cheaper than using a high street letting agent. You might even be lucky and find tenants for free!