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Sep 24, 2016: Online Agent Growth?

A high street letting agent claims that the growth of online agents is a 'false economy'. Fran Mulhall, regional manager for GFW Letting, admits that online agents are 'gaining momentum'. She says she understands why online alternatives are proving popular with landlords. "Online agents are convenient, open outside of standard business hours and they do typically charge less than high street agents," she says. Mulhall says another aspect of using an online agent that appeals to landlords is the option to take a hands-on approach, which 'might make them feel more confident and comfortable with their choice of tenant'. However, the agent says that although solely online firms may seem 'cheaper and convenient', a letting agent has the double responsibility of letting a property and making sure that all aspects of the tenancy are legally compliant. She questions whether a 'faceless online brand' has the accountability to ensure landlords are kept up to date with the latest lettings legislation. Mulhall, who is also North East and Cumbria representative for the Association of Residential Letting Agents, goes on to say that a letting agent's face-to-face and regular contact with the prospective tenant is a vital part of selling the unique features of a rental property. "Online agents lack a personal, one-to-one service and they're very unlikely to be based locally," she says. Mulhall concludes by arguing that a local agent is best placed to deal with property management in the event that a maintenance issue arises. “Although the attraction to save money by using an online agent might be strong, landlords could end up with even higher costs if things don’t run smoothly.”

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