With 45% of Medway HMO owners living outside of the Medway towns, could smartphones replace cheap letting agents?

There are very few people who have not succumbed to the ease of a smartphone. Those that haven’t – I’m in awe. For me, my phone is instant access to every aspect of my business and – as for many I’m sure – has become a fairly permanent extension of my forearm. But is it really possible that a phone could truly replace a real letting agent? Well the simple answer is yes. But – and there is a big but – it depends on the landlord.

For all intents and purposes, this discussion is focussed on self managing landlords in the Privately Rented Sector. More specifically one of the biggest groups of self managers, accidental landlords. These being ones who did not intentionally choose to become a landlord but became one because of circumstantial changes. Some research shows that as many as 24% of landlords may be accidental. The reasons for becoming an accidental landlord can be broken down into four key categories:

So faced with a property to rent they never planned to have, what is an accidental landlord to do? Well, there is no denying that the wonders of the internet and sites like Openrent, Rightmove, Zoopla make advertising a hell of a lot easier. They are all great tools and for a self managing landlord who knows know about the legalities of managing a property and his obligations to his tenants, they are an ideal marketing tool. But marketing is just one aspect of self management and it’s the other areas that have led many to come unstuck. Self management is not a small commitment.

Those who don’t know about the legalities and liabilities of property management and want help from an agent, I will tell each and every one of them the same – that you get what you pay for. If you don’t pay an agent a decent rate, then can you expect a good job? The question then comes back to what a landlord is prepared to pay for the service. Particularly if they feel they could easily find tenants and manage the property themselves. And so we return to the magical wonders of the internet.

I guess the real question to be asked of any accidental landlord is, your property is a great financial asset so can you properly manage it? Not just advertise it, but manage the tenants and the maintenance? And where a lack of proximity to the property is true, can you do it from your smartphone or computer? In my experience, for HMO landlords the answer to that is often no. The higher number of tenants in HMOs is often the reason why the landlords look for management services. More tenants mean more rental collections, more maintenance, more cleaning and more overall management. Add into that locality of ownership and geographically, self managing an HMO becomes even more challenging. For example, in Medway there are currently 126 registered HMOs. 45% of the owners of those HMO properties live outside of the Medway towns, some as far away as Dorset.

Our phones give us instant access to resources and services but without being able to physically check the property yourself, you relinquish control to the contractors or service providers you engage with. Can you trust them enough to do that? For single let self-managing landlords the answer may well be yes, in which case cheap letting agents watch out! You are going to have to prove your worth – and rightly so. But for high quality, value adding managing agents like myself, we don’t have anything to fear.

On first reading the title of this post, it would be easy to think I’d be quivering at the prospect of this becoming a reality. But far from it, I want to challenge my business to be competitive and offer the best service. And technology is a big part of that. It’s not going to dissipate and any sensible business man or woman will continue to evolve their business and look at new ways of keeping their business relevant and fit for purpose, both through service and ingenuity. Could I personally run my business sat in the middle of a field? Yes… as long as the field had decent 4G.

So what do you think? Any landlords self managing from their phones? Let me know how it’s working out for you. Any business owners not entirely reliant on their smartphone? Please share your secret! You can email at hasan@home-share.co.uk, contact me on LinkedIn or Facebook, or call me on 07944 726676‬.


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