I spoke with Alicia, a property enthusiast who started as a property manager and moved into lettings. She is a self-employed agent under Agent & Homes. Her extensive knowledge and passion for providing a personalised service for all her clients. Here is her story:
How and why did you get into real estate?
It started in Poland for me, I worked at a big block management firm. It all changed when I got to London however and I moved into sales. I started working at a luxury furniture store where I sold high-end furniture. I realised I wanted to get back into the property sector and I found an opportunity to work as a letting administrator for an Italian businessman that was investing properties across eastern Europe. He also needed management of properties in London.
I liked working with him, and I realised I wanted to work for an estate agency to get a more challenging experience. I worked for one of the larger outfits and it was tough. A very challenging role but one that I came to really enjoy. I worked there for about 13 months. I was managing about 250 properties, so you can imagine, it was busy.
I decided to get my ARLA certification as well, because I really wanted to make sure I was credible in the industry. You reach a point where you need to be able to give legal advice, and without certification, you cannot do that. And that was what I was after.
The change of moving from a corporate agency to one that I self-employed is different. I’m currently self-employed with Agent & Homes. The great part is that my network is still active, and I can take full accountability for it. I’m not just stuck with one company; I can work with multiple different suppliers that suit my clients. The best part is that I can provide a full complete service for my customers.
You’ve been in property management for a couple of years now?
Yes 5 years, and I got into lettings about just over a year ago. I started working with the private client and then I met agents from Agent & Homes which was exciting. I realised that lettings is more interesting and the ARLA certificate helped with that.
I loved the Agent & Homes model and realised that this was something that I wanted to do and get started in. I had a well-established network already, so it was possible to get started.
How did you hold up during the pandemic?
Beginning was very difficult. The lack of government guidance made it harder to understand as well. We realised we needed technology to help us adapt. One of the main things for us was making sure we got proper video / 3D tours of all properties. This helped us create an automatic pre-screen as well and I found that to be quite successful. Virtual viewings allowed us to keep pushing our properties and to generate interest in them.
I’ve had to adapt the way we work because I have an apartment in Brighton that I am managing, and I have a great relationship with the tenant next door and she’s actually taken over the viewings there. This helps ensure that we’re reducing the chance of spreading the infection and/or me being a carrier. That’s the great thing about this time, as difficult and horrible as it has been, we’ve been forced to learn to do things differently and adapt.
Even though the property market is open, I think things will change now. The rental market will remain stagnant because people will not want to move now because due to the uncertainty or furlough status they won’t be able to pass referencing. Which is why a majority of people moved out of London.
Areas like Central London and busy areas are suddenly seeing a fall in rental prices and fall in demand because people realise why would they need to stay there. This will remain till we’re back to normal.
Depending on the size of the portfolio there is a lot that will change in the sector. Smaller Landlords will probably decide to sell and larger one will change the structure of ownership as if the properties are under their personal name they are losing thousands of pounds a year.
In the property market what are some of the biggest changes that you expect?
The regulations are going to make it harder to be a BTL landlord. With all the certifications and safety reports, this will create a barrier to entry. They will require a property management firm to help you manage these investments.
From the lettings point of view, I’m quite sceptical. I think prices will fall and will remain lower. The screening of tenants needs to be more comprehensive; it isn’t just about affordability anymore. It’s about personality and individuals. Landlords need to understand that the process needs to be more personal. The quality of the potential tenant is really important.
What is one thing that agencies have to change to survive.?
They need to focus on the quality and knowledge of their employees. The personal approach is important now more than ever. The landlords need support and constant reminder that we are in a new property market. This is a different and difficult time for everyone.
They need to be more honest with their landlords to help them get the most value out of this entire process. There are many properties that need a lot of work before they are ready to be let, tenants are a lot more picky and if they want to get higher rentals they need to upgrade the property to meet that. Getting landlords out of that mentality is difficult.
High street brands have an established company and reputation so they will survive, but their employees are not ready to personalise and landlords will require more. Number of viewings is not good enough anymore. A personal more tailored approach is present.
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