With all the recent change and upheaval in the rental sector it may be time to consider how letting agencies will evolve to ensure they remain indispensable to the letting transaction.
As part of this panel article for Estate Agent Today, which discussed what an agency might look like in 2028, I predicted that more agents would take on a property concierge role over the next decade.
With this article, I’d like to explain what I mean by that and why I think it will happen.
What is property concierge and how does it work?
The idea of a property concierge can go as far as you want it to, but the essential concept is that of a concierge-like service around hotel-style tenancies, in which household duties are not handled by families themselves but by you, the letting agent.
These duties could include dry-cleaning, managing deliveries, organising travel and logistics or any other reasonable requests your tenants may have.
With its strong focus on convenience and efficiency, this kind of service is clearly aimed at millennial tenants, who typically have more disposable income, very little time and are willing to pay for convenience. They want quick, technology-enabled solutions that make their everyday lives easier and would find the idea of outsourcing their everyday chores and errands very appealing.
A property concierge service may seem over-the-top for an average letting agent, but it’s a way for you to become involved in revenue-generating services on the tenant side of the rental contract, even after the property has been let. And when these same tenants come to purchase, sell or let a home in the future, will your brand have left a long-lasting effect on them?
You could say a property concierge service is a luxury extension of full property management for modern tenants. If letting agents don't find a way to get involved, their competitors might.
Is anyone already doing this?
From what I can see, there aren't too many agents currently offering this service. Some firms offer a concierge service for property sellers and buyers - either helping sellers to improve a property or helping buyers to settle in to their new area after they have moved.
And while it’s not necessarily a letting agent (in fact, as the owner, it specifically claims not to be), one ‘agency’ nevertheless offers a model of managing the rental process for tenants.
The firm says it is 'redefining the way people think about, and experience, renting and living in cities'.
Once a property has been let, the agency continues to manage it through a dedicated on-site management team, on call seven days a week, helping tenants with their problems.
As more tenants - particularly in London - look for this kind of living scenario, the demand for concierge-style service will likely escalate.
Build to Rent is key to the industry's future
Another possible driver is the Build to Rent (BTR) sector. While still only representing a small proportion of the private rental market, BTR is gaining traction. According to the British Property Federation, there are now almost 125,000 BTR homes complete, under construction and in planning across the UK.
I’ve spoken before about the potential benefits of this sector to letting agents. This could be through building relationships with developers and management companies or sourcing land for new developments and finding tenants to fill them.
As Build to Rent grows it will also provide more professional opportunities for letting agents. As more tenants who buy into this modern living lifestyle, there could be scope to offer them additional services and management, generating much-needed additional revenue.
Agents must make themselves indispensable
As the industry continues to adapt and agents fight off challenges from several sides, it's crucial to consider how you're going to remain indispensable to the rental transaction.
For many agents much of their business will continue to be made up of traditional lets, but it couldn’t hurt to branch out into more areas of the rental transaction.
If you have several strings to your bow - including traditional lets, short-term lets and property concierge, for example - your brand will appeal to a higher number of potential customers.
*Neil Cobbold is Chief Operating Officer of PayProp in the UK