Even with 2019 well underway, letting agents need to keep refining their long-term goals and business targets. For agencies with a coherent strategy in place, there will be plenty of opportunities to thrive.
First, the positives: Rental growth has remained steady, the number of people renting is at an all-time high and the sector is becoming more professional and regulated, helping to improve its public perception.
There will, of course, be a range of challenges this year, including the introduction of the Tenant Fees Bill as well as the ongoing efforts to finalise Britain's departure from the European Union.
But there are many things you can do, if not more, to ensure your sustainable success this year and beyond. Here are just three:
Remind landlords of the positives
Being proactive and positive will be crucial when it comes to client retention and securing new business in 2019.
It will be easy for landlords to focus on the negatives, after a turbulent few years in which they have had to adapt to a host of regulation and legislation changes.
Therefore, reminding landlords why buy-to-let remains one of the steadiest investment asset classes must be a key focus area for letting agents in 2019. You can do this by showing clients how rents are rising in the local area or how demand for available rental properties is outstripping supply.
By passing on your positivity and confidence, you can show your clients that your agency is unmoved by market uncertainty and ready for the challenges ahead, based on the continued success of smart agencies.
Hearing the untold success stories of smart investors who capitalise on others’ jitters should help to encourage landlords to maintain or expand their portfolios.
Get your processes in order
In a skittish market where landlords are looking for the best value for money, every agent now needs to demonstrate why they should be chosen ahead of the competition.
As monitoring costs and finances become increasingly important to landlords, showing that your agency is on top of management processes will go a long way to achieving this outcome.
With the number of CRM, software and business administration systems at our disposal, there is every opportunity for your agency to be super-organised and fast-moving.
As an absolute minimum, today’s landlord will expect you to provide them with all the paperwork and information they need in an efficient and timely manner. This is so important because landlords’ compliance obligations have become more comprehensive in recent years.
An integral part of the service you provide is managing and processing rental payments on landlords’ behalf. An automated rental payment platform can help save significant amounts of time, while reducing the margin for error and increasing accuracy.
Automated payment systems can also help you to stay on top of rental arrears by sending tenants useful SMS reminders and providing you with the opportunity to see the live payment status of a portfolio quickly and easily.
Take advantage of a maturing PropTech sector
I recently spoke about 2018 as the year that PropTech found itself, and I believe 2019 will follow on as the one in which letting agents will benefit from partnering with the best PropTech suppliers.
The PropTech sector has now matured to a point where there are a number of key suppliers that have longevity and have gained trust from their customer base of agents.
These suppliers provide products and services which meet real industry needs. Over the last few years, they have been able to take feedback from their clients on board and update their offerings to maintain impressive momentum.
Agents need to approach PropTech in the same way that a landlord would approach choosing a letting agency: Is there value for money? Is it a long-term investment? Is the company passionate about getting my business?
It remains crucial that you evaluate PropTech services against the specific needs of your business, ensuring that you are solving a problem rather than creating a new one. That being said, working with the best partners this year can certainly help you cut costs, streamline processes and save time on administration.
Combine this with a positive attitude and an effort to show landlords the value of your proposition and your agency will be all set to thrive in 2019.
*Neil Cobbold is chief operating officer of PayProp UK