Use your Head and not your Heart

Private Property South Africa
Lea Jacobs

It is extremely unlikely that anyone would walk into an investment broker, hand over a million Rand and walk out again. Strangely enough very often this is exactly what happens when landlords decide to rent out property. Choosing a good rental agent who is going to protect your asset often doesn’t come into play and many give little regard to what a service like this should offer.

Logically, this is foolish. With new laws protecting the rights of tenants, it is more important than ever that the person you employ not only knows his/her job, but actually does it properly. This is particularly relevant, although not strictly reserved, for those who own property remotely from where they reside.

While the right choice of tenant is vital, so too is the ability of an agent to keep a firm eye on what is going on. Assumptions play no role in property investment and finding the right person to oversee this very expensive asset is a must. The easiest and perhaps the best way of finding a good rental agent is by asking around. Word of mouth will always be the best form of advertising and any agent that has earned a good reputation in a given area should be considered.

There are a number of questions that landlords should ask before utilising the services of an agent, including how the agency’s books are administered, what services they offer and what systems are in place if a tenant defaults on a rental payment. As with any business, a rental agent is often only as good as the team that runs it. Maintenance is of particular importance to absentee landlords; does the agency have the right maintenance people on board that can keep the property in ship-shape condition and deal with emergency repairs as required?

Another aspect which anyone should consider before handing over the reins is whether the agency concerned is registered with the correct authorities. Any person who deals in property must be registered with the Estate Agency Affairs Board whether or not they actively sell property. One of the most crucial parts of renting out a property is securing the rental every month. Find out how many late payers or rental defaulters are on the agency’s books. Getting a clear idea of how the agency deals with erring tenants is one of the most important aspects of the entire process. A written mandate covering all duties and obligations by the letting agent is obligatory.

For absentee landlords, having a reputable agent looking after the property is even more of a necessity. Coastal properties in particular generally need more maintenance than those in inland areas and having an agent that regularly checks on the home is a must. Holiday rentals are a completely different ball game and finding a trustworthy agent to oversee both the contents of the home as well as collecting the rentals is sure to keep holidaymakers coming back for more.

You get what you pay for and choosing to go with a rental agent purely because they are cheaper than the rest is not necessarily a good idea. A good agency is effectively worth its weight in gold and will probably end up saving you money at the end of the day.

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