This week we’re speaking to Matthew Driscoll, Lettings Manager at Woodcock Holmes, a Reposit Partner Agent in Peterborough. He shares his insight into the market, tips for how to attract new landlords and his amazing story of meeting Reposit and making his first sale within 24hours.
How’s the letting market in Peterborough right now?
Extremely buoyant! There are plenty of tenants looking for property, but the main issue is that there just isn’t enough property currently available. The main reason for this is that investors just aren't buying property like they used to, and this could be down to the climate of the market, with mortgages and the increase in stamp duty.
5% stamp duty for a rental property is a lot of money for landlords, and unless their figures really stack up, they just aren’t going to be buying property.
What are the challenges facing the lettings industry?
The tenancy fee ban. As is the standard situation with the government they’ve spoken to a handful of people and maybe some companies, and made a decision. I think they looked at London and not the country as a whole, and decided that the fees that are being charged are extortionate.
London is a very different market to the rest of the country. For example, in Peterborough the average fee for an adult to move into a rental property is £200 per person. If you look again in London that average fee goes up to in the region of £600! And the only difference is that London agents overheads may be slightly higher, but that should be reflected in the management fees they charge landlords on the rents they are achieving, and not tenant fees.
Because of this, rather than coming up with an across the board fee cap to make it realistic, they just decided to go ahead and ban fees to tenants altogether. Now obviously this is a huge cut in income for letting agents and landlords, which to be honest will need to be replaced somehow. It is possible that landlords will see this money back in the form of increased rents.
It’s a bit of a problem, I think if the government had sat down and talked with agents from different regions then they would have seen that a cap would be more reasonable and respectable.
What changes do you expect to see in estate agency?
I believe proptech is always a good thing, although I am aware that some people are scared of tech and scared of change. However, the directors here at Woodcock Holmes are very excited by change, and look forward to it. As a company we are always looking at new technology and new aspects coming into the business, and one of the big things we have done was invest in the way we carry out and manage our inventories.
My opinion is that agents that don’t accept proptech, or aren’t even willing to consider it, are the agents that will be left behind.
Tenants (and everyone else for that matter) as a whole are becoming a lot more tech savvy. Even my 90 year old granddad has a smart phone! If a 90 year old can use a smartphone that tells me that the world is advancing, and we have to move forward with it. Businesses which can’t or won’t adapt will get left behind, and as they do realise they need further tech, it may be too late. That’s what we’re always concerned about.
I am not saying go ahead with every new tech offering, however the way the world is going we need to make everything easier to use and more streamlined. So listen to tech advisers and find something that works with your business.
What is your no.1 tip for running a successful agency?
From our experience, making your company stand out is the best way to attract more landlords. In Peterborough a lot of agents currently still work with written inventories, whereas at Woodcock Holmes we conduct DVD inventories.
We go around the properties with a camera and video the place from top to bottom, and because of this we have a really high success rate at the end of tenancies, and have very few disputes.
We therefore pride ourselves on making sure that landlords get their properties back in conditions that it was given to tenants. As it is completely visual and dated it makes it a lot easier for the tenant, for us and for the Landlord to get the property back in the same condition, or get the necessary work done with the agreement from the tenant to pay out of their deposit.
This is not only something that we advertise quite heavily, but also something we have invested in substantially. We had a website built specifically for our inventories so that landlords can view the inventory at any time at any place on any device. So for us this is a large selling point, and makes us stand out from a very crowded market.
We’re delighted that you joined as a Reposit Partner and sold a Reposit just 24 hours after speaking with us at the NALS conference! How did you find the process?
It was really simple. We came back from the conference on Tuesday, on Wednesday the tenant in question came into the office in the morning, and considering her situation I decided to chat to her about Reposit. The tenant got quite excited and wanted to go ahead with it, so I phoned the number I received at the conference. I was talked through the process of going on to the website, and once we were signed up and all details were in it must’ve taken 5 minutes, if that.
It was just a very simple process, very streamlined, and a very easy product to sell. It sells itself, it’s going to serve tenants very well, and it’s a great company to be involved with.
The tenant we signed up with you was moving from one of our own rental properties into another. As we knew the landlord of the previous property was quite fussy we knew we weren’t in a position to transfer the deposit over for her, which left her in a very awkward situation of needing to find £800 as a deposit for the new house. The tenant was very excited when we told her about your product, she went from thinking she had to find £800 up front, instead ended up saving a lot of money by using Reposit.
I believe in your product, and I can see you guys do too. Everyone we spoke to at the NALs seminar was very passionate about it, and that’s one of those things that stick in your head, and that is one of the reasons we chose to push forward with it.
Woodcock Holmes are always looking for ways to improve, looking for ways that we can make things easier and better for both tenant and landlord, and we believe Reposit does just that, your concept is fantastic.