First it was short term lets and holiday homes – now it looks as though the entire UK Lettings market could be getting the “digital disruption” treatment.
A new UK start-up, No Agent, claims that its fully integrated lettings management platform can help landlords let their properties without using a 3rd party agent, and save themselves up to £1,600 per year on agent’s fees in the process.
The firm says that it can help slash fees to just £29 pcm and save landlords £1,600 in their first year – no extra fees, no contracts and no marketing expense – plus No Agent says that it will provide free marketing across most of the UK’s major property portals, including Zoopla and RightMove.
No Agent promises “absolute transparency”, and provides a digital interface that can handle all of a landlord’s marketing, viewings, credit checking, rent collection, maintenance and compliance charges.
All in, the firm says they will charge only £29 per month for those letting outside the capital, and £39 for those whose properties are located within the M25. Neither owner nor tenant will face the usual onerous estate agents’ fees, they say.
The platform’s modern day tech credentials means that the entire lettings process can be managed paperless via the real-time dashboard, although No Agent also runs a 24-hour call centre to assist with viewings, referencing, credit checks, repairs and maintenance and rent and deposit collection.
So far, so Airbnb – but the longer term requirements also means that No Agent are pledging to introduce added benefits like Direct Debits, as opposed to Standing Orders, a hotline to approved property managers with an average of five years’ experience, and free legal advice.
If it sounds like the kind of platform that hasn’t just been conceived and put together overnight by a wide-eyed founder in his grandparents potting shed, that’s probably because No Agent have appointed “veteran property technologist”, ex-CEO of Propertyfinder.com (sold to Zoopla in 2009) and Managing Director of MSN Gillian Kent as chairman.
“Despite the impact of the digital revolution, property services haven’t fundamentally changed”, says Kent; “No Agent is the only service that completely automates a range of essential tasks such as marketing, bookings, or reference checks.
“Strategically what we’re doing is empowering landlords to fully manage all aspects of the letting of their property and save money as a direct result. Agencies currently earn £115m a year in fees for doing these sorts of tasks.”
Some might say those agents earn their money and they don’t want the hassle and responsibility of managing their own rental property – but tech evangelists may well see the platform No Agent as refreshingly disruptive – with the potential to be an absolute game-changer.
According to PWC, the number of households in the private rented sector has more than doubled since 2001, and stood at 5.4m in 2014, around 25% of all properties in the UK.
Kent says that the average monthly rent outside of London is now £779, therefore with agents fees, monthly management fees and a month’s rent up front, first year costs for tenants are close to £2,000.
“Using No Agent would save tenants just shy of £1,600. Tenants will also be better off as we don’t charge for services like drawing up tenancy arrangements and credit checks, whereas letting agents now typically charge tenants £337 in fees – many in London are forced to pay over £400.
Doubtless No Agent will face competition, not just from other similarly disruptive start-ups, but from the agents themselves, who will be determined to up their games to keep their landlords, but the success of the likes of Airbnb, Homeaway, and OneFineStay suggest that property management is something that can increasingly be done digitally, with minimal fuss.
It will be fascinating to see how No Agent go – can you imagine a world without lettings agents?
Surely those flashy Foxtons minis can’t drive themselves? Actually, they probably can.