Day in the life of a Letting Agent

man with houseThere is a great buzz in the lettings team this morning. Having listed a one bedroom property for £515 per week on Monday, we agree a budget-busting price of £600 per week by Thursday. In the heart of London’s theatre district, tenants were almost falling over themselves to secure this urban, edgy newly refurbished property. After a number of viewings, a bidding war took place between a Canadian student and a professional couple who work in the City. Surprisingly perhaps, we are seeing an increasing number of international student tenants pushing out the traditional finance professionals. Not the typical ‘pizza box’ students you imagine, these wealthy students are spurning traditional ‘digs’ for top quality property to match their aspirational lifestyles.

Agreeing the student’s offer, we inform a very pleased landlord and begin our stringent vetting and referencing process on the applicant. With the various documents and paperwork requested, we head-off for a ‘private view’ we have organised for all the local sales agents of a new property, just refurbished by our in-house team.  This shows them how we transform properties we buy and the kind of ‘raw material’ we are looking for.

Arriving in South Kensington, we are armed with some extra accessories and ornaments to put the final touches on this two bedroom rental unit.  All done, the agents begin to arrive, looking around and discussing the property with us whilst enjoying some prosecco and canapes. As we take them around, the agent who sold it to us praises the metamorphosis from tired, unmodernised unit to a well-laid out, interior designed property. We thank him and promise to pass on his compliments to our refurbishment and interior design teams. Other agents tell us they have some excellent opportunities which would fit our brief and promise to tell us more.

After the successful first half of the day, a blip was sure to arise. Leaving the property, I meet a prospective tenant, a foreign banker, at a fine red brick mansion block in Marylebone. Despite being on the first-floor, he insists we take the lift. Entering the charming but old-fashioned structure, one where you have to shut the doors and pull the grate before it will move, I press the first-floor button. Commencing its ascent, the lift shortly shudders, squeaks and grinds to a halt. As a look of horror crosses my face, I realise we are very much stuck and squashed together in the tiny space. Nail biting minutes tick by (which feel like hours) before the porter comes to our rescue and we finally arrive on the first floor.

After a quick look around the property, the tenant chooses the stairs for his way down. Not surprisingly, he does not put forward an offer. Fortunately, we have three more viewings booked in for tomorrow, so I am not concerned. The porter assures me that the lift will be fixed by then.

Back to the office for the penultimate job of the day, a tenant interview. We meet and interview all our potential tenants to make sure we get the highest quality applicants for our landlords. This particular tenant works in the media. As all her references have been checked out and she comes across well, we are happy to recommend her to our client.

Back to my desk, I end the day with email updates for all our landlords. Throughout the week, we keep them well-informed of the progress of their properties, with feedback from applicants and offers as soon as we get them in.

 

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Day in the Life of a Project Manager

It has been a busy start to the year for the Project Management department, currently managing 18 refurbishment projects, as weakening sterling post-Brexit has attracted more of our foreign clients into the PCL market.

We meet on site at the start of the day to assess a newly stripped out unit in Pimlico and run through our existing refurbishment plans. We are moving the entrance to the reception room and opening up the kitchen to provide the open-plan living which tenants are typically attracted to. Alongside full modernisation with a new kitchen and bathroom, the new plans also accommodate a walk-in wardrobe to maximise storage – another selling point for the rental market. We also confirm that we can remove the step up into the bedroom so the flat is on one level which will present much better. Agreeing the final layout, we update our plans for the owner’s approval and the team splits up to attend our next appointments.

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Whilst some of the team head off to meet our structural engineer at a freehold building we have recently acquired, I walk across to another property we are working on, located within a grand gated complex, overlooking a garden square. I am meeting a client who wants a fully bespoke interior design package, planning to reside in the property and potentially rent it out in the future. Armed with a multitude of samples, we discuss the plans we have drafted, which will turn the three bedroom unit into a stylish two bedroom property with walk-in wet rooms, eat-in kitchen and grand reception room. It is a complex brief, designing to the client’s personal taste whilst ensuring the property will remain hardwearing and generate maximum yields in the rental market. With a few tweaks, our plans seem to hit the mark and our client takes a number of samples away for consideration. We agree a time to meet again before they return to Malaysia.

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My next appointment is to review a recently vacated property near St James’s Park which LCP has managed for almost 20 years. The property now requires a complete refurbishment to meet the demands of the HNW tenants that the area attracts. Noting down the necessary essential works, I return to the office to begin drawing up the specification for a number of LCP’s preferred building firms to tender.

The last stop of the day is at a property which needs to be ‘dressed’ for its post-refurbishment photographs, being taken first thing tomorrow. The property has undergone a complete transformation with the addition of a second bathroom and a full refurbishment with interior designed fit-out. Stylish veneered cabinetry has been installed in the reception room to house the TV unit, fitted out with shelving and feature LED lighting. Grey and white soft furnishings and dressing items have been selected to complement the modern design scheme and wall-to-wall mirrored wardrobes have been installed in the bedrooms to maximise light in the property. 

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Day in the life of a Buying Agent

Day in the life of a Buying Agent

Opening emails at the start of this week, we have a lot of new business enquiries to get back to. It has been a busy time recently with growing private client interest on the back of global economic uncertainty, weak sterling and low interest rates. After a quieter period, post-Brexit, this is encouraging news. We get on with answering the raft of questions on the market that have been asked. We also hear from a client who has now confirmed that they want to invest and note down their requirements onto the database so we can start the search process for units matching their brief.

With these initial approaches responded to, we head off to meet another client. She has just flown in from Hong Kong for a look around her new buy-to-let flat in Bayswater, W2. Located in a beautiful stucco terrace on a traditional garden square, we acquired this unmodernised one bedroom unit arranged over two floors for her two months ago. It has since been fully renovated by our in-house refurbishment and interior design teams, all to a pre-agreed budget.

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“It is a dramatic transformation”, she exclaims on entering the property. The bedroom has been enlarged by making upstairs entirely open plan and the use of light enhancing mirrored cabinetry has a dramatic effect.  Downstairs, a wall between the kitchen and reception room has been removed to enhance the flow of the living area and maximise its appeal to the rental sector. Looking out of the windows onto the garden square as the Autumn leaves begin to turn, we discuss what a rare asset it is to have access to outside space in PCL and how it is sure to be an attraction for prospective tenants.

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We invite our client back to the office for a coffee and to catch up with our lettings team about expectations for the property on the rental market. Before purchase, LCP financially model every property recommendation for clients, including all costs, taxes & fees and accurate projections of achievable rents. The lettings team think the unit will rent for £500 a week, achieving the top end of our expectations. A good result all around and a lovely gift from the client to say thank you.

Back to our desks now to work on two new search briefs, currently in hand. We are focusing on completely different ends of the spectrum this afternoon. One client has a very tight budget, looking for a one-bedroom property with a purchase price of £550,000, in any of PCL’s micro-markets. Properties at this price point are few and far between but we assure the client that it is our job to find what he is looking for and to negotiate hard – despite the gasps we have been receiving from selling agents. 

The other brief we are tackling is a building of 6 or more units from a client who wants to mitigate his tax liability by paying a non-residential rate of Stamp Duty. Another tough brief due to the high level of competition for similar buildings. Screening whole of market, we begin our search by making sure every selling agent is aware of what we are looking for, alongside anyone who may provide off or pre-market opportunities such as lawyers, surveyors and family offices. With a few potential hits on both briefs, we fix up a pre-screening tour for later in the week. So far so good.

To discuss a potential investment brief or get more information on the market, contact james@londoncentralportfolio.com or sophie@londoncentralportfolio.com 

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