Our first DIY tenant moves in today and I'm amazed at how quickly we found someone and how easy it all was.
A little while ago I wrote about how much of our very modest rental income was seeping away into the coffers of the high street letting agent we were paying to do a (not very good job) of managing our rental. When our tenant recently gave notice to quit I took the opportunity to research online letting agents and learn about what was involved in using one. I was amazed at the difference in prices. (My previous post gives the figures.) As my husband is now semi-retired and I only work 4 days a week we have more time to spare so we decided to give it a go, do the work ourselves and terminated the contract with our existing agents.
It did feel a little scary at first as the letting arena is full of legal requirements and the whole process of finding a tenant, taking references and lodging a deposit was something we had previously left up to the agent but I can honestly say that OpenRent made it very easy.
Following registration the website guides you through every stage. The interface is very clean and uncluttered, and the language used is basic English without any unnecessary legal jargon. You can contact them via phone, chat and mail and the couple of times that we got in touch the responses were prompt and helpful. But for the most part we didn't need any individual help from them as the portal did all the hard work of telling us what was happening next and sending us automated mails and texts reporting on progress. Whoever designed the site did an excellent job, the workflow behind it is very efficient, seems to work effortlessly and is focused on keeping the customer informed at every stage. Very impressive.
Our advert (including pictures) was up on Zoopla and Gumtree within several hours and we started getting automated requests for viewings the next morning. This part of the process was a little tricky as we had so many requests so quickly that if it hadn't been for the portal we could have easily got things mixed up. OpenRent do not give out your contact details, so potential tenants make all their enquiries via the site, the enquiries are then recorded on the "Your Lettings" bit of the site and also passed onto you via text and email. This means that you always have a clear record of who got in touch, the time and date they did so and their e-mail and phone number so that you can get back to them.
We had 10 viewing requests in 3 days but actually ended up accepting an offer from the first (and only) person who we showed round the flat. Once a tenant makes an offer and you accept it OpenRent suspend your advert and the process of referencing begins. You have the choice of "Quick" (24 hour, credit check plus CC ) or "Full" referencing (3 - 5 working days, includes employer and last landlord reference). We went for the full and sat back and waited whilst Openrent did all the work. Admittedly this did actually take 6 working days because the previous landlord needed chasing but once the references were in we were mailed a full report which included the advice to accept and a button to do so. (There is, of course, also the option to reject).
Three hours later the contract had been drawn up according to our instructions and agreed with the tenant, signed by both parties, the deposit lodged and our bank account details taken so that the first month's rent could be paid. The whole process knocked our previous experiences of waiting for phone calls from the letting agents and posting contracts back and forth into a cocked hat.
I know that a lot of the hard work of being a landlord comes after the tenant has been found and that managing our own property will not all be as simple and straightforward as finding our first tenant has been, but at least we now know that this part of it can be made a lot simpler (and cheaper) than it has been in the past. If anyone is thinking of giving it a go I would recommend OpenRent's RentNow service without hesitation.