Interview with Sam Mitchell – Rightmove
What, in your opinion, are the biggest trends in Lettings at the moment?
There has been a huge change in the market this year with the sheer weight of legislation that has been introduced. Broadly this means we have seen an increase in buy to let property coming onto the market as investors have piled in to beat the Stamp Duty deadline. Interestingly this has been matched by an further increase in demand; clearly “Generation rent” shows no sign of abating. The biggest trend that we are seeing is shift from away from Lettings Specialists; most “Lettings Only” Agents have been adding sales arms in order to help generate Buy to Let investors and also to give their Landlords a route to market should they decide to sell.
What, in your opinion, are the main things Lettings Agents should be considering currently?
Three things: Firstly, Monitoring market share effectively is incredibly important as listing numbers are only impressive (or depressing!) in the context of the wider market. Every person in every branch should have market share growth as a focus. It also amazes me that more agents don’t have a fully formed strategy when it comes to attracting landlords. Attracting landlords is not easy. It is about amalgamating marginal gains. It is incredible how many rely on ad-hoc canvassing and are then surprised that they don’t see sustained market share growth. I would encourage all decision makers to engage with our free Intel tools which can help show how their branches are performing against their competition.
Secondly: Get to grips with online marketing. The world has moved on since the days when you would put an advert in the paper on the Wednesday and the phones would ring off the hook on the Thursday. It is about conveying your brand effectively online. This is especially important in lettings where 50% of landlords live more than 5 miles from their properties and therefore are not as exposed to traditional media.
Thirdly: I would also say service. It may sound glib but agents that deliver exceptional customer service (as opposed to lip service) always end up taking market share and spend less time fighting fee wars.
Following the recent changes in legislation, could you outline what some of the main impacts have been?
The change in Stamp Duty has clearly meant that investors have pulled their purchasing decisions forward. This led to a disproportionately busy Quarter One and a quieter Quarter Two. Quarter Two will also be artificially slow as people sit on their hands ahead of the Brexit referendum. From our Rightmove Landlord Survey, which we will talk about in more detail at Lettings Live, we see that Landlords are focusing much more on the impact on their income since the announcement about the changes in how tax liability will be calculated and the change in claimable wear and tear. The impact may not be so pronounced as interest rates remain historically low. We have also identified a “knowledge gap” as many Landlords have not grasped the enormity of the legislative changes, so there is a role for agents to help educate the Landlord population about what is actually happening in the market and how they are best placed to help insulate their investment.
How important do you feel it is for agents to carry out mystery shopping?
It has become more important as the market gets more competitive. It becomes paramount that the Sales and Lettings sides of the business are working hand in hand to maximize the opportunities to identify potential Landlords. Mystery shopping is a great way to see how effective your sales team is at capturing Landlord data. Without data capture it becomes very difficult to mine your database going forward. It also allows you to constructively help develop your team members. However If you intend to use it to be overly critical of your staff it will backfire. Mystery shopping and telephone recording are very powerful tools IF (and it is a big if) you use them properly.
Can you give us a hint as to what you will be covering in your presentation?
Of course, it would be my pleasure. We are lucky at Rightmove as we have a vast audience. This means we are well placed to spot and report on market trends. It also allows us to drill into detail with our Landlord community to discover how they are actually thinking and reacting to the changes in the market. I will be talking about the trends we have seen in the market and giving an overview of our Rightmove Landlord survey. Hopefully it will get people thinking about their big picture approach to Lettings and help them grow market share in the long term.