Landlord Rating My Trip Advisor Style Websites Plus Institutional Investment in the Private Rented Sector Gets a Lot Closer

I have written quite a bit at this blog about the power of the internet and the importance of customer service in dealing with landlords and with the private rented sector (PRS) in general. Of course, the same thing applies to all businesses.

As the author of a quite successful book I am interested in Tim Waterstone’s attempt to buy the Waterstones chain from HMV. But will his strategies, focussed on “bricks and mortar based customer service”, work as well now in the current online era?

I’m not so sure because in book retail there is one good reason why Amazon cleans up and that’s because it’s so good at internet retail. The fact is that all the other book chains are much less savvy about the net and e marketing, and for me, this explains why Border / Books Etc is no longer with us and why, my own publisher apparently lacks the motivation to get my own successful book into WH Smith (even though WHS have expressed a strong interest.)

MyTripAdvisor and Landlords

Speaking of Customer Service and the Internet, I was somewhat surprised to see the landlords associations being so unwelcoming to Consumer Focus’s idea for a “trip advisor style” website where tenant-punters could rate their landlords.

Why ever not? After all, landlords are more than happy to use sites like MyHammer to find decent tradesmen. I say, “Bring it on.”  Indeed I always provide prospective tenants with a list of my past tenants who are more than happy to tell them what a fair landlord I was.

This topic of a landlord rating website came up quite a bit last week at a Property Week conference where I was speaking at an event focussed on the private rented sector and held in an up market city location.  The audience came from a more professional end of the market – big property management firms who typically are more used to managing commercial properties than residential, but who are beginning to see the benefits of being in the “smelly socks” private rented sector and managing units of private rented stock for the big pension funds and other investors.

So, the audience and speakers were far more “professional” than you tend to get in the small-landlord-investor focussed conferences where I’m more usually found speaking. But though the accents were more refined, the challenges they face are much the same as face the smaller landlord – managing tenants, managing the property, keeping down voids etc.

In other words, all the boring type of stuff which the “Get Rich Quick in Property Investment Gurus” ignore but which good landlords in the PRS churn out each day – in other words the stuff which makes them rich over time.

PRS and the Big Investor

The conference happened to come the day after the Osborne budget cut the stamp duty land tax rate that block buyers of properties will pay. (They will now pay the SDLT rate based on the average price per unit not the total sum bought.)

This has meant that the private rented sector just got a whole lot more interesting for the big investors interested in building large blocks specifically to let out – great news for the big commercial landlords and the institutions in their Saville Row suits but a bit of a threat to the small private landlord, who could probably do without the extra competition.

My local authority clients who are trying to engage with the private rented sector are very interested in this new development. They certainly have lots of tenant-clients who need accommodating in the private rented sector and their rent can often be paid direct – and usually (if they are on Housing Benefit / LHA) courtesy of the taxpayer.

But does this bottom end of the private rented sector seem just too “low end” for the big commercial players who have, up to now, been more used to managing shopping centres and office blocks?

If that’s so, they are missing a trick, I think.

MORE ABOUT LETTINGFOCUS AND WHAT WE DO is the home of Private Rented Sector Consultancy and expertise and I’m David Lawrenson, a landlord and property investor myself for over 25 years and best known as the author of “Successful Property Letting” – the UK’s top selling commercially published property book for the last 3 years. 26,000 copies sold (up to Feb 2011).

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Primarily we are consultants to a range of organisations including banks, building societies, local authorities, social housing providers, institutional investors and insurers. We help them develop and improve their landlord facing or buy to let product strategies, marketing and services.

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We also find a limited amount of time to help landlords and property investors by coaching them in how to make money in the private rented sector using ways that work, which are ethical, fair to tenants and which involve minimal risk to the investor. We pride ourselves on giving independent unbiased Buy to Let Advice on a one to one basis.



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