...........and now for something completely different..........
F A N T A S Y   R E V I E W S  ?  ?  ?
...are on-line review sites any help to landlords and tenants ?
On-line review sites are very much a phenomenon of the last 8 to 10 years. There are more and more of them and like it or not they’re here to stay. But do they really matter and are they pertinent to landlords and tenants?
Very commonly they’re used in travel/holidays. If you book a holiday do you use sites like trivago, tripadvisor or booking.com to check out a hotel you’re thinking of? I do, always. Why, because it gives me a very good idea of how good the hotel is. But, and this is the thing, I read them with care and do not necessarily take them at face value. So, I look at a selection of the reviews going back over a period of time and if the hotel has left a reply comment about the review I also read that. Key to the usefulness of these types of sites though is the volume of reviews and because hotel review sites have a high volume of reviews they are quite useful. The more reviews the better your chances of getting a balanced picture - it helps smooth out the extreme reviews. (There’s always the professional ‘moaner’ who uploads a rant which is likely to be neither accurate nor helpful).
So what’s this to do with choosing a letting agent for your valuable asset, your investment property? These review sites are becoming common for lettings now. If you look up a lettings agent on google there are likely to be google reviews left for them indicated next to their result in the search. If you look at www.allagents.co.uk you will see many reviews. But beware of the pitfalls: on allagents unless you specify a town or postcode then if it is a nationwide agent, you will struggle to find the specific one you want and you’ll end up reading about a branch of ABC Ltd in a town miles from the agent you want and not relevant. Also landlords and tenants are not like holiday makers (yet) in the way they use review sites e.g. they are not prolific users/contributors, so the volume is comparatively low. Often they only use these review sites if they have an axe to grind and in the case of tenants may well leave reviews if they’re simply unhappy about deductions from their deposit.
So review sites in our industry do have a use and are becoming more popular but treat them with caution. Finally, you’ll often read unhappy clients (tenants usually) writing that it’s all a fix and the agents have written the reviews themselves. This is a smoke screen. Agents might perhaps be able to get a couple of friends, staff members to write a spoof review but ISP checks and careful precautions by the review site owners pretty well preclude this. To leave a google review you'd have to be a google account holder properly logged in.
If you really want to find out about an agent before using them, ask them if any of their current customers would be willing to talk to you about their experiences.