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Letting agents! Is this worst question to be asked?

‘What are your fees?’

For letting and estate agents the number one question that strikes fear, terror and trepidation into their heart is, “What are your fees?” Especially when the punter (aka Mr Landlord) waltz’s into your offices before you’ve established any sort of relationship with the said landlord or any sort of value of what you have to offer as a letting agent. It’s not nice because you are being asked too early and most certainly out of context. 

However, if you get it wrong, you can wave goodbye to being his/her letting agent for good.

Well you could quote say a random fee, by saying, ‘Our fees are 9.56% Mr Landlord’. Hell, you could even say what I heard one agent say once, ‘....all landlords care about these days is fee, fee, fee’, hey you even act like you have never heard that question before, ‘What are your fee’s, no one has asked that before (cue scratching of the head with a slight tilt of the head).

Ok, lets be honest, these are rubbish answers. Now let me share some examples I have used, seen used by others or come across in my years working at the coal face. They work just as well in estate agency (that’s where I got most of them from in fact). My favourite retort to that question is, ‘Are you looking for the cheapest agent?’ or if you were really confident, ‘Are you looking for the cheapest agent, because if you are, I am not your man?

Others I overheard colleagues say, ‘It’s 20% until I know what service you’re wanting. Can we spend a few minutes narrowing that down to help you lower the fee?’

Here are some more that come across over the years, with a rating afterwards!

‘Depends if you want the BMW version, the Ford version, or the Skoda Mr Landlord?’ (COCKY)

‘I have a feeling that if I quote a random fee right now, I’ll be dead in the water. Do you mind if I ask you some questions to get a better idea of what you want from your agent? Then the numbers we talk about will be specific to you and your property’ (CONFIDENT BORDERING REASONABLY COCKY)

‘A lot Mr landlord. Why do you ask?’ (SCARILY COCKY)

‘I’ll answer your question in a moment but to give you a more accurate answer, may I ask you three questions first?’ (SOFT)

'Well, the friends and family rate might apply but we’re not friends yet – do you mind if I ....' (CHEEKY BUT NOT BAD)

'Let us chat about what you’re trying to accomplish first Mr Landlord and then we’ll work out some fee options based on that.' (SOFT)

'Just like you need to make an educated decision about which letting agent to use, I need to give you an educated answer to your fee question. And I’m feeling pretty dumb right now, since we only just started talking, so do you mind if we have a five minute conversation about your you and your property? After that, I’ll have a much better idea of what you’re after and some different ways we can help'. (LONG WINDED BUT NICE)

'Sounds like fee is the most important factor to you Mr landlord. In my experience, everything is expensive until you need it. Can we talk about what you need and then work our way to the pricing options based on that?' (REASONABLE)

'Until I have a better idea of what you want – and whether or not we can even help – any number I give you is going to be too high. Would it be OK if we spend a few minutes discussing why you called? Then if we can help, I’ll get you the fee options you need. And if we can’t, I’ll refer you to some other great letting agents that may be able to help. Fair enough?' (REASONABLE)