Advice for owners: Should you use a letting agent or not?

New villa owners who come to us do so for two reasons: firstly they don’t know how to market their house, and secondly, they worry about damage to their house. Agents can help with both of those things to some extent, but are they worth the commission? The answer is it depends.

Marketing is more than just advertising. The villa rental market in Europe is now very price sensitive, at all levels. Customers do their research and know precisely what a villa is worth. Set your pricing too high and your house will stand empty: set it too low and you will be full by March and that is precisely when your pool filter blows up and you wish you had asked more. A good agent can tell you what it is worth. But do your research and you will know what your villa is worth as well: pay your agent’s commission and you rob yourself by not doing what you could well have done.

You might need help describing your villa to the best effect. For example, your views might be stunning, but sadly that is not worth much in the market these days and stunning views are sadly commonplace – to some customers ‘stunning views’ sounds like something that people say when they can’t think of anything else to say. In an oversupplied marketplace you need to make a house stand out.

Choice of tenants is the area where agents can really add a lot. Letting your pride and joy to strangers can be scary to the uninitiated. Established agencies have long lists of happy customers who come back year after year, and whom they know often personally. If you are going to let strangers stay in your house then it is comforting to know that at least they are friends of friends.

The position of agents in the market used to be controlled by marketing media. Press advertising and publishing brochures is expensive, and in the pre-Internet world it was prohibitive for individual owners. The Internet has changed the villa rentals industry for good by making marketing accessible to non-tech-savvy owners: all you need to do is make a website (most children can do that bit) and open and Adwords account: bid 50p a click for a very specific keyword that the most qualified leads will be searching on, and you will probably do OK. But probably is not good enough for some people: if your holiday villa budgeting is dependent on holiday lettings (unwise but sometimes necessary) then you need to be sure that some professional person will take responsibility for it.

If you do decide to use an agent, you can go one of two ways. Either you will make an exclusive deal with an agent who is prepared to commit to a certain number of weeks per year, or you will operate on an ad hoc basis, typically with more than one agent offering your house. Agents who are prepared to risk the former and few and far between, and the few that are around will typically offer much less than the house is worth, but it is also the worry-free option. Probably the best of both worlds is to use agents and offer yourself: that way you acquire the judgement you need and still have somebody to complain at when it all goes wrong.

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