I'm moving house. My landlord sold the flat I'm in a while back, so I ended up on two months notice. I've spent the last few days trying to find a new place. The search is over - I'm moving to a place not far down the road. It's incredibly small, but it looks pretty decent. It's been really stressful, so hopefully I can calm down a bit now. I'm not looking forward to actually packing and moving though.
The last few places I've had, I pretty much found within one or two phone calls and visits. Whilst I may have missed a few details before moving in, I've broadly speaking done okay.
This time around, despite half of London being 'buyto let', there are very few places available right now. Having talked to a couple of agents about it, it doesn't seem there's a corresponding rent-increase though.
Still some agents are utter shiesters. For example, Haart charge exorbitant fees, both when you move in and when you renew your contract. Ludlow Thompson charge the equivalent of a week's rent in upfront fees, and demand a £500 holding deposit. I find that incredible - that's such an utter rip-off (but it does pay for you to be subscribed to irrelevant text message 'alerts' and for them to drive around in blue and yellow 'prat mobiles'). LT actually take the biscuit at the moment though - even after I'd paid a holding deposit elsewhere, they were trying to get me to forfeit it and come in with them.
Handily, in the Clapham area there are some decent agents too. My old favourites, Palace Gate are good - they're really friendly, competent and helpful. Their contracts are decent, and they don't seem to employ the stereotypical monkeys that don't know what they're doing.
Armitage Lettings also look to be pretty good. I'll have to see how it goes, but so far, they've shown themselves to be efficient, friendly and helpful. Again, without all the fluff that the LT's of the industry seem to have.
I've also found Black Katz to be pretty good. I'm not sure they've got the best properties, but they seem to be pretty decent. No idea about their contracts, but they don't strike me as the rip-off types.
It's a shame that landlords use agents at all. It seem almost all property is rented this way though. In my experience, the estate agent doesn't really do that much. They do some advertising in Loot and Gum Tree and show people round. I guess their real worth is doing the credit checks and stuff, but they don't offer any protection to landlords - if the tennant doesn't pay, neither does the agent (YMMV). I'd be inclined to suggest landlords simply choose tennants themselves. Just because someone likes the place, doesn't mean you have to let it to them. If they look 'dodgy' then find someone else. After all, we tennants have to do that with agents and landlords, so why not do the same?