Buy to let investment is sometimes glamorised, not least because of the increase in overseas property investment, coined fly to let investments made in some of the world's hottest locations. However, good old fashioned buy to let is simply a numbers game; about the money a property can make from its rental and sale after all costs are deducted.
One of the biggest costs cutting into buy to let returns is agency fees; letting agents fees for managing the property and estate agents fees for the sale of property. Thankfully for investors these costs have been cut by the advent and widespread use of the internet.
The internet has become the first place most people look when trying to find a property to rent or buy, and this has opened up many savings for the buy to let investor.
There are dozens of places to advertise property online for free for sale and rent, including Gumtree, Ebay, Google Maps, and Tepilo run by celebrity Sarah Beeny. That is free advertising on some of the biggest sites in the world. Search property to rent in Birmingham for example, and Gumtree's listings come up third in the Google results, bringing potentially hundreds of visitors every week for free.
But these are not the only internet saving, the internet has given birth to new business models in the field of lettings management and estate agency, namely online lettings agents and online estate agents. These are offering to market your property making use of the new power of the internet and for a fraction of the cost of their traditional counterparts.
The biggest sites on the internet for property are Rightmove, Findaproperty, Primelocation, Zoopla (bought out PropertyFinder) and Fish4Homes. Rightmove alone lists 80% of the property for sale in the UK at any one time, and it is estimated that half of all home buyers find their property on the site. Figures for renting are harder to come by, but these sites are also huge in the rentals market.
Unlike the free sites listed above, the big sites are closed off to Joe Public, allowing only estate agents and lettings agents to list their properties. At first this meant that if a buy to let investor wanted his portfolio to be advertised on these sites, whether he wanted full rental management, or to have an estate agent handle viewings for 2% of the sale price or not, he would have to accept it.
Thanks to online estate agents and lettings agents this is no longer the case. They cut overheads by having no high street offices or company cars, and have all staff in a central out-of-town office operating on the internet to sell and rent out property, but they still have access to the sites named above. So, because they are able to cut costs, they can offer maximum internet exposure but for a fixed fee much lower than the high street agents. In fact, you could call them fixed fee estate agents.
- Thursday 12 April 2012