Being appropriately dressed to carry out any job or role is important, even if you’re working from home or only seen top up on Zoom. But for forward facing industries like lettings and sales, appearance is important. Industry suppliers who underpin this important sector of our economy are equally viewed in the same light by landlords and tenants so when visiting property to carry out a report or inspection, equal care in appearance should be taken. Here’s why Crocs and Crops are not what you should be wearing during a property visit.
Who are these unseen service providers?
To anyone outside the industry, the private property rental market might not seem a fertile ground for ‘Tales of the unexpected’. From contracts to rent payments, maintenance, removal vans and the occasional dispute, there might not appear to be much to see here; however, a group of unsung heroes and heroines face the unknown, everyday, in the pursuit of providing a great service to their clients.
When they get up in the morning, they have an expectation of what the day will bring but rarely will know in what state or what they will find at the property in the course of their day.
We are talking, of course, about the UK’s inventory clerks or as I prefer to call them: Inventory Professionals.
This elite band of skilled professionals provide essential support for landlords, letting agents and tenants alike. They carry out property reports, inspections and risk assessments that landlords and agents often have no time nor patience to perform, and they really must be prepared for anything.
And in the words of Lord Baden Powell, being prepared means ‘always in a state of readiness in mind and body to do your duty’.
What he forgot to add is that what we wear is equally important as is being dressed appropriately.
The role of an inventory provider
The job of the inventory provider is not necessarily a high-risk one, but the essence of the role is entering the homes of strangers and inspecting every detail and oddity of the property to either be rented out or already occupied.
This means every property visit and inspection you conduct is likely to be different.
Most property visits will be uneventful, routine affairs in which the most exciting thing will be a dripping tap or a cracked tile, but even the most unassuming properties can sometimes surprise you.
Watching an unannounced and unsuspecting landlord, who decided to stop overnight to ‘sort a few things’, glide past you with nothing but a surprised look on their face is not unheard of!
So being ready for the unexpected and appropriately dressed is important, not only for safety and convenience but also to convey and maintain an impression of authority and trust.
Striking a balance can be challenging
While the three-piece suit and tie may be a thing of the past, smartness is easy to achieve and should always be a priority. You want any tenants or landlords who will be present during the check in or check out to be confident in both you as an individual and your service. What you wear and, in some cases, what you don’t, can make a lasting impression.
Arriving in a T-shirt, torn jeans and trainers, even with latest designer labels, will not endear you to them and could make cooperation difficult if you’re not being taken seriously.
A contact of mine recently described how, in the pictures of a report, they could see the employee (it’s not clear who this person actually was) taking a picture in the bathroom but had clearly failed to see their reflection was also captured. Crocs and crop tops belong only on holidays.
Smart trousers, shoes that are comfortable and offer grip, and a shirt or blouse is more appropriate.
Having established that smart casual is just as suitable for the day job as it is for the nightclub, it is well worth thinking about the kind of people and eventualities you might encounter whilst out and about when deducing on your work attire.
Genuine horror stories are rare but let’s just say that it is not uncommon to encounter a spot of ‘local difficulty’.
An unnamed inventory clerk is on record with not so much a story as darkly cryptic hints about his encounter with a fridge that made him wish he had a change of clothes available.
A smart, authoritative appearance is something to consider not just because of how it looks but also how it protects you
In the course of a property inspection, you will be doing more than ticking boxes on your smart device. You will be opening cupboards, examining appliances, checking meters and water tanks, and perhaps testing taps, plugs or drains. There is nearly always dust, cobwebs, water and grease.
Fun Fact! House dust is a mix of skin cells, hair, clothing fibers, bacteria, dust mites, bits of dead bugs, soil particles, pollen, and microscopic specks of plastic. Do you still want to run your finger along the skirting board?!
Masks and gloves might seem like an over-reaction but you could be glad of them, and this is before you have to negotiate your way around the tenants’ belongings. If you are visiting a keen amateur painter, you don’t want to get oils and acrylics on your clothes because you will never get them out.
I once trod on a board not knowing the outgoing tenant had repainted it and proceeded to drag gloss paint all round the tiled kitchen floor. It took me ages to clean up but my footwear prevented me from slipping and going posterior over chest.
What about pets?
If the landlord has given permission for pets – or, more troublingly, if they have not – how will you manage this potential hazard? Posties have it easy, as they only have to approach the front door. An inventory clerk, on the other hand, is right there in the belly of the beast, often for hours at a time.
What you wear is likely to offer at least basic protection from bites, scratches and a multitude of pet hair so paying attention to what you will wear is a sensible step to take.
I myself have had the unfortunate pleasure of being bitten by a host of very hungry fleas in a property during a spell of very warm weather. I was grateful for the trousers and polo shirt that helped alleviate the extent of the bites.
But I was still left covered and a very amused husband who refused access to my house until every bit of clothing was available for fumigation. Please accept my apologies for leaving you with that image!
But even when there are no obvious dangers, there are still unseen issues and issues to plan for.
We have heard stories about tenants who have their heating turned right up even in the height of summer, which means that however quickly you carry out inspection, you’re likely to be sweating like a marathon runner by the end.
This is not a comfortable or good state or look in which to move straight on to your next appointment, so bear in mind that you may need the flexibility of being able to shed layers if necessary. Always keep a cooling towel or wet wipes in the car for such emergencies.
What to wear?
A rented property is not a building site, but this is not to say that you shouldn’t think about your footwear.
You might find yourself expected to climb ladders or extend your work into muddy gardens. Apply the same rule you would to any DIY job: your feet are vulnerable in dozens of ways, so make sure they are protected and what ever your choice of footwear, make sure they have the grip to keep yourself upright and safe.
As a general rule, you need to be able to move freely and comfortably, although we hope you will never have the experience of a clerk who entered a property while the tenant was out, was mistaken for a burglar by a neighbour, and locked in until the police arrived. In the interim, he had persuaded a passer-by to bring him a ladder, which he used to escape. He had left his phone in the car, which is a lesson to us all.
Tips to look and feel smart
- Wear tops that are breathable and easy to move in but avoid those that crease easily
- Wear trousers that are cooling in the summer but warming in the winter. Pick ones that are comfortable and practical to work in property and the more pockets there are the better!
- Footwear should be smart and comfortable enough to last the day. Heels may be your thing but are they practical and will they keep you safe on slippery floors or when climbing stairs?
- Wearing jackets with your company logo are a great way to identify you and create brand awareness but have enough types to work with you both in the summer and winter months
At Inventory Base, we make the life easier for the under-appreciated inventory professional.
Our property management software is designed to simplify and streamline any property inspection. Our inventory app is customisable, so you can pre-load any special requirements and you won’t be likely to leave it in your car.
But whether you are an in-house provider, an agent or landlord doing your own report or a self employed clerk, sometimes is not what you do but what you wear that can leave a lasting impression so always put your best self forward.
Unfortunately, we can’t supply digital clothing – yet – but if we do, we know that what you wear needs to be both smart, robust-but-comfortable and along with a basic kit of essential accessories, can make the difference between a good day and a great day.