We live in an age where everything is on demand meaning inventory providers have had to react to that demand with a greater flexibility in their availability which often includes all weekend working, late night and early morning report requests.
In some respects this is nothing new; other supplier industries to the property sector such as cleaners, removal firms, electricians etc have seen a similar change so this is not unique to us as providers however we are reliant on certain conditions such as available light during the winter months, unfettered access to the property and keys that fit the locks!.
But the one thing that we do need more than most is time; time to compile a report that captures every condition and issue. So inventory providers have structured their service to cope with the various constraints and fluidity needed for the role but that will inevitably come at at cost in order to offer the best protection for the landlord, tenant and agent.
Despite the importance of a detailed, robust inventory – when negotiating contracts and service provision, the cost of the report is often the first question to be asked and I would hazard an educated guess that during the conversation about types of reports needed and when; you are nearly always asked first to reduce the cost of a report without any real conversation about what the price actually covers.
Even though a quick turnaround is often a major driver in report service delivery how it gets to that point is rarely explored with the client. It’s a bit like the tooth fairy; you’re not really concerned with how the money got under your pillow; just that the money is there when you wake up!
Fun Fact! A 2017 survey revealed that while half of the UK leaves a shiny £1 coin per tooth, more than 20% of British kids get between £2 and £5 per tooth – that’s up to around £100 per child by the time they’ve lost all of their baby teeth!
Value is subjective but it can be measured.
The value of the report stems from both demand and need but also the willingness of the agent / landlord / tenant to pay the asked for price which is based on their belief of the value it holds.
But how that value is formed can be based on a number factors such as quality, detail, knowledge of previous performance as well as the client’s understanding of the processes involved. But how often do you explain that process?
The time taken to compile a report ‘on site’ varies (sometimes greatly) due to a number of factors such as the size of the property, its age, whether it is furnished, unfurnished and also the distance the clerk has to travel for keys however all this is (should be) factored into the providers report costs so that the client appreciates the steps involved.
The clerks report journey:
- Receive instructions (via phone, email, online booking system)
- Attend agency / landlord location to collect keys or meet tenant at the property
- Compile the report (using app, camera and dictaphone or other method)
- Return keys to agreed location (not always the same as collection)
- Finalise the report and send to company for review
How the inventory provider manages the process:
- Booking made by letting agent / landlord / tenant (booked via phone, email or online booking system)
- Contact agent / landlord / tenant to gain any missing information (checks for any duplicate booking)
- Contacts tenant (if needed) to arrange date and time
- Instruct the clerk
- Carry out checks day before with all parties to ensure booking going ahead and advise of any changes
- Receive and audit report (manage any queries)
- Agent / landlord / tenant sent report (via email or booking system)
- Manage any queries (single query or multiple queries)
Without this knowledge the client cannot be expected to understand the value of the report or appreciate the service being delivered. So what actual value does a report have?
A detailed, evidenced and factual report is literally worth the cost of the deposit.
If the property is damaged in anyway or left in a real state with say items of furniture needing to be disposed of or extensive professional cleaning required; all that costs the landlord and eventually has to be either be absorbed or fed back into the landlords pricing for future rentals.
Equally; if the report is not able to convey the properties original condition and doesn’t have enough pictures or video footage to provide the arbitrator with the evidence needed to carry out a fair investigation then the report is not worth the paper (or app template) it is written on (in).
It’s almost now my ‘go to’ comment that if you provide a robust and factual inventory report you are not only safeguarding the property but also the deposit that will mean the tenant getting all monies returned as the property is in good order or some of the deposit as the report has clearly shown that some deductions are indeed justified and can be evidenced.
Without such a detailed report there is the very real potential for an unscrupulous landlord to attempt to retain a deposit they are not entitled to and a tenant (who has treated the property less like their own home) keeping all the deposit even though this results in an unfair cost to the landlord.
So when you’re having discussions with a new client on services being offered or revisiting existing clients pricing structures (especially pre tenant fee ban), the cost and process of those services should be always be spelled out so that the client understands the ‘true value’ of the report.
Food for thought: measuring a reports value is not just about cost but also reputation; the landlords, the letting agents and the inventory provider. So when considering agreeing fees; remember:
“Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.” Warren Buffet