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Better lets

With more and more agencies beefing up their lettings operations, or going into the rental market for the first time, one training body is looking forward to an increase in its own business. 

Rosalind Renshaw reports

Susie Crolla does not come from a lettings background, but could hardly be better qualified for her job as chief executive of the Guild of Letting & Management.
This is because she used to be a teacher and one of the Guild’s main functions is education.

“I was the head of the sixth form,” says languages specialist Susie, who is fluent in English, French and Italian. “But three years ago, I bought into the Guild and 80% of what we do is training.
“I’m a huge advocate of lifelong learning and personal development, and in a sense, I think I’ll always be a teacher.

“We now have just over 300 members in the Guild plus 2,700 others who use our training services.”

The letting agent members – landlords who like the idea of getting a formal BTEC qualification can also join – could probably choose instead to join the better known Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA), which is now joined at the hip with the National Association of Estate Agents.

Susie accepts this: “There probably is some cross-over in membership and I fully realise that we are up against some big organisations. But I do think we offer something different: our BTEC qualification was accredited two years ago by Edexcel, the largest awarding body in the UK, who have graded it an A – the highest mark.
“We’re very proud to be offering the qualification. It’s well established and recognised in over 100 countries.”

The qualifications are no shoo-ins. There are various levels, up to level four, and all require substantial commitment. Level two, for example, requires 110 hours of home study, which can be spread over two years and candidates must complete ten assignments, all based on different aspects of letting.

Level four, the most popular course, is even more arduous, requiring 320 hours of study over two years, although it can be completed in eight months.

But why does Susie feel so passionately that letting and management agents should study and become qualified? “A lot of estate agencies making redundancies are going into lettings. We’re currently getting 20 calls a week from estate agents who want training in lettings. They understand that this is in many ways a more complicated sector than sales – there’s a lot of law to get to grips with, and you need a completely different style of working.

“The type of selling is very different. It’s not about offering a product but a service, and you need to be able to sell the concept that the service is truly valuable.
“At the moment, anyone can open a lettings business. It doesn’t require any qualifications, but the better agents want to show they are different.
“One estate agent said to me: ‘I’ll do lettings for two years, purely in order to keep going as a business, and then I’ll get back into sales again.’

“But lettings is not a particularly easy way to make money. It needs to be taken seriously and people need to see it as a career. That will take time – but it will happen.”

Landlords join, often because they are also agents, but also because they are hungry to learn about subjects ranging from compulsory Energy Performance Certificates to crisis management.

Despite difficult circumstances, Susie has very much made the success of the Guild a mission. Increasingly, it is getting recognition, not just for its qualifications, but its help line, networking opportunities, and annual seminar. Susie now sits on the board of the government-funded National Approved Letting Scheme and seems to spend much of her time speeding around the country.  Courses this year have been held both in London and outside it, in Leeds, Newcastle, Bournemouth, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter.

The Guild is expanding, too: “In September, we are moving into the Scottish market, and we’re considering overseas markets like Dubai, as well.”

Written by Rosalind Renshaw