OpenRent: A Complete Guide
How does OpenRent work, and is it a viable alternative to high-street letting agents like Savills and Knight Frank?
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For decades, the status quo in the rental market involved using a high-street letting agent. Whether you were a landlord or renter, you were required to go through an agency with a physical store, paying a commission if you were a landlord and tenant fees if you were a renter.
The only alternatives were marketplaces like Gumtree and Craigslist. However, these weren’t viable competitors due to the high number of scams found on the sites. Essentially, landlords and renters had few options available.
That all changed with OpenRent, the first online letting agent to come to market after launching in 2012. The company focused on the tech side of renting, offering landlords and tenants the chance to let and rent property online without the need for a physical letting agent.
Created by two Oxford graduates, Darius Bradbury and Adam Hyslop, OpenRent came to life after both found roadblocks in the renting process as private landlords and tenants. So they put their heads together to find a better way. The result was OpenRent, a letting agent based entirely online.
But how Does OpenRent work?
What makes it tick, and can renters and landlords achieve a genuine letting and renting experience using the platform?What exactly does OpenRent have going for it?
In this guide, we’re bringing you everything there is to know about OpenRent, including how it works, as well as its strengths and weaknesses. Learn how it approaches customer service, what landlords and tenants think of OpenRent and how it stacks up against competitors with our handy guide.
But first, a bit about Mashroom…
Looking for an alternative to OpenRent? With Mashroom, you can advertise your property on Rightmove and Zoopla for free, and unlike OpenRent, you can manage your property too.
With Mashroom you can:
- Receive same day rent collection and payouts for free, protected by Money Shield. Money Shield’s Client Money Protection scheme will reimburse landlords and tenants against missing rent or deposits, up to £5 million per year and £50,000 per individual claim.
- Accept offers and easily make adjustments to our fully digital and customisable AST
- Track income and outgoings on our online dashboard
- Arrange maintenance with trusted tradespeople at the click of a button
- Purchase optional add-ons necessary, such as Gas Safety Certificates, EICRs, insurance and EPCs
Interested? You can advertise your property with us today, or scroll down and read why Mashroom is better than OpenRent.
How does OpenRent work?
There are two ways to use OpenRent: as a landlord or as a renter. The experience differs for each one, with landlords focused on letting their property on OpenRent and renters using the platform to find these properties.
Landlords list their property on OpenRent, who then market it to renters looking for somewhere to live. Properties features on OpenRent’s website, as well as property portals like Rightmove and Zoopla (more on that in a bit). Landlords will need to sign up for an OpenRent account, which is free to create.
As the landlord, you have creative freedom over your property listing. You can take your own images of the property (though OpenRent does offer professional photography at a cost), enter the property’s details and write a description advertising the property.
OpenRent will then review everything and make it live after it’s been approved. Once the listing is live on OpenRent, landlords can receive enquiries from renters directly and use the OpenRent dashboard to schedule viewings, accept offers and go through the entire renting process.
While you can use OpenRent to view properties, it’s more likely that you will find them on the property portals like Rightmove and Zoopla. Around 92 per cent of home searchers start their property journey on one of the major property portals, as opposed to directly with the letting agent.
If one of the properties you want to view is advertised by OpenRent, you will be taken to its website. From here, you create a free account that you use to interact with the landlord. The entire renting process happens directly on OpenRent, including :
- Arranging viewings
- Making an offer
- Signing contracts
There are no admin fees for tenants (since the tenant fee ban, admin fees are illegal), and all rent and deposits are protected for tenants who use OpenRent to rent their next home. That means you will have more peace of mind as a renter.
How much does OpenRent cost?
There are a couple of options available:
Don’t pay anything to list their property
You will need to pay a fee if you would like to increase your property’s reach
The highest tier costs £49
This free option gives you only basic access and advertising on the OpenRent website
Pricing options start at £29 and cover advertising on portals like Rightmove and Zoopla for three months
Includes the entire process with contract signing, deposit registration and initial rent collection
That means your property is only available to people browsing homes on the OpenRent website
There are also optional extras acting as a booster to your property listing
Tenants using OpenRent don’t need to pay anything to use the service. It’s free, and the only cost you incur are standard renting costs: aspects like holding deposits and security deposits. OpenRent advertises as a service that doesn’t charge admin fees for tenants, but this isn’t unique. After the Tenant Fee Ban came into place in 2019, no letting agent – whether online or on the high street – can charge admin fees to tenants.
How does OpenRent advertise?
OpenRent has a digital presence that includes a website as well as social media channels on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. It has also featured in industry press and uses digital advertising to promote the brand to landlords and tenants.
The website has several resources for landlords and tenants. These include a Help Centre and blog page, where you can find informational content about OpenRent and the broader letting and renting process.
OpenRent customer service
If you’re thinking about using OpenRent – whether you’re a landlord or a tenant – you probably want to know about OpenRent’s customer service. As an online letting agent, there aren’t any physical agents to help you with the property renting process.
OpenRent relies on providing resources to landlords and tenants
Such as the previously mentioned help centres and blog posts. The lack of human interaction is one area where OpenRent definitely falls short. Why?
- There are still likely to be times where they need help from a real-life team member.
- Upon visiting OpenRent’s website, it’s not clear how to get in touch with employees.
- There is no “contact us” section – OpenRent tries to guide you towards being a self-sufficient user of the site.
For assisting its clientele OpenRent does have a “Need Help” button, which brings up a further list of options. Within this list at the bottom, there is a “Send a Message” button that eventually offers help from a real-life person.
OpenRent doesn’t have an app and instead centres everything on its website functionality. At first, this might come as a surprise. But it’s very much in line with other online letting agents, who also focus on maximising the benefits of their website to provide a seamless service for customers.
Just because OpenRent doesn’t have an app doesn’t mean you can’t use it on your phone or tablet. The website is fully optimised for mobile use, and you can open an account, browse properties and let your own one using the browsers on your smart devices, such as Safari and Chrome.
Like all online companies, OpenRent reviews can easily be found on the web, either on platforms like TrustPilot, AllAgents and on its own website.
Trust Pilot AllAgents Overall score 4.5 2.9 4.9
Overall, OpenRent has a positive review score on TrustPilot. Out of the 2,000-plus reviews: 87 per cent of them were rated “excellent”. Three per cent were rated great, while one per cent were rated both “average” and “poor”. Seven per cent of reviews were rated as “bad”.
On All Agents
The reviews aren’t quite as flattering – though there are far fewer reviews from users. Overall, OpenRent has an average of 2.6 stars out of five and a 32 per cent recommendation out of 19 reviews.
On Google Review
OpenRent fares much better. It has a 4.9 rating out of five from 4,000-plus reviews. Most people commented on its ease of use, while negative reviews focused on the lack of communication.
OpenRent – landlord reviews
Landlords are OpenRent’s primary target audience, as it relies on them to pay for the services and extras offered. Therefore, positive landlord reviews are especially important for OpenRent.
Ultimately, OpenRent is well received by the landlords who use its service to let their property. Some commented on – its lower pricing as a bonus – citing the cheaper entry prices as the reason why they could be more flexible when it came to their own asking rents.
Others have cited its online model, saying – it was helpful as it gives them more control over the process of letting a property. The contact with renters is also praised. Again, that direct communication gives landlords more control, and this is a recurring theme with landlords who have left reviews on OpenRent.
However, not all OpenRent landlord reviews are positive – most of the negative feedback centers around the lack of human support. Many users state that it was too hard to get real-life help from OpenRent team members when needed. Some landlords have also left reviews saying there are better online alternatives.
OpenRent – tenant reviews
Tenants aren’t a core aspect of OpenRent’s business plan, so they don’t feature as heavily in reviews. However, the online footprint tenants do with OpenRent isn’t always positive.
On AllAgents, a review website for letting and estate agents, the tenant reviews are all negative. However, it’s only a small sample size, with just three reviews left on the platform. Some of the complaints focus on the lack of transparency and, again, the poor communication levels between users and OpenRent team members.
OpenRent – cities where they’re active
OpenRent operates all over the UK, including cities like London, Manchester, Birmingham, Sheffield, Newcastle and Glasgow. It’s a nationwide online letting agent and therefore services every part of the United Kingdom.
That means it isn’t just limited to cities, with towns and villages in rural locations also areas where landlords can advertise their property with OpenRent. Overall, OpenRent claims to have more than 500,000 properties listed on the website, with many of them concentrated in larger cities.
Properties in cities by numbers
- London, 6,000+
- Birmingham, 400+
- Manchester, 300+
- Liverpool, 300+
- Leeds, 200+
- Glasgow, 200+
- Edinburgh, 200+
- Bristol, 200+
- Sheffield, 100+
- Newcastle, 100+
- Nottingham, 100+
- Oxford, 100+
- Cambridgeshire, 100+
- Cardiff, 50+
London is by far the most popular city, with more than 6,000 landlords listing a property on the website. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, as London is the epicentre of buy-to-let and a hotbed for property investment.
OpenRent – inventory service
In addition to OpenRent’s core offering, the online agent offers extra services. One of these in an inventory, along with check-in and check-out services for landlords. The goal of this added extra is to protect landlords against any damages caused during the tenancy.
Inventory, check-in and check-out services are routine in the lettings industry, and all landlords are advised to carry one out before the tenant moves into the property. They are vital for helping clear up any disputes over damages and can determine where the security deposit goes at the end of a tenancy.
OpenRent charges £85 for an inventory
This includes an accredited professional check, plus a detailed schedule of the condition of the home with photos and a digital report.
The check-in service costs £40
Included is a digital signature from tenants and inventory checks onsite with tenants.
Landlords who want to use the check-out service are charged £75
The check-out includes a detailed comparison with the start of the tenancy, damaged, cleaning and missing items documented and a full digital report. All costs are additional to the fee for listing your home.
Does OpenRent have a deposit scheme?
Security deposits are a primary talking point in the rental market. And an increasing number of landlords now offer deposit replacement schemes, so renters don’t need to pay a five-week security deposit before moving into their new home.
Some rental platforms also provide these schemes, making life easier for landlords and tenants alike. A deposit replacement
- sees tenants paying just one week’s worth of non-refundable rent instead of five while giving landlords even more protection than traditional security deposits.
OpenRent, however, doesn’t offer a deposit replacement scheme. Instead, landlords must legally hold the security deposit in a government-approved custodial scheme. If there are any disputes at the end of the tenancy between the landlord and tenants, the scheme steps in to make a fair and unbiased decision to resolve the dispute.
It also has a service called Rent Now. Landlords using Rent Now :
– leave everything in the hands of OpenRent, who register the deposit with mydeposits, one of the three government-registered deposit schemes.
Other services on OpenRent
Along with its tenant-finding service, OpenRent offers a range of add-ons for landlords, providing them with a more comprehensive renting experience. Each extra service has an additional charge on top of the tenant-find option. These services include:
- Tenant referencing – For £20, landlords can professionally reference their tenant before they move into the property.
- Gas safety – A gas safety check is mandatory and requires an engineer to conduct a test to see if the property meets the gas safety standards. Gas safety checks start from £45 and last for 12 months.
- EPC – An EPC determines the energy efficiency of a property. Landlords must have an EPC before renting out their property. EPCs last for 10 years, and it’s illegal to rent a home to someone with a rating below E in England and Wales. An EPC is £69 on OpenRent.
- Electrical safety – Landlords need to conduct an electrical safety check on their rental once every five years. Electrical safety checks with OpenRent cost £159, and a qualified engineer will visit the property to carry out the test.
- Rent collection – OpenRent collects the first month of rent for free and charges £10 per month from the second month.
- Inventory –Inventory reports check the condition of the home before and after tenants move in. Prices start from £40 for an inventory and check-in.
- Photos and floor plans – Landlords who want to add professional photos and a floorplan to their property can do so by paying £79 for photos and £25 for a floor plan.
- Rent insurance – Having rent insurance means you can still receive rental payments even if the tenant is unable to pay. Most rent insurance cover requires landlords to professionally reference the tenant before they move in.
- Building insurance – Landlords are often required to get buildings insurance if they have a mortgage. And even if they don’t, it’s important cover that safeguards against any potential issues to the building.
- Accompanied viewings – If a landlord can’t conduct the viewings, they can use the accompanied viewings service. With this service, a professional will show the property to prospective tenants. Prices start from £36 for a single viewing.
- Legal support – Landlords can get legal support and eviction help via Landlord Action. Prices vary depending on the support.
OpenRent on Zoopla and Rightmove
Signing up to list your home on OpenRent and paying a fee of £29 gives you access to advertising on Rightmove and Zoopla for three months. Rightmove and Zoopla are the two biggest property portals and are used by the majority of people searching for a new home online.
Therefore, it’s vital that landlords have a presence on these platforms that attract almost one-hundred million property searches per month. Rightmove is the most popular portal and has several tiers for advertising, including Rightmove Premium and Featured.
Both of these give you increased exposure by allowing more photo uploads of the property and strategically placing your advert at the top of the page. Unfortunately, you don’t get access to the Premium and Featured ads when you pay the £29 fee to list your property with Rightmove.
However, you do get access to both Rightmove and Zoopla, meaning your property will get plenty of exposure online. You also won’t be able to advertise on Rightmove or Zoopla as an individual, as the platforms only allow registered agents to list on the platforms.
Is OpenRent safe?
Many people (landlords, in particular) have previously been cautious of OpenRent’s service. Part of that is because letting agents haven’t always enjoyed a strong reputation over the years.
This has left many people suspicious of anything that’s new or different.Too often there is small print involved that can increase costs considerably. Fortunately, with OpenRent and other online platforms, there’s nothing to concern yourself with from a safety and financial point of view.
The site isn’t a scam, and all of the pricing is clear to see throughout OpenRent’s website. It’s also safe for landlords and tenants to use, and there’s no need to worry about anything dodgy going on in the background.
Since 2015 OpenRent has rented out thousands of properties
The website is rich in information, and it’s transparent about how things work on the platform. Over three million people have used OpenRent since its launch in 2012, and it’s a member of the Property Ombudsman for Lettings, as well as multiple other associations.
Does OpenRent work with high-street agents?
High-street letting agents are essentially the rental market’s status quo. They are seen as the traditional way of renting and letting a home, using a physical store and assigning a letting agent to help landlords find new tenants.
High-street letting agents take care of the entire process (including showing renters around the property) while charging between 8 and 12 per cent of the annual rent for their services.
For many landlords, the extra cost isn’t worth paying just for having a dedicated agent, especially as most agents rely on property portals for the majority of their enquiries.
OpenRent does not work directly with lettings agents
OpenRent is in direct competition with letting agents. Its model is in opposition to the typical high-street setup, and both methods provide alternative ways to rent and let a home.
Therefore, there is no synergy between the two, and high-street agents can’t advertise their properties on OpenRent. Just like a high-street agent, OpenRent is a letting agent. The only difference is that it works entirely online and gives landlords more control over their property.
If you’re using the service and would prefer someone to show renters around your property, you can pay £36 per viewing for a professional to conduct it. Alternatively, you can pay £300 for a three-month package that includes 15 accompanied viewings.
Pros of OpenRent
Like all letting agents – whether online or high-street based – OpenRent has pros and cons when you use its service. Ultimately, it’s down to each landlord (and their specific needs) to decide if the high street or online model is best for them.
Some of the pros of using OpenRent:
- Price – OpenRent is considerably cheaper than using a high-street letting agent. That means you can potentially save thousands by listing your property with OpenRent. It’s much more affordable than using a traditional agent.
- Control – Landlords have more control over the process when they use OpenRent as opposed to a traditional agent.
- Extra services – OpenRent makes most of its money from the extra services it sells, such as compliance checks, inventory
Cons of using OpenRent
While there are pros to using the service, not everyone will agree that value for money always beats the overall experience. Landlords ultimately want to rent out their home as quickly as possible while saving money. But if they believe the property will sit empty for months, they’re more likely to choose the option that gets them the fastest let.
Below are some of the cons of using OpenRent:
- Communication – There is no direct point of content on OpenRent, and getting in touch with a team member isn’t a fluid process. Therefore, many landlords and renters may find the lack of communication to be an issue.
- No full management – With OpenRent, you don’t have an option for a fully managed service. That means you will need to be a more hands-on landlord if you want to benefit from OpenRent’s services.
- No maintenance network – Managing your property is entirely down to you, which means you can’t tap into any resources on OpenRent to find options for managing your property. Once the property is let, OpenRent has more or less served its purpose.
OpenRent competes with both high-street letting agents and other online agents. The world of online agents is a particularly competitive one, and there are several options that provide an alternative service to OpenRent. OpenRent’s main competitors include:
- High-street agents like Knight Frank, Savills and Foxtons
- Purple Bricks
- The Online Letting Agents
- 99 Home
- Make Ur Move
- Rent My Home
Each of these has its own USP and pricing structures, offering landlords and tenants alternative options to OpenRent. While OpenRent is one of the oldest online letting agents, other online options have been able to spend more time researching the market and refine their offering, providing a service that caters to landlord and tenant pain points in ways OpenRent is yet to offer.
One of OpenRent’s primary competitors is Mashroom, an online platform offering tenants and landlords a way to rent and let without a letting agent. OpenRent and Mashroom share many similarities, but there are some key differences that separate the two. These include:
- Free advertising on Mashroom – unlike OpenRent, Mashroom doesn’t charge for advertising a landlord’s property on the primary property portals such as Rightmove and Zoopla.
- Tenant-team up – Using Mashroom, landlords can instruct their current tenants to show the property to new renters. This is ideal if the current tenant is moving out and the landlord doesn’t want to host the viewing.
- Deposit replacement – another key difference between Mashroom and OpenRent is deposit replacement. Mashroom offers a deposit replacement scheme to landlords, so tenants don’t pay a security deposit amounting to five week’s rent. Landlords also get more cover with the deposit replacement scheme than they do with traditional security deposits.
- Transparent pricing – Both options are transparent with their pricing, but Mashroom has a calculator to show landlords the “true cost” of renting.
- Professional tradespeople – Mashroom works with Local Heroes, a British Gas-run platform that offers access to thousands of qualified tradespeople. This service helps landlords to let and manage their property on the platform, keeping everything in the same ecosystem.
- Rent collection – Mashroom collects the landlord’s rent for free every month, while OpenRent only offers free rent collection for one month.
- Advanced rental income – For £5 per month, landlords can access their rent before the due date. This is a service OpenRent doesn’t provide.
- Property performance statistics – Mashroom provides a comprehensive report of how your property performs in real-time. Get insights into your incoming and outgoing finances concerning the property.
- Mortgage advice – Landlords looking to expand their portfolio can use Mashroom’s free mortgage advice to borrow funds for their next buy-to-let purchase.
Why is Mashroom free if OpenRent charges?
Free services can often be viewed as too good to be true. But in this case, there’s no hidden information in the terms and conditions. Listing a property with Mashroom gives landlords 30 days of advertising on Rightmove and Zoopla for free.
If landlords don’t require any extras, such as EPC or professional photos, then the entire service is completely free. As a landlord, you can also manage the tenant-find process on Mashroom’s platform while using it to manage the property once tenants have moved in.
Alternatively, you can switch your current rental after it’s let and use Mashroom to manage the property. Access to Local Heroes is also free, with landlords only paying for the cost of the job if maintenance is needed in the property.