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Build-to-Rent, Landlord & Letting Agent: What's the Difference?

If you’re looking for a new place to rent, you’re in luck – there are more options than ever before. However, with so many choices available, it can be tough to tell the difference between each method of finding a home.

The most-used approach to find your next home is still using a high-street letting agency. But online agents and approaching the landlord directly are also options. Then there are build-to-rent operators.

What’s the difference between these options, you ask? We’ll break down the distinctions between letting agencies, landlords, and build-to-rent companies so that you know what to expect when it comes to moving home.

Meet the contenders

By understanding how each rental option works, you can compare the pros and cons to decide which method is best for you.

High-street letting agent

If you’re looking to rent a property, the traditional way to go about it is through a high-street letting agent. These agents have physical offices that are open during regular working hours (9-5), and they usually have a lot of knowledge about local properties.

When you use a high-street agency to rent your property, you’ll be able to work with a negotiator. These act as a mediator between yourself and the landlord during the negotiation process. Great negotiators not only keep you updated on everything that’s going on with negotiations, but they also guide you through the rental procedure.

Online letting agent

Online lettings agents work similarly as the high-street versions, except there is no physical office. You’re also more likely to interact with the landlord directly. It’s unlikely you will have a dedicated negotiator with an online agent; however, there is still human support available. Instead of having a dedicated negotiator, you would negotiate with the landlord via the online agent’s platform.

An online agent is a service that provides landlords and renters with the tools they need to rent or let a property. This includes conducting viewings (which are increasingly done via video walkthrough), providing support, and handling all communications through their platform.


Build-to-rent brands, which are among the newest entrants to the rental market, own and manage renter-friendly homes.

That is, they construct residences that are suited to renters’ requirements and provide appealing perks such as deposit-free renting, flexible contracts, pet-friendly housing, and onsite amenities such as gyms, lounges, and open areas.

You deal with the build-to-rent operator directly throughout the renting procedure. It’s comparable to speaking with a private landlord before you move in. Building-to-rent operators, on the other hand, have hundreds (often in the same building) and take care of everything from leasing to maintenance in-house.


Like build-to-rent (often managed by a build-to-rent operator), co-living involves renting from the building’s developer instead of using a letting agent or private landlord. Rather than having an entire home, co-living provides access to modern sleeping spaces and several private amenities (e.g. bathrooms) while also sharing other areas with others.

At a co-living space, renters have the option to use fully furnished kitchens, living spaces, and terraces. One of the best things about co-living is that it offers total flexibility to its visitors — people can often stay for just one night. In other words, think of co-living as an upscale apartment crossed with a five-star hotel..


Usually a private landlord will use a letting agent in order to let their property. However, there are situations where they would rather forego help altogether — to save on lettings fees for example, which can be 10-15% of the rent.

If you rent a home that the landlord markets and manages without external aid, then you will go through the entire renting process with them directly.

Landlords frequently utilise social media to advertise their homes, with Facebook and Twitter being popular choices. Prior to 2019, dealing directly with a landlord would have saved you money on agent fees. That is no longer the case, however, due to the tenant fee ban in 2019.

Which one should you choose?

With no one clear winner when deciding how to move homes, it usually comes down to who is marketing the property you’re interested in.

But if you’re set on a certain method, these tips may be of some help:

  • High-street agent — walk down to your high street and find the local agents
  • Online agent — use a search engine to find online agents
  • Build-to-rent and co-living — search online for build-to-rent operators
  • Private landlord — use websites like Gumtree, or social media websites

You can also search for properties advertised by build-to-rent and co-living operators with Right Rent.

More power for renters

There have never been more possibilities for renters, regardless of the way you rent a home. And with additional alternatives available, you’ll be in command of your preferences as letting agents, build-to-rent businesses, and landlords strive to deliver you with contemporary houses that fit the demands of 21st-century living.

Mark Flint

Mark regularly contributes to the Right Rent blog; sharing all the latest news, crafting informative articles and sourcing the very best rental content for our readers.

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