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

3 June 2020 Simon Banks Read time: 3 min
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Simon Banks

It is good times for renters when it comes the sheer choice of finding a new home. In fact, there are so many options [that] trying to decipher the difference between each method can be somewhat confusing at times.

Using a high-street letting agent is still the most-used way to find your next place, but there are also online agents, as well as going through the landlord directly. And then there are Build-to-Rent operators.

So what’s the difference between all the options, you ask? In this guide, we’ll break down the intricacies that separate letting agents, landlords and Build-to-Rent operators so that you have all of the information when it comes to moving home.


Meet the contenders

It’s important to know how each option for renting works. Doing so will help you see the differences and decide which method appeals to you.

High-street letting agent

Let sign outside houses

The traditional method for renting a home comes via the high-street letting agent. They have physical offices on the high street and operate during traditional working hours (9-5). High-street agents typically have extensive knowledge of the local property scene too.

Renting your home through a high-street agent means you’ll have access to a negotiator, who will mediate between yourself and the landlord — especially when it comes to agreeing on a rental deal for the property. Great negotiators also talk you through the entire rental process and keep you up to speed with everything.

Online letting agent

Online lettings agents work much in the same way as the high-street, except there is no physical office and you’re more likely to interact with the landlord directly. It’s unlikely you will have a dedicated negotiator with an online agent (but there is still human support), and instead will negotiate with the landlord via the online agent’s platform.

Landlords are more likely to conduct viewing themselves, though an increasing number of property viewings are now taking place via video walkthroughs. An online agent essentially provides landlords and renters with all the tools to rent and let a home, providing support when needed and doing everything through an account on their platform.


Build-to-Rent home

One of the newer players to the game, Build-to-Rent operators own and manage renter-friendly homes. That means they build homes designed for renters’ lifestyles and offer appealing perks, such as deposit-free renting, flexible contracts, pet-friendly homes and on-site amenities like gyms, lounges and open spaces.

You go through the renting process with the Build-to-Rent operator directly. It’s similar to communicating with a private landlord before you move. Instead of just one property, however, Build-to-Rent operators have hundreds (often in the same building) and doing everything in house, from letting to maintenance. 


Similar to Build-to-Rent (and often run by a Build-to-Rent operator), Co-Living sees you renting from the developer of the building rather than going through a letting agent or private landlord. Instead of having an entire home, Co-Living offers modern spaces to sleep along with several private amenities (bathrooms et cetera) but shares the other spaces.

Kitchens, lounge spaces, terraces — these are all typically shared in a co-living space. Renters also have total flexibility and can often stay for as little as just one night. Think of Co-Living as a cross between a snazzy apartment and a five-star hotel.


A private landlord often uses a letting agent to let their property, but there are circumstances where they prefer to do everything without any help. You will go through the entire renting process with the landlord directly if you rent a home that they market and manage without any external help. 

Landlords often use social media to market their properties, with platforms like Facebook and Twitter proving to be popular options. Previously, going directly through a landlord would mean avoiding paying agent fees. But with the tenant fee ban in 2019, that’s no longer the case.

Which one should you choose?


There’s no definitive winner when it comes to choosing an option for moving home. More often than not, the method you use for renting depends on who markets the property that interests you. If, however, you’re looking for a specific method for renting, these tips should help.

  • High-street agent — head to your high street and enquire with local agents
  • Online agent — find online agents by using a search engine
  • Build-to-Rent and Co-living — search online for Build-to-Rent operators
  • Private landlord — use social media or look at online listing websites like Gumtree

You can also search for properties advertised by letting agents and Build-to-Rent operators with Movebubble. With more than 30,000 homes in London and Manchester, you can find your next property, as well as renter-friendly homes from Build-to-Rent operators on the Movebubble One app.

More power for renters

No matter which method you choose for renting a home, it’s safe to say that there have never been more options for renters. And more options mean you can be selective with your requirements, as letting agents, Build-to-Rent operators and landlords work to provide you with modern-day homes that meet the needs of 21st-century lifestyles.


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