Carla Bussey founded Level Up Property Management in 2018, drawing on her own years of experience with large corporate property agencies to start her own company, trying to embed all the best practice she’d seen over her career into an agency with a difference. In this Q&A Carla gives an insight into what makes her tick and what it’s taken get Level Up to where it is today, a business with a reputation for expertise, advice and great customer service.
What prompted you to set up your own property management company?
Put simply, I wanted to do things my way. I’d learned so many good ways of operating during my time as a portfolio manager, but I’d also experienced some that I wouldn’t want my own company to be doing. So, I took all the positive things and turned them into an ethos that would be at the heart of Level Up.
Firstly, I wanted something that was a lot more personable. What landlords want is to be able to pick up the phone and speak directly to someone who knows them and who will make sure they’re not under too much pressure. The fundamentals of a property management service are fairly clear. Where I wanted to be different was in the person service, and it doesn’t matter how big Level Up becomes, and we’re growing steadily, I will still want to manage it, it’s my brand and I want to know my team and know my clients and feel sure that we are delivering the standards want to meet.
What skills do you and your team find are most important in your work?
Communication is the most important skill you can have in this business. The biggest gripe landlords have is that no one gets back to them when they need an answer. That might be feedback on potential tenants, or dealing with an issue at a property. In general, they are happy as long as they are kept informed about what’s going on.
We have to respond to what they need, or what they have asked for, as soon as we can, and that means good communication within the team and with our clients is vital.
Describe the services you offer and your ‘typical’ client
There is no typical client, we work with all landlords, from those who have one property to let right through to those that have large portfolios or blocks of flats. We can take on pretty much anything, and for portfolio clients, anywhere in the country.
Level Up takes on the entire process, from preparing a property to be let so that it is clean and compliant before it goes on the market, to checking tenants, handling deposits, carrying out regular checks and renewals.
One of our strengths, I feel, is that we don’t do anything else. We don’t do sales or mortgages, anything like that, we focus entirely on property management and making sure our clients get a good service.
What are the benefits of leaving the management of your lettings portfolio in the hands of a property management specialist?
Peace of mind and reducing your risk. So, the main benefit is our rent pledge, which guarantees the landlord will get the rent in full, on time, every month. If the tenant is late paying, or if the property is empty, that falls on us as long as landlords are signed up to our rent pledge. They don’t have to worry that their income stream is going to be affected.
Secondly, we understand what can be complex regulations surrounding lettings, and we keep abreast of changes in legislation so landlords can rest assured at all times that they are compliant and they and their tenants are safe. We also keep an eye on what might be coming up in future – like the plans to increase Energy Certificate requirements in a couple of years. That hasn’t come into law yet, but landlords will need to be prepared for any improvements they need to make to their properties to meet the new guidelines if they are introduced.
It’s our job to be ahead of the curve on those things and know as much as we can as early as we can to take the pressure off our landlords.
What do you love most about your job?
People. It’s as simple as that. I love working with the team at Level Up, and I love going out and meeting
people and trying to build my business.
What’s your worst property experience?
You do see it all as a portfolio manager, properties that are left in terrible condition, that sort of thing, but I think it was in another job, when we went into a property and found that it had been completely gutted. Everything was gone, ceilings and floors ripped out, and a cannabis farm in there instead.
If you could live in your dream home anywhere in the world, where would it be?
It would be in this country, because I’m not good in hot weather so I don’t dream of a warm climate. My husband and I have always had an ambition to build our own home. I’m not sure where, but it would be in the countryside with a fantastic view, near water, a river or even just a stream. Modern but not minimalist, I like comfortable and cosy. And my husband insists he’s going to have a drive-in-drive-out driveway with gates for privacy and security. We’ll get there one day!