Nice little earner: Showing houses could reveal a tidy sum

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The Independent Online

There's more than one reason to stay on good terms with your landlord - it could earn you a well-paid part-time job. And although "House Shower" may not be a job title you've heard of, if you rent a house, the chances are you've come across one. At its most basic level, the role involves meeting and greeting potential tenants, driving them to a property, and showing them around. But depending on the letting agency, you could become involved in matching people up with houses on a commission basis, or even learning about property law.

"It's a really great way to find out more about property, even if you're just employed as a Saturday shower" says Sue Fitzgibbons, whose letting agency employs several students. "But we have a girl who started out just showing people around, came back to work for us during the holidays, and when she graduates will start full time on our two-year training, so it can lead to a lot more."

Not to be confused with estate agents, letting agents don't simply close the deal. Instead, they are involved in day-to-day maintenance, repairs, and monthly bills. In fact, more or less every aspect of letting you can think of, from debt collection to drawing up contracts, is covered if you become more involved. Not to mention the chance to drive some very nice cars - most offices have a car pool which staff use, rather than risk ferrying potential clients around in their own clapped-out bangers.

Aside from a full clean driver's licence, house shower students also need strong inter-personal qualities. "It's not enough just to open doors and show people around houses" confirms Sue Fitzgibbons. "They've got to have a confidence and competence when dealing with people. You have to be able to talk to people about the area. You also have to be smartly dressed. That can sometimes be a problem for students because they don't have the money to buy expensive clothes, but looking presentable is very important."

Many students find a simple Saturday job showing houses quickly leads to something more. In the case of Newcastle University student Alex Button, a part-time role led to a full-time management position in the holidays, which became full-time on graduation: "I liked the job initially. It was certainly more interesting than working in a ba, and it's a good feeling to match people up with nice houses. You do have to be able to talk to people and put them at ease. And also be aware of what things in the house can be changed before people move in."

So how do you go about getting a job? The lettings industry tends to rely heavily on word-of-mouth, so you won't necessarily see positions advertised. But that certainly doesn't mean they're not available. Most agents regularly need part-timers for house-showing shifts. The best way to approach potential employers is simply to turn up smartly dressed at the office and introduce yourself with a strong handshake. There are plenty of agencies out there, so if one says "no" just walk into another one. With a little bit of effort, you could find yourself a great way to invest in property without a mortgage-broker in sight.

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