Interview questions for property manager
Continuing my trend of posting on topics that I'm currently learning about; I've been looking for a new property management company (PMC). My current one, while competent at placing tenants, is not very communicative. Sometimes getting information on the state of my property is like pulling teeth. This, for those not familiar, is not a good situation. This is a result of just going with the first PMC that I had recommended to me and while nothing terrible has happened at my property, I chalk that up to luck more than anything else. What's more, the termination clause in my contract states that if I terminate before the lease is up, I owe all management fees that would have been paid to them for the lifetime of the lease. To be fair, since my next step is to analyze a bunch of management contracts, I don't yet know if this is standard or not for my area. Regardless, to avoid paying nearly a thousand dollars more than necessary, I either need to find a new PMC that will guarantee me increased rent to make this worthwhile over the next several months or wait until the lease ends.
So, I've been looking into exactly what I want in a property manager and, more importantly, what should be expected of a good property manager. Below are a list of questions that one can ask prospective PMCs that will help you gauge whether they are right for you. Remember that they work for you, so it is you who is responsible for determining what you need, then find a company that meets those needs. From personal experience... do this well ahead of getting a property manager.
What you want depends very much on personal preference and how hands on/hands off you are, your risk tolerance, what you're willing to pay, etc. Getting sample management contracts, lease contracts, maintenance requests, maintenance invoices, tenant applications, and other communiques that companies use from a variety of local PMCs then going through them will help you figure out what matters to you.
There are several things that are a must have for PMCs. However, since I am not an expert on this subject and haven't yet solidified it in my mind, I don't intend to write on what makes a good PMC. I highly recommend starting your considerations by reading a few posts on the bigger pockets blog. Thanks to @Drew Sygit for your blog series on interviewing property managers. For anyone who is interested, these posts gave me an excellent framework for what to look for in a PMC and many key questions to ask:
Part 1: https://www.biggerpockets.com/...
Part 2: https://www.biggerpockets.com/...
Part 3: https://www.biggerpockets.com/...
Some of the following questions may not apply to you, but I've been writing down questions that comes to mind for a week now and have a pretty extensive list. It may be a long conversation with the PMC, but if they're not willing to go into detail with you, do you really want them working for you?
Hopefully it will help spur ideas for other newbies! And as always, any additional questions/considerations that need to be added that anyone else considers essential are welcome (and kudos to you for being willing to read and critique this long list)!
Can I get a sample management contract to review?
Can I get a sample lease to review?
Can I get a sample renter application to review?
Can I get samples of monthly and annual statements?
What types of properties do you manage?
Do you manage short term rentals?
How long have you been managing properties in Colorado Springs?
How may properties do you have under management?
Are you a member of the National Association of Residential Property managers?
Do you have real estate agents available to ask for advice?
How do you handle a lawsuit from the tenant?
Do you have real estate lawyers on retainer?
Do you have real estate lawyers available for owners to ask advice?
Do any open collections/lawsuits on previous tenants transfer to a new property manager?
Increasing cash flow/market analysis
What sort of information do you give to clients when assessing the market?
Do you provide tips for improving the property to maximize rent? If so, how do you assess what improvements to make?
How do you determine what rent to ask for? Looking for specific criteria.
Do you do assessments of the property on a regular basis? If so, how often?
Do you do assessments of the property between tenants?
What does the application include? What does the tenant submit?
How do you evaluate employment and income stability?
How do you determine that they can and will continue to afford the rent?
How do you verify rental history/good conduct?
How do you verify that the information you get from the tenant isn't fraudulent?
Does the owner have final say in accepting a tenant and do I see all the information gathered?
What is your process for transfering a property with an existing tenant/lease?
What fees are involved when transferring a property with an existing tenant/lease?
What rent do you suggest for the property if we renew the lease?
What rent do you suggest for the property if we do not renew the lease?
What do you handle vs what do you need my approval for with maintenance?
How do you document what maintenance is actually needed?
When are options on maintenance discussed with the owner (i.e. faucet replacement, etc)?
Do you get multiple bids? If so, when do you start seeking multiple bids for maintenance? At a certain cost? Certain project types?
How do you document what maintenance was done?
How do you confirm that maintenance was done correctly?
How do you document whether a tenant caused the damage or not?
How do you handle damage caused by the tenant?
How often do you perform walkthroughs?
What do you look for during walkthroughs?
Do you have someone perform a formal inspection on the condition of the property? If so, how often?
How do you report the condition of the property to the owner?
How do you check for potential future problems to head them off at the pass?
How are updates or renovations handled at the property?
Does the owner have final say in whether to perform maintenance? If so, under what circumstances?
Do you require owner input prior to emergency maintenance? What happens if you cannot reach me?
Do you keep a maintenance fund?
How do you collect rent?
What are your late fees?
How do you distribute funds to the owner?
What are your rates and fees?
Do you charge a handling fee for maintenance?
Do you provide discounts for managing multiple properties? If so, at what point?
Is there an initial leasing fee?
Is there a lease renewal fee?
Is there a marketing fee?
Is there a start up fee?
Is there a pre move-in cleaning fee?
Is there an inspection fee for walkthroughs/inspections?
Are there fees relating to asking for extra information (eg: real estate agents/lawyers available to ask for advice)?
How will I be informed that the tenant made payment?
How do you keep tenants accountable to pay on time? Do you make exceptions for certain circumstances?
How can I track past due balance?
Do you have a formal process for payment plans?
At what point do you send an eviction notice?
How do you update the owner on the status of an eviction?
What happens if there are damages caused by the tenant that they refuse to pay for?
What happens if the tenant leaves without paying what is owed in rent/damages?
Do you have charges for an eviction?
Do you have charges for dealing with a tenant who moves out without paying?
Do you have charges for dealing with tenant damages?
Under what circumstances may the owner come by the property?
How do you advertise the property?
What information do you provide to justify the suggested rent amount?
Does the owner get input on the rent amount or the advertisement?
How do you prove that the property is being advertised? Where can I find the advertisements?
How often do you provide updates on the rental process?
What is included in these updates? Online views, inquiries, showings, applications, etc?
What happens if the property isn't rented out quickly?
What happens if the property is vacant for an extended period (a month or more)?
What do you charge for management during vacancy?
How often do you monitor your property advertisements to see if they are effective? Do you update your methods regularly?
How is communication with the owner handled (what medium)?
When and how do you update the owner on tenant searches?
When and how do you update the owner on maintenance issues?
When and how do you update the owner on missed/late rent payments?
When and how do you update the owner on eviction updates?
When and how do you update the owner on collections or legal actions?
Tenant complaints and problems?
How frequently do you touch base with the owner even when things are quiet?
Does the owner have an assigned agent or will I be hearing from multiple people at the company?
Who takes over the property if the normal agent is on vacation?
What documentation do you provide?
How do I see statements/bills/receipts/maintenance requests/invoices/tax info/etc?
Do you keep tabs on laws affecting rental properties? If so, how do you inform the owner of these changes?
If a new law requires a change in the contract, how is this handled?
How do you track phone calls, emails, and texts to avoid misunderstandings (both with the owner and the client)?
Is there an online system that keeps records of all communications?
Are phone calls recorded?
What communication, if any, is allowed between me and the tenant
How are documents organized and stored regarding the properties and leases?
What documents do you routinely provide to owners?
How do you provide documents to the owner (mail, email, fax, online portal, etc)?
What format are they sent in (pdf? Word? Zipped?)
What documents are automatically provided to the owner vs what do I need to request?
What financial information do you provide for income tax purposes?
Other questions - I like to include this since if they give you more considerations/questions to ask them or their competitors, it shows integrity.
Is there anything else important, especially anything that is not in the owner's control, that we haven't discussed?
Are there any services you provide that we haven't touched on?
Is there anything else relevant that you think the owner ought to know about the company or your methodology?
Is there anything that I missed asking about in general?
- Investor & Agent
- Tulsa, OK
- Votes |
This is incredible and well thought out and well written too. It is… long. That’s not bad, per se, and so I mean when I say, if you manage to get to ask all of this, and get it answered by someone, please do update. I’d be curious what that dialogue is like! One could use it to build a company 🤔
Yea, I don't know if asking all of this in one long interview is the best approach. A lot of it I hope to get from analyzing sample contracts, leases, other documents, and the company website. I have yet to whittle down and finish organizing this list, but I included the whole thing in case it helped other people with what to ask.
- Real Estate Broker
- Cody, WY
- Votes |
Good on you for recognizing that you're lucky so far. The reason most Landlords have bad property managers is because they fail to research before choosing one or they fail to hold their current one accountable.
@Drew Sygit provides some excellent advice and you've compiled a great list. It's far too much to dive into with a property manager, but you shouldn't need to ask all those questions. Half of the important questions could be answered by reviewing my PM Agreement, lease agreement, and website. You need to really focus in on key pain points, then figure out what questions to ask the PM. For example, if you have C-class properties in Cleveland, eviction may be high on your list. If you have A-class in Austin, eviction may be very low on your list.
Here's my default instructions for researching managers:
Remember: cheaper doesn't mean you'll make more money.
Start by going to www.narpm.org to search their directory of managers. These are professionals with additional training and a stricter code of ethics. It's no guarantee but it's a good place to start. You can also search Google and read reviews. Regardless of how you find them, try to interview at least three managers.
1. Ask how many units they manage and how much experience they have. If it's a larger organization, feel free to inquire about their staff qualifications.
2. Review their management agreement. Make sure it explicitly explains the process for termination if you are unhappy with their services, but especially if they violate the terms of your agreement.
3. Understand the fees involved and calculate the total cost for an entire year of management so you can compare the different managers. It may sound nice to pay a 6% management fee but the extra fees can add up to be more than the other company that charges 10% with no additional fees. Fees should be clearly stated in writing, easy to understand, and justifiable. Common fees will include a set-up fee, leasing fee for each turnover or a lease renewal fee, marking up maintenance, retaining late fees, and more. If you ask the manager to justify a fee and he starts hemming and hawing, move on or require them to remove the fee. Don't be afraid to negotiate, particularly if you have a lot of rentals.
4. Review their lease agreement and addenda. Think of all the things that could go wrong and see if the lease addresses them: unauthorized pets or tenants, early termination, security deposit, lease violations, late rent, eviction, lawn maintenance, parking, etc.
5. Don't just read the lease! Ask the manager to explain their process for dealing with maintenance, late rent, evictions, turnover, etc. If they are professional, they can explain this quickly and easily. If they are VERY professional, they will have their processes in writing as verification that policies are enforced equally and fairly by their entire staff.
6. Ask to speak with some of their current owners and current/former tenants. You can also check their reviews online at Google, Facebook, or Yelp. Just remember: most negative reviews are written by problematic tenants. The fact that a tenant is complaining online might be an indication the property manager dealt with them properly so be sure to ask the manager for their side of the story.
7. Look at their marketing strategy. Are they doing everything they can to expose properties to the widest possible market? Are their listings detailed with good quality photos? Can they prove how long it takes to rent a vacant property?
This isn't inclusive but should give you a good start. If you have specific questions about property management, I'll be happy to help!
Property Manager Wyoming (#12599)
- Property Manager
- Birmingham, MI
- Votes |
@James Ross wow, great questions!
As @Nathan Gesner pointed out though, 98% of companies won't take the time to reply these if you email them - unless you have a decent-sized number of doors to transfer to them.
These questions will get answered via documents, websites and conversations:)
Thanks for including our psots!
Thank you, Nathan and Drew! I really appreciate the responses and advice. Sounds like the following might be a good order of opertaions:
1. Visit website and get what information is on it.
2. Get any sample documents that are on the website and analyze.
3. Call the PMC with the key questions, including for asking any documents that weren't on the website.
4. Analyze their documents
5. Follow up phone call with any remaining unanswered questions
Stop the process and move on if you find a deal breaker anywhere along the way.
- Property Manager
- Cleveland, OH
- Votes |
The suggestion by @Nathan Gesner to start at www.narpm.org is solid - these are companies that are associating with a professional trade organization.
I am sure some PMs will disagree for varying reasons but note the termination process. If there is no termination fee and an easy out (like a 30 day notice to terminate) that may suggest the PM is motivated to perform and demonstrates their confidence in the service.
Finally, to add to some of the counterpoints above. That super long list of questions are valid but a good PM is interviewing you for fit while you are interviewing them. You may miss on some good PMs if you ask too many question and they think you will be high maintenance with a never ending series of questions (even if not the reality). So choose the questions that are most important to you.
Ok, progress update for anyone curious.
I'm certainly getting a lot of the relevant information I need from the contracts I'm reviewing and the websites (especially those with obviously professionally produced sites that are well organized). Certainly I won't want to bring that full list to an interview with the PMC, especially as I go through more and more contracts and learn what I care about most. Some of what is on that list I find is pretty standard across all of them, at least for my market, and I likely won't need to pay too much attention to those items in the future.
I'm also finding google/yelp/facebook reviews useful. Especially 1 star reviews. Most of these are an obviously angry person venting their frustration, which aren't themselves very useful. What HAS helped is when the owner of the PMC responds to the reviews, especially to angry one star reviews, in a professional and calm manner. Often their response has specifics in it that show that they keep detailed records of interactions. Some even include time stamps and dates in the reviews for when they sent an email or had a phone conversation. Likewise, if there are a good number of well-articulated one-star reviews with angry responses from the PMC, that is also useful. Reviews aren't end all and be all (I'm finding that a detailed contract with good terms and indications that the PMC provides good communication are what I care about the most) but it has been fascinating going through the reviews.
Regardless, I think my next step is to narrow down my go/no go lines on what I will accept as far as contract terms go, provided I feel that their communication, professionalism, thoroughness, etc are all on the level.
One question, for anyone reading this. Do you know if CRMC level members of the NARPM typically charge more? They seem to be more expensive and have steeper contract terms (presumably because they've proven themselves to be skilled and ethical). There are only a few in my market, so naturally I'm looking at all of them.