I received some really great response to my post, 10 Ways to Help Out Your Property Management Company, and some important questions that I want to address here.
Jason asked: “What items would you suggest when someone already has a property manager?” Kudos to you, Jason, for wanting to improve your relationship with your PM!
- Communicate through email rather than phone calls. Phone calls are quite disruptive in any office and it’s best to create a paper trail of your communications in case you need to prove a point at some time in the future.
- Ask what your PM needs from you. Each office is run a bit differently and needs will vary. Your property manager will appreciate you being available as there may be things missing from your file that they would like to have; i.e., location of water shut-off valves or HOA information.
- Systems and vendors. Allow your management company to handle as many of the issues that come up as they can. For example, we have some owners who say they will handle maintenance issues themselves or hire their own handymen. That creates a middle-man for us to deal with (the owner) and they don’t always do what they say or can’t get their subs to do what needs to be done in a timely manner. This creates an unnecessary chain that slows the process and the end result for a frustrated tenant. A good management company will have systems and people in place to handle management needs as they arise.
- Respond quickly. When your management company contacts you for any need – repairs that need to be done, rental amounts that need to be negotiated, etc. – respond quickly, just like you would want from them. As a management company, we work for the homeowner. However, when a tenant has a need that has gone on for days because we’re waiting to hear back from the owner, we are sometimes forced to make decisions for the owner to keep the tenant satisfied and even to keep the property in “habitable” condition. We always want the owner to have the final say, but that requires their prompt response. We had one tenant go without heat for five days because the owner was slow to get their heat repaired (and it was cold out!). We finally sent our own HVAC crew and had it repaired in spite of the owner’s demand to use their own people.
- Relax and let go. If you have a good management company, let them manage! Take a cruise and know they have it under control. We have handled hundreds of properties and I have no idea how many tenants. We really do know some of the best ways to get and keep a property filled. For example, many owners start out by saying that they don’t want pets in their home. I explain the fact that many (most?) people have pets so they’re eliminating a huge percentage of the population who are potential tenants. Beyond that, many people will simply say that they have no pets when, in fact, they do. I encourage owners to allow pets but charge an up-front non-refundable deposit and even a monthly fee for allowing the pet. That way, someone else is paying down the mortgage and our owners are being reimbursed for any damage the pet may cause. Win/win!
- Know that the contract goes two ways. If you’re not happy with your management company, let them know why in writing. If the issue(s) cannot be resolved to your satisfaction, move to another property management company at the end of your contractual agreement (or sooner if there is a major problem).
Tiffany asked: “What can owners expect from good managers? Please include frequency of updates, response time, and time to fill vacancies.”
I like to consider myself a good manager… so I’ll share some of the things we do:
- We ask homeowners to communicate through email. It’s much easier for us than phone calls and creates a necessary paper trail. Our office answers 99% of the communications the same day. Our only exception would be occasionally on the weekends.
- Time to fill vacancies depends upon the property – condition and location – just like when selling. We do our best to inform each client what their property needs: cleanliness, wall color, landscaping, etc. If a client refuses to respond, we can’t help that their property stays vacant. We market “everywhere” online so our phone rings constantly! We often fill properties within 48 hours – average is two to three weeks.
- We like to set expectations low as far as pre-emptive communication from us. Property owners hear from us if their property goes vacant or needs repair, and when it is filled after vacancy. Other than that, they can expect their check from us once a month and should relax, knowing we’re taking care of things. They also receive a monthly email newsletter from us sharing what we’re communicating to their tenants that month (time to clean out gutters – suggestions for reducing heating bills – monthly schedule of property inspections, etc.).
Thanks to everyone for your comments and questions! What can you add to this list?
Photo: Bill Ward’s Brickpile