The Big List of Roles Property Management Companies Need to Fill Expertly

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Managing property is an extraordinarily complex job; rare is the person who can actually do it all on their own. Like, “two-horned unicorn” kind of rare. The reason why is simple — just take a look at the long list of things a property management company does on a daily basis.

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The Big List of Roles Property Management Companies Need to Fill Expertly

Money Matters

  • Research the property, neighborhood, and economy to understand the optimum level of rent to charge for each property.
  • Ensure optimal cash flow by crafting a rental agreement with adequate rent and late (and other) fees, and then enforcing that agreement strictly but with judgment and common sense enough to not lose a valued tenant due to an unimportant one-time issue.
  • Adjust rent as is necessary and appropriate — upward or downward — taking into account both relevant laws as well as the capacity of the tenants to bear such changes.
  • Determine the appropriate security deposit, and accurately track the physical status of each property before, during, and after the stay of each tenant (for the purposes of accurately disbursing or spending deposit money).
  • Create and maintain budgets for each owner’s portfolio of properties, each property individually, and the management company as a whole.
  • Accurately predict and prepare for worst-case-scenario disasters by funding emergency accounts and keeping money set aside for genuine emergencies.

Related: Protect Your Investment: How to Tell a Good Property Manager From a Bad One

Filling Vacancies

  • Market properties so as to obtain the best ROI for the marketing efforts, but with an eye toward keeping properties full. This includes being able to discern and communicate the benefits of each property without breaking Fair Housing Laws.
  • Guide owners in determining what property improvements will help improve the appeal of a property while achieving peak ROI for that improvement.
  • Screen prospective tenants, including running credit checks, background checks, and following through on references and prior landlords. An experienced landlord may develop a “gut feel” for which tenants are likely to pay on time and be otherwise low-key, but a good landlord never allows his gut to dominate the conversation — putting in the effort at a full screening is absolutely vital.
  • Set the length of a lease to maximize the owner’s profit (by balancing a tenant’s desire for flexibility with the owner’s desire to have the property full for a long stretch at a time).

Handling Tenants

  • Fill maintenance requests and deal with emergencies on all properties, including crime, natural and/or manmade disaster, pest control, structure or appliance failure, and more.
  • Handle noise, domestic disturbance, or other complaints both issued by and directed toward the tenants.
  • When a tenant moves out, perform the final inspection, deduct any relevant amount from the security deposit, return the security deposit, clean the unit, make any necessary repairs or replacements, guide the owner in making any important upgrades, and begin the process of finding a new tenant. Not necessarily in that order.
  • When a tenant needs to be moved out, deal with the eviction in court.

Deal With Vendors and Employees

  • Maintain good relationships with skilled and affordable experts in a huge variety of fields, including plumbing, electricity, public relations, building inspection, private detective work, landscaping, accountancy, legal work, marketing, risk management, insurance, security, general contracting, tax filing, advertising, and more.
  • Keep track of and adjust for changes in markets for housing-related material including wiring, drywall, plumbing, paint, cabinetry, fixtures, and much more.
  • Screen and track each employee who works for the management company. Set salaries, duties, benefits, rules, and deal with all business interactions including discipline and firing those who don’t work out.

Related: The Landlord’s Ultimate 34-Step Property Management Checklist

The Paperwork

  • Keep thorough records of all transactions related to each property, including transactions with the owner, the management property, the tenant, any and all vendors, and any and all material sources (i.e. Home Depot, The Garden Store, etc.).
  • Keep a digital or paper record of every communication to and from every tenant, including the date, content of, and attitude of every communication. These records are vital from the basis of almost every housing-related court case, and their value cannot be overstated.
  • Assist the property owner in understanding how to file taxes for each property. With permission, file taxes for the property.

As you can see, a property management company does the work of dozens of experts — mostly by having dozens of experts on staff or at least on hand. Most importantly, however, a property management company owns the job of being the connection between the big-picture, broad-stroke view of the property in terms of total ROI and investment value, and the little-picture, up-close-and-personal view of the property as the place some individual pays for in order to have a home to make a life for themselves. That’s a role that needs filling.

Investors: Weigh in — What would you add to my list? What roles have you found to be most vital for property managers to fill?

Leave a comment below!

About Author

Drew Sygit

Drew is the manager of Royal Rose Property Management, a fairly high-tech solution for Detroit Metro area property owners & investors.

54 Comments

  1. Andrew Syrios

    I would stress the book keeping angle too. I’ve seen some cases of property managers really falling down on the job of keeping their books in order. Indeed, there’s a big scandal in Eugene, OR (where I’m originally from) about a property manager who, through creative accounting, managed to have a four million dollar shortfall and bankrupt his company (and short hundreds of owners). He’s now missing and on the run. It’s a crazy story: http://registerguard.com/rg/news/local/32771052-75/clients-of-troubled-property-management-firm-fear-total-loss.html.csp

    • Drew Sygit

      ANDREW: by no way are we perfect, but we’ve seen competitors with good intentions have no clue how to generate owner statements, much less have all their bookkeeping in order. Worse for DIY’s! We recommend that EVERYONE scan and save ALL paperwork related to their properties and save in the cloud as a backup.

      • Benton Cotter

        There are a lot of online software solutions that can DIY’s and property managers. I know the 2 companies I have been with use propertyware.com. Which is a great software for property managers. I would only use a company that is using some kind of specific property management software to ensure compliance with their State real estate law.

        For DIY landlords there is a solution called rentalutions.com that has most aspects like online rent collection, application screening, and even repair submission. Seems like a great solution for those who don’t use a property manager.

        @gentrypmtucson

        • Drew Sygit

          @BENTON COTTER – we couldn’t agree more! We had a competitor in our market that we knew was still doing everything manually and sending owners spreadsheet owner statements. Once they got over 100+ properties they imploded because they didn’t have the tools to keep up. They eventually stopped sending monthly statements and as a result we picked up several of their clients. BTW Buildium is another option for DIY landlords;)

  2. Dina Fantegrossi

    The Real Estate company where I work has a rental department, and these poor ladies get the brunt of everything! Complaints from tenants, owners refusing to pay for necessary repairs, vendors who don’t show up… I could not imagine having to deal with their job! If you find a good property manager, hang onto them for dear life! And make sure to show them some appreciation from time to time!

    • Drew Sygit

      DINA; thanks for the plug! Yes it’s a crazy job with little positive feedback:( Our best owner clients are DIY’s that had multiple properties and can understand the issues you mention. The DIY landlord with only one or two properties usually has the time to micro-manage them and often can’t understand why a property manager can’t do the same.

  3. karen rittenhouse

    The role property managers fill is unending. And, if you have properties of your own, recognize that it’s not only everything you have to do to manage your own properties magnified over and over, it’s also taking on all the marketing to, contracts with, phone calls, bookkeeping, accountability, hand holding, and pampering for the property owners as well.

    As Dina said, if you get a good property manager, do everything you can to keep them and let them know you appreciate all they do!

  4. Thanks for the information. It sounds to me like a property manager has quite a bit to do. My husband and I just started our own business, and we’ve thinking about hiring a property management team to help us out. It’d be nice knowing that they’ve gotten things taken care of.

    • Drew Sygit

      MIA: thanks for commenting. In our experience very few DIY landlords cover all the bases they should and just “wing it”. Of course that’s all good when things are running smoothly. When events turn for the worse they are ill-prepared and the repercussions often much worse then they should have been.

  5. After reading your list there is no way that someone could think that property management isn’t important. I think that there are so many little things you might not think about, and a property management company will be able to catch those things and help you out. Being a landlord can be difficult, and you deserve to get the help you need.

  6. I have been looking into getting some property management services and this article helped me a lot, thanks for sharing, Drew. I have a piece of property that has been in development for a while now and we are almost done with construction. I want to get a management team hired on, earlier on, so that they are familiar with everything by the time the tenants come.

  7. I think it is so important to research the property and neighborhood you are moving into. Once when I was a child we had moved in to a house, that we had not researched sex offenders in our area, and
    not know about a neighbor we lived right across. I think we would have made a better decision had we researched it.

  8. I have been thinking about getting a property management group to come and help me take care of the condos that I manage. However, I wasn\’t really sure what exactly property management did, so this article is really helpful. It sounds like there are so many things that they can do, which is really great. It would be so nice to get help with taking care of tenants and any of their concerns, but it would be especially nice to get help with all the paperwork! I will definitely start looking for a good property management group to come and help me out. Thanks for the great post!

  9. One of my good friends is going to school to work in property management one day. From what he told me, it sounds like a tough job that really requires to know what your doing. This article has some good insights that I think could help him with what he is currently working on right now.

  10. I like to keep tenants as happy as possible within reason. Being quick with maintenance will not only keep them off your back, but keep them happy as well. Keeping them happy will also make them more likely to resign when that time comes. Thanks for this great list of tips and ideas!

    • Drew Sygit

      @DREW: Maintenance seems to be the biggest challenge with tenants as it’s often difficult to meet their immediate gratification expectations:( Prompt communication and being consistent, though, are very important.

  11. I have been thinking about getting a property management group to help me with the properties that I rent out. It sounds like they can help with quite a few things, such as adjusting rent as needed and helping to fill vacancies. It would be especially nice to have someone to help with maintenance requests, because trying to take care of broken appliances and noise issues on my own can sometimes be difficult. I will be sure to look for a good management group that can help me out soon! Thanks for the great advice!

  12. Thanks for such an extensive list. I think that there are probably more roles that you could add to this, as well. If you want your properties to provide passive income, then having someone else handle the day-to-day is the way to go. Like you said, they can ensure the optimal cash flow. You don’t have to put in all the work.

  13. Great post, Drew! I\’m glad that I stumbled upon it because I\’ve been thinking about the role of property managers. I think you\’re absolutely right: they have a tough job! I think it\’s interesting that they research property and the economy to determine what to charge for rent. Thanks for sharing this information with us; it\’s been very helpful!

  14. I like what was said about keeping properly filed paper work. I think that keeping paperwork is a good way to keep the conditions of the agreement. I will definitely be keeping record of anything discussed and decided. Thanks for sharing!

  15. A property management company doesn’t just keep the lawn cut and the mail distributed. Like you said, they have to deal with the tenants, fill vacancies, handle employees, and a host of other jobs. It takes someone with a lot of experience do that and not crack under pressure. I’d assume that experience with customer service would be a must for a job like that. Anyways, if I was looking at hiring a property management company, I would want to go with a professional for sure.

  16. Researching the area to understand the local economy is a great way to determine rent prices. My husband and I really lucked out by finding a house that charged much less the rest in our area. When we move out, do you think I should advise them to raise rent a little bit before they find new tenants?

  17. I\’ve been looking at getting a property manager for the apartment complex I own while my wife and I are expecting our first kid. If even half of this list is what most property management companies handle than this might just be what I am looking for, especially if they are willing to handle cleaning and repairs when a tenant moves out. I\’d like to be give my wife and kid my full support and attention for at least the first year or so before I get back to work at the property.

  18. Wow, I didn\’t realize that a residential property management company did so much! That would be awesome to have someone manage my properties that way. So much of my time is eaten up by dealing with the tenants and trying to find new ones.

  19. Thanks for your article about the roles that property management companies fulfill. Investing in real estate or rental properties can come with a lot of responsibilities to maintain property value and profitability. Many people don’t have the time or the knowledge about how to do this. Property management can be a great option for many people.

  20. Thank you for explaining what roles a property management company can fill. I have some commercial property and I\’m getting a little overwhelmed with all of the paperwork and dealing with vendors and renters. I think outside management might really relieve some of my stress. Do you know how expensive this service usually is?

  21. It’s good to know that property managers keep track of paperwork for my clients. I was worried about how to track down housing related problems that my tenants submit. It’s good to know that any property manager I would hire is supposed to keep all written record of complaints and repairs that need to be done for the house. Thanks for the post!

    • Drew Sygit

      DEANNA: Whoa, whoa, WHOA! “Any property manager I would hire”? Won’t happen as there are too many out there that are incompetent or even worse, crooks. Request that any PM you’re thinking about hiring give you a tour of their online system. If they can’t…

  22. I liked your post, Drew! I had no idea that there were so many things that a property management company needs to do! After reading your article, I find it nearly impossible to think that property management is not important. I feel like property management companies are fantastic, because they often can take better care of tenants than a regular landlord can, simply due to the fact that they have more resources at their disposal. I think that in the future, we will see more landlords using property management companies to manage their rented property so that they have less to think about on a day-to-day basis. Thank you for posting!

  23. Drew Sygit

    KAEL: thanks for your enthusiastic compliments! We actually feel that the average DIY landlord can manage 1-4 properties themselves — fairly effectively. As we mentioned in one of our comments above, some DIY landlords have the time and organizational skills to micro manage their properties more so than a PM. Of course, a good PM may have more resources than the average DIY.

    On the other hand, a poorly organized DIY landlord is better off hiring a PM!

  24. One of my favorite things that property maintenance companies take care of that you mentioned was the paperwork. I can\’t even express to you how much of that I have. It seems to consume me and takes me after hours in order to complete it all. Maybe having a property manager would relieve me of some of that workload.

    • Drew Sygit

      JAMES: Good PM’s should be organized and track ALL expenses they handle in relation to the properties they manage. We provide each of our owner clients with an Annual Statement, breaking down all income and expenses, and a 1099. All they then need to do is hand those over to their tax professional and they’re done!

      We also provide monthly statements, up to the minute reports and monthly comparison reports among others.

      Many PM’s now use online property management software that can do the same. We wouldn’t recommend using a PM stuck in a time warp still using spreadsheets or just QuickBooks.

  25. A buddy of mine was just hired on at a property management company and he loves it so far. He is wanting to get a better feel for the financial side of the company, but he isn\’t sure where to begin learning about it. This has some great points that can help him get an idea of what property is worth and how to adjust rent and all that.

  26. I definitely like the idea of hiring an expert company to handle all the serious details of your property. That would free up so much more time and energy to focus on other things. I will have to talk to my friend about getting a property management company to handle his properties so he can be less stressed. Thank you for the information.

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