3 Not-So-Obvious Tools That Save Property Managers Time & Money

by | BiggerPockets.com

If you are a buy and hold landlord, property management is key to profit. You can buy your rentals at a great price and have a great plan in place, but without a solid management team to implement your plan, your deal will likely fail. We manage our local portfolio in house, and I recommend that any investor just getting started try managing their own deals at first to get a taste of the management game. It will give you a better understanding of what it takes to run your rentals effectively so you can hire the right manager when the time is right. You can also do what we did and build a property management business to create an additional revenue stream that also manages your real estate for you.

Related: The 7 Indispensable Team Members of a Property Management Company

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3 Not-So-Obvious Tools for Property Management Success

Whether you are managing yourself or outsourcing, it pays to know the tools that a management company needs to have in place to set them up for success. There are obvious tools like a robust and friendly website that has a tenant portal for them to pay online.

In today’s video, I talk about some not-so-obvious tools that I have found to save us time and money—and to create happier tenants in the long run. Check out the video to learn more!

I only listed 3 tools here but there are many more. Why don’t you leave some others that work for you in the comment section down below?

Let’s get a good conversation going! I hope to hear from you.

About Author

Matt Faircloth

In 2005, Matt founded The DeRosa Group along with his wife, Elizabeth. At the time, the two person company owned and managed two assets – a single family home and a duplex. Over the last nine years, they have grown the company to a 12 person team owning and managing over five million dollars in residential and commercial assets throughout the central NJ and Philadelphia area. One of DeRosa’s mantras is “to make money while making a difference.”

12 Comments

    • Matt Faircloth

      Hey Dawn,
      Lawnmower, you are funny!
      As you are in North Carolina I should let you know that we get this wet, cold flaky stuff that falls from the sky and piles up in driveways, sidewalks, etc… We call in “Snow”. You may have seen it on TV and not been familiar with what it was.
      I’m just kidding of course, but I used to live in North Carolina and remember it snowed one time and people freaked out! Not a common occurrence to say the least.
      Thanks for the comment and the laugh!
      Matt

  1. Tim Sabo

    What Matt is talking about here is two things: first, be proactive. Be ready with the tools and knowledge you will need to operate a successful rental property, or it can bite you hard. Snow blowers, drain cleaners, etc are just some of an array of tools any qualified rental property manager needs access to, coupled with the ability to operate, in order to keep out of ‘big’ trouble. Be able to perform most of these maintenance items-whether they be preventative maintenance like snow blowing, or repair maintenance like drain cleaning-is a necessity for all property managers. The second thing Matt is talking about is Reactive: when the problem gets bigger than you, something beyond your skill set, or scope of knowledge, you need to know when to call in reinforcements-the ‘guy’ in the truck. Having trusted contractors on your ‘team’ is also an imperative in property management: no one should go into the winter without having a reliable furnace man on the team, ready to show up and get the heat on again. There will always be those things you can’t do yourself; knowing what they are and who WILL be the ‘go to guy’ in those moments is a key to your success. Be proactive with those things you can, and reactive-with reliable help-when the need arises.
    As for Matt, if that is his building he is standing in front of, he needs to be proactive and get some of those bricks repointed. Also, I see a lot of green growth in the corner, which could suggest a dampness issue near that downspout/ drain. Be proactive Matt and get that brickwork down before that moisture negatively impacts your building, which it looks like it already has done.

    • Matt Faircloth

      Hey Tim,
      Great comments, I appreciate you summing things up. It does come back to preparedness. The drain will clog at some point, and the weather will challenge your property. Being prepared for these things with your own inventory or a key person to handle for you will put you ahead and help avoid unpredicted expenses.
      And please disregard the bricks and mold in this video, LOL. We are just starting a renovation on that property and have our work cut out for us!
      Take care,
      Matt

  2. Cindy Larsen

    Matt,

    The tools I find most contribute to my success in managing my properties can’t be bought at a hardware store. I think the key is what you said about your man in the truck: the knowledge to use the tools.

    Knowledge is key, whether you are fullfilling the role of the man in the truck yourself, hiring the man in the truck for your property management company, or outsourcing the job. You (or your property manager) need to understand what the maintenance and repair issues are, and how to maintain and fix your rental property. A thorough home inspection, at least twice a year, looking for problems and potential problems will save you tons of money: deferred maintenance is much more expensive than preventative maintenance.

    Many tenants don’t know what to look for, or that anything needs to be maintained, so you need to be proactive about finding potential problems. I put my deal buyer’s hat on to inspect my rentals: from foundation to roof, from plumbing and electrical to paint, what needs to be repaired, or maintained? PHysical tools: that little lightup pen-like device that you stick in electrical outlets that tells you if they are working is a great one. Sorry I can’t remember the name of it off hand, but it’s in my inspection tool box. A ladder so you can inspect the roof and clean the gutters. Painting equipment to keep the house exterior maintained, and so you can paint the interior as necessary between tenants. Cleaning equipment, or a great cleaning company (Tenants will clean to try to get all of their deposit back, but not all of them are sucessful at making the place as clean as it was when they moved in)

    Fixing all deferred maintenance right after you first buy a house will save you a lot too, as well as giving you a known state of maintenance for the property, to compare it’s future state to. I always take pictures on tenant move in and move out and compare them. My ipad is my tool of choice for that.

    Another key is setting tenant expectations: I tell my tenants that I want them to inform me about anything wrong, or any problems, at once, so I can help. Especially anything leaking. I ask them to contact me about any minor problem by email, and any water issue by email and phone.

    • Tim Sabo

      Cindy:

      I think what you are referring to is called a Non-Contact Voltage tester; slip the plastic end in the receptacle and it will light up or sound an alarm when voltage is present. This is good when you’re doing repairs, but what you might consider using is called a receptacle tester. The receptacle tester plugs into the receptacle, and based on what lights up, will tell you the status of any receptacle: whether it is correct, or if there is an open ground, or perhaps the polarity is reversed (hot and neutral installed incorrectly), and other potential harmful electrical situations. This is the tool used by every inspector to ensure the wiring to each receptacle is correct.

    • Matt Faircloth

      Hey Cindy,
      Great idea. I do a Preventative Maintenance inspection on our buildings at least once a year. As you said, the tenants won’t tell you about the slow leak in the faucet that is costing you money on your water bill, or about how the outlet in the basement stopped working.
      Thanks for the comment.
      Matt

  3. Tim Sabo

    Matt,

    After re-reading this article, I realized I had not contributed anything.

    I discovered we were spending a lot of time fielding calls from prospective tenants-usually during the day while we were working. Trying to recall what questions to ask, and then keep our notes organized, and actually doing our due diligence in that manner wasted enormous time. Not to mention setting up showings for people that either were not qualified or the unit wouldn’t meet their needs. So I devised a set of standardized questions to ask all prospective tenants, a list that would help us know if our unit could meet that persons needs AND if the tenant would qualify (I mean why set up a showing if it’s not going to work, right?) So we standardized our questions, and then I realized that by putting the questions into digital form, I could simply email it to prospects, who could complete it and return it, and I didn’t have to stop working for more than a minute to do that. So now, when a prospect calls, we simply ask for their email address, then email them a copy of our Rental Questionniare. After we review it, we may set up a showing, ask for more information, or realize this prospect is not going to qualify. In any regard, we never set up a showing until we have a completed Rental Questionnaire where the prospect meets our qualifications: and this is an enormous time saver! We probably eliminate 80% of prospects right off the bat due to one or more of their answers. I can also use the data to keep track of what prospects I’ve already spoken to so if I have another property listing, I don’t have to go through the whole process again. And I can do a quick background check-checking for landlord-tenant judgments and all before I set up any showings. In all, what used to consume much value workday time is now condensed into one quick call, one email, followed by a one minute review, another minute to check the background, and go!

    Our use of the Rental Questionnaire I created has significantly reduced screening time AND improved the process at the same time. A real time saving gem!

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