How to Spot a Great (Not Just Good) Property Manager

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I’ve always felt that although you make your money when you buy, you don’t cash in on that until you initiate a great (not just good) management strategy.

We have managed our own assets for many years and learned what works and what doesn’t firsthand. Recently, we hired a manager for an apartment building we purchased that was too far for us to manage ourselves. Through the process of building our management team and then interviewing other management companies, I have realized that there are things that separate a good management company from a great one.

Related: 10 Tasks a Property Manager Will Take Off Your Plate (to Free Up Precious Time!)

What Makes an Exceptional Property Manager

In today’s video, I review what the baseline requirements are that make a manager good — and what it takes to go the extra mile and become a great property manager.

Please leave a comment if you have hired a great manager or are one yourself. I would love to hear what you think separates the good from the great!

Have a great and profitable week!

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.”

17 Comments

    • Matt Faircloth

      Hey Brad,
      Thanks for the comment. Since you are on the search right now perhaps we can use your experience to continue the conversation? Do you mind telling us a bit about the deal and what you are expecting from your property manager? What tasks do you want them to perform?
      Matt

  1. Jackie Botham

    Great video!! Thank you for posting. I recently bought an SFR from an out-of-country owner who had the property managed by a well-known PM company here in GR. The tenant I inherited had a history of paying late and when we closed on the property on the 11th of the month, rent was still not paid and the PM had done nothing to try to get the rent from the tenant. So, I went over to talk with the tenant and she explained to me how this company didn’t care about the property, did not answer her maintenance requests and that she had given up calling and had been fixing things at the house herself. I fixed a number of issues that first week that by anyone’s standards would have made the place uninhabitable. She ended up paying me the rent she owed plus late fees and pre-payed two months in advance! In my estimation, she became a better tenant simply because I showed her that I cared about the house. I think it’s crazy that PMs like the one I bought from are still in business ignoring their properties and tenants like that! And that PM is one of the largest PMs in our city! At least I know where to go now to buy distressed assets, Lol! Thanks again!

    • Matt Faircloth

      Hey Jason,
      Great question. I have had an intern do a phone interview with tenants to survey them in the past. We got very good data that we were able to use in the future. You could also consider using Survey Monkey if you have their email address.
      Matt

  2. I think the trick to getting a working relationship with your tenants and your property manager is all in the heart! My property manager knows all the tenants their names and the kids names- happy birthday e-mails are the norm not by accident. My property manager helps spouses look for employment using ( during slow times) she knows the money will help the family stay on track. My property manager has given rides to tenants to School, the Doctor, work etc…..all tenants that have been in the community more than 10 years get a gift on thietr birthday. My Property manager walks the property 3 times a week and picks up any trash scattered, this has resulted in 95% of our tenants being here more than 8 years , some 16 years! A great property manager is fundamental to our success!

    • Matt Faircloth

      Hey Dave,
      You have an awesome property manager. It sounds like they really treat the building like they are an owner (picking up trash as an example). I didn’t get into the whole birthday thing but that is a very good way to make tenants feel special at a very low cost. You have a winner there, keep them!
      Matt

  3. Dave Van Horn

    Hey Matt,

    Loved the video/article! All great points on the proactive manager vs. a reactive one.

    On the flip side of the equation, as someone who employs a management company I think there are many things that differentiate the good to great. Just to name a few, I think being responsive, consistent, trustworthy, and having common sense are all great qualities for a manager or management company to have. Did I mention common sense? That’s a biggie, especially in terms of repairs – I don’t want to send out a $100/hour plumber to have a flapper changed, that sort of thing. A lot of that comes with experience, which is also key.

    In terms of practicalities I think having a good team helps (with 24/hour service is a plus), the desire to save the owner money (or time), the ability to handle volume if necessary. And not just on the tenant end, but on the owner’s side I appreciate a manager who is good in their reporting (all I have to do is basically hand paperwork to my accountant). It also is always a huge plus when a manager has a quality network with building inspectors and other key people one has to deal with when dealing with properties and tenants. One of the unique ways my property manager really provides value is that she’s a judge – which really helps in court. I also think a property manager who is a specialist in your investment area (mine specializes in only one county) and clientele helps immensely.

    And just like rewarding your tenants, I think us owners have to remember to reward our managers! Whether it’s with gifts or even more business, that type of thing goes a long way.

    Best,
    Dave

    • Matt Faircloth

      Hey Dave,
      Thanks for the comment! You bring up so many good points. A few habits of great managers that you pointed out stuck with me. Using the right skill set and and labor cost for the task is huge. Keeping solid books is a good point also. It reminds me of a difference between good and great managers that I didn’t bring up – check the management software they use. If your target management company is using Excel spreadsheets, or even Quickbooks, I would call that Good at it’s best. Look for a software that’s dedicated to real estate management like Rent Manager, App Folio, or Buildium. These softwares have an owner log in so that property owners can have access to their own data real time, run their own reports, and check the health of their real estate portfolio first hand.
      And I love that your property manager is a judge! That’s a nice perk I’m sure.
      Take care,
      Matt

  4. Christine Swaidan

    Great video, Matt. I will be interviewing my first perspective management company on Monday (two days from now). The bulk of our portfolio is seventy apartments. Currently we have onsite managers, a husband and wife team that handle the day to day issues but they look to me pretty much for any problem. They did not have any experience when we hired them about 5 years ago. Great, honest people. I feel lucky to have them. But I am one stressed woman! Right now there is lots of deferred maintenance so at each vacancy a rehab is done–paint, flooring, counters, sinks and appliance if needed. So far we have done or are doing 9 rehabs this year. Lots of plumbing issues that I have dealt with, also. Do you think I will be able to find a PM willing to work with my onsite managers or do they generally want to bring their own people in (deal breaker). Plus with all the rehabs we are doing is that going to be something that I can step back from or will I have to continue to manage the process.
    Another question I have is how in the world can I just step back and let someone else takeover my job. Huge amount of money involved and I watch every penny. Can I entrust the care of my properties to someone else? Not sure of that answer!

    • Matt Faircloth

      Hey Christine,
      You have an interesting situation infront of you. As I see it you have been functioning as the PM up intil now with a field team working your largest asset. It sounds like you are happy with them and as long as they are happy as well, you have a good long term situation there.
      I need to get clear on why you want to hire a manager. Perhaps to free up the involvement you have in the business and to do the books / pay bills / financials that the couple isn’t doing. Also directing all those renovations. You may be able to find a PM that is willing to absorb that couple as employees of their company or work with them in some way. Either way I would sit down and make a list of tasks that you are doing now that you don’t want to do moving forward, and tasks you would expect a manager to perform. Go over that list with the PM you are interviewing so you are clear on expectations. I would also consider another option – hiring an in house manager that would supervise the couple, coordinate unit renovations, handle your books , etc… whatever you put on that task list you are looking to outsource. You may be able to handle that in house and have more control over the processes and culture versus hiring a management company.
      I am really intrugued by the fork in the road you have here and would think that other readers are also. Please consider putting out an update here on this blog post!
      Take care,
      Matt

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