I work with landlords all the time, and I also sometimes work with tenants, and the thing you need to know is that your property manager will “make” or “break” the leasing experience for your tenants. You want the place to lease quickly? Obtain the highest rent? Have the happiest tenants? Maybe you don’t know it, but the answers to these questions should be yes; and the best way to make this happen is to properly screen your property manager.
To protect you: Make sure you’re comfortable with how they will manage your money. They should be directly the rent, when collected, into your account. They should ask to have a certain amount of money (maybe $500) in a separate account, and they should have the ability to spend that money as needed to maintain the property even without getting your approval first. This is for those odd times, the times that you are traveling for Christmas, and the heat breaks, and the property manager can’t reach you. For routine maintenance they should be getting your approval before spending money.
To protect your property, and the landlord-tenant relationship: Understand how and when they will conduct inspections and how they will handle repairs. Do they have an in house handyman? What’s the rate for simple stuff like reattaching shelves? Do they have a list of vendors that will respond in the middle of the night on a holiday if needed? They should have an HVAC company, an Austin Air Duct Cleaning company, a restoration company, and a plumber on speed dial. They should also have relationships with landscaping companies (who is going to mow your lawn while it’s vacant?), an electrician, a roofer, a painter, and a flooring company.
Then pretend you’re a tenant… what’s important to you?
Start with the leasing process…
If there is a question on the weekend about the home, is someone available to answer that call?
What happens with an application that comes in on the weekend?
What’s the application processing process? How long does it take and what does it cost?
Do they accept credit cards for application fees and deposits? This is a BIG one. The fastest way to get an application submitted is electronically, and any manager can accept Pay Pal or use another method for collecting funds for the application. There is no reason for someone to have to run all over town to first get a certified check and then to deliver it in person to your manager. Tell your manager to move into this century if they want your business!
Once the application is approved, when will the lease be prepared and how will they collect signatures?
What happens on move in day? A good manager meets the tenant at the property and does an orientation/inspection at move in; they also exchange the keys and funds that day as well.
When I do work with tenants I find that most of the property management companies in our area are SO hard to deal with, and I often have tenants withdraw applications or not submit them because renting at an apartment community is a better experience… and oh, by the way, apartments are generally charging more rent and offering less space than most private landlords. So, give it some thought.
From move in to move out, your tenant is going to think of that property manager as YOU. They will care for your property or not based on how they feel about it – which is going to include how they feel about you (read: the property manager). So choose wisely.
For all these reasons, send your tenants a survey, especially if they are a good tenant. Ask them to rate the manager on the leasing and move in process, how they handle maintenance or other requests, and whether they like the manager. Since most people have a professional managing their property so they won’t have to deal directly with tenants, consider having your favorite real estate agent (who hopefully works at a separate brokerage).
If *I* am your favorite real estate agent, I am happy to do this on your behalf. Just give me a call… 703-669-3142.