By Corey Brewer
Vendor relationships are a critical component of a successful property management operation, whether you manage one home or thousands.
Timely, effective, cost-efficient repairs are good for you, good for the owner’s bottom line, good for your tenants, and good for the sanity of everyone involved.
So how do you find a contractor you can trust, and trustworthy vendors
- Establish some qualification criteria – set the bar and only work with vendors who meet your standards.
- Work only with contractors who are properly licensed and insured. If someone is unwilling to show you their current documentation, move on to the next immediately.
- Use your state association for research, such as the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries. This is where you would see if the contractor has had a history of complaints or violations, so look for red flags here.
Assuming you have done your homework and found a contractor who looks good on paper, the next step would be to look up online reviews (BBB, HomeAdvisor, etc.) and obtain some references from former and/or current clients, or from a property manager who already uses them regularly.
At our firm we perform an annual audit of our vendors (more than 400 of them) and remove any who get consistently negative feedback, whether it be regarding customer service, quality of work, or pricing.
For larger jobs, you might consider a site visit to personally see any work that the contractor has performed (or has currently under way).
And finally, a strong understanding about expectations should be in place, and it should be in writing.
Contractors should discuss issues with the property manager, not the tenant
A good contractor will understand that while a home may be occupied by a tenant, he or she is working on behalf of the owner.
This means that if unforeseen problems occur on a job, or the cost/scope becomes more than the original estimate, the vendor should be discussing what to do next with YOU and YOU ALONE (not the tenant).
Payment timelines are also important, as landlords may or may not have enough funds in their operating account readily available until next month’s rent checks arrive.
So be clear on payment due dates to ensure you’ll be able to pay on time when the invoice arrives.
As with so many other things in our industry, it’s best to agree to these terms in writing prior to working being performed.
With any luck you’ll compile a list of vendors in multiple industries who you can trust to do good work at fair prices and are quick to act when you call on them.