By: Bob Machado, President and owner of HomePointe Property Management
There are four important factors to consider when looking for a professional property management company. Web presence, communication, tenant screening, and reporting. Screen for these four issues and you will be well on your way to a successful partnership.
Before you talk to anyone, narrow your search to see which of the various property management companies near your property show up on the major search engines. I would not be too concerned if they show up using search terms like: property manager, or property management, or professional property manager in (your city). What I would care about is if the vacancies they have show up under searches like rentals in (your city), or houses for rent in (your city), or homes for rent in (your city). Think of search terms a prospective renter might use and see what vacancies show up. Note that the company’s own web site may or may not show up. It is their listings that you want to see. They may show up in craigslist.net, Zillow.com and trulia.com to name a few of the sites that list property for rent. For my money I want a property management company that is all over the internet with listings, getting me the widest possible exposure. That will help keep my home rented, rented for more money, and hopefully to a better tenant.
Second, look for a property manager that answers the phone during working hours. Some property managers have no provisions to handle problems while they are out of the office. What if you need an answer to your pressing question and no one is there to give you an answer? The important point is that your renter may need a water heater fixed on a weekday, at night, or a weekend. What does your property manager have set to handle such events? A good way to check is this out is to call after hours and hear what the procedure is. I would also suggest calling the property management company during the day to hear what the response time is. It may not be immediate, but is should be reasonable.
Does the property manager’s website have a method for residents to report maintenance problems? As I mentioned in earlier, web presence is very important. The vast majority of renters are now using the web to locate rentals and they will continue to use the website if the property manager has an accommodation for them.
Another element in communication is the distance your property is to the property management company’s office. The fact is, the farther your rental property home is from the property management office, the less likely your property will be shown to prospects and the less likely your tenant will receive great service. I suggest that you make sure that your rental is within a 30 minute drive time to the property management office, and the closer the better. More than this will most likely result in diminished service.
Third, find a manager who knows how to screen prospective renters. It is my experience that not enough time is spent discussing this between landlords and property managers. The property management company should have a written policy that is given to prospective renters. Do you agree with the policy? Beware if there is no policy! A property management company could be illegally discriminating without even doing it intentionally. Is the written policy adhered to? How are exceptions made? Does the broker or a supervisor review every decision?
I do not suggest requiring the property manager to contact you prior to accepting a new resident. This is a recipe for a fair housing complaint. You should have enough confidence in your property manager to allow them to make the decision. If the prospective renter meets the minimum criteria, why would the owner need to be involved? It opens the door for a problem if the owner disagrees with the property manager’s decision.
There are many rules to follow in screening for renters. Make sure your property manager is consistent in its answers to your questions. Also, how easy is it for a prospective renter to apply? Is an application online? Easier means more applications to choose from.
The final factor to consider is reporting. Find out how reports will be sent, what reports, and when you will receive your reports and any distributions. You should at least expect a monthly report and if you have multiple tenants in the form of a larger apartment or several houses, a monthly meeting may be appropriate. Some management companies are now providing reports via email and web portals. You can also receive funds electronically, which will save you time and money.
Fees you will be charged is usually very important to most owners of rental property. It is important, but I think you would agree that some of the other items I have already discussed earlier may be more important. A difference of a few dollars in fees is meaningless if the property manager cannot get your home rented to a quality tenant, for example. That said, ask what fees you will be charged. Single family managers will typically charge a lease fee, a management fee, and fees for bounced checks (from your residents). The property management company may also keep all or part of late fees collected from your resident. Some charge for inspections, delivery of notices, a percentage of maintenance, and advertising.
The important thing is to know what you will be charged. The total fees may vary, but again, other issues carry a lot more weight.
Having a frank discussion with your prospective property manager, and carefully reviewing the property management agreement are essential to the process. Check out my website at www.HomePointe.com for more on property management and our management program in the greater Sacramento area.Bob Machado is President and owner of HomePointe Property Management which is located in Sacramento, CA serving the greater Sacramento Region from three offices. He graduated from UC Berkeley “With Distinction” (1977) and has a degree in Economics. He is both a Certified Property Manager (CPM) and Master Property Manager (MPM) and HomePointe is a Certified Residential Management Company (CRMC). Bob holds a California Brokers License (00691121).
Bob is a founding member of the local chapter of the National Association of Residential Property Managers (NARPM), as was its’ first president (1992). In addition to local leadership, Bob is past national president of NARPM (1996-97) and served on the national board from 1992-1998. Bob is a nationally qualified and recognized speaker for the association and teaches various property management topics and has authored several property management courses.