How to Find a Property Manager
So, you've decided that you need a property manager to make your life easier - but now what? How do you find a property manager for your rental property? How do you make sure you get the right people in place, rather than end up hiring the wrong ones and causing more problems?
By putting in the work to vet them well. It's going to take some work to find the right property manager, but it's well worth your time.
Look for referrals from colleagues/friends
If you have any friends or colleagues who have worked with property managers, talk to them. A recommendation from another professional is invaluable for any hiring decision, and this is no different. Find out who others have used and what their experiences have been. Their word isn't everything, but you really should start there for good leads. Also check with other rentals and complexes in the area. Even if you can't get a recommendation directly from the owner, a company that manages major properties in the area is worth looking into.
Research the management companies
Once you have a few leads, start looking for information about them. If your state requires licensing, an obvious first step is making sure that these companies have the relevant license. From there, the information on their website and left by clients and tenants left on review websites is good for getting a feel for the company. As with all online reviews, don't take anything said there as gospel, but use it to get a general idea of how good the company is and what common issues they have are. Note these down for the next step in the process, and eliminate any companies that look like they'll be nothing but bad news.
Interview the managers
With a smaller list, you should start making phone calls or even visiting offices for the property managers. In addition to the notes that you made before about specific issues or concerns, you'll want to have a set of questions you ask everyone. Here are some example questions that are relevant to any company you'll interview.
- Where and how do you advertise to fill vacancies?
- How long does it take to place a tenant, and what's your experience with long and short term vacancies?
- What properties do you currently manage?
- Who do you work with for repairs and maintenance? Is it a regular team?
- Are you comfortable with difficult situations, like rent not being paid or evictions?
Keep your first impressions in mind
If someone doesn't feel right when you meet them, keep that in mind. Don't just judge them as wrong off a first impression, but remember that when you need to make a more concrete decision. A bad first impression can be proven wrong, but they're going to have to put in the effort to do so.
Shop around and negotiate a good contract
You should get a quote from every manager you talk to. This can be negotiated, but comparing different ones will help you make the decision when you finally have to choose a company to go with.
Once you've chosen one, make sure everything is written out explicitly in the contract. Here are some things you should make sure to include in the contract:
- What are the fees?
- Who are your contacts?
- How do you terminate the contract?
- When do they pay you?
- Who's responsible for what? Delinquence, eviction, security deposits?
Stress the monthly reports
Once they're working with you, it's important to be sure that things are going well. This is usually done in the monthly reports, where they update you on the state of the property, any issues that may have come up, all costs related to service and anything else relevant. If they're not sending monthly reports, push them to do so. Make sure to ask questions about everything in the reports. Avoid getting to the level of harassment, but it's key to understand what's going on to avoid problems coming up further down the line. As you get more used to their reports, it'll get easier over time, but don't slack on getting and understanding the monthly reports.
Keep a way out
Remember the termination clause we stressed should be in the contract? If the relationship with you and your management company is going south, don't be afraid to invoke that clause. If they're causing too many problems or costing you money, it's best to get out rather than hoping it'll improve. You'll have to start the whole process over again, but it's better than being stuck in a bad business relationship.
It's hard to find a property manager, especially a good one, but it's worth the time and effort you put into it. Do it right, and you'll trade a little money for much more time and peace of mind, a trade anyone would be willing to make.