If you're looking for a new property manager, it's important to ask the right questions. You need to make sure that the company you hire is qualified and experienced in property management and that you understand its management policies. This blog post will discuss the 12 most important questions to ask a potential property manager. So, if you're ready, let's get started!
1. Is your company solely a property management company, or do you provide other services?
Though there is no right or wrong answer here, remember that it's pretty hard to do two things at once and do them both well. If someone is trying to juggle real estate sales and property management, one of these will inevitably get less attention than the other. However, if you partner with a company that only provides property management services, you're guaranteed that the management team will be laser-focused on your investment.
2. What are your monthly management fees?
This is probably the first question you'll ask but remember, it isn't the most important one. As they say, 'you get what you pay for.' But regardless, you do need to find out if they charge a percentage or a flat rate and determine how the fees fit into your budget.
3. What is your tenant screening criteria?
If you're going to invest in a rental property, you want to ensure you end up with excellent tenants, right? That's why you should ask about the property management company's screening criteria. For example, do they take applicants at their word without verifying income or how many pets they have? Do they allow leases to be signed in just one occupant's name? Those are just a few examples of red flags. A successful property management company will thoroughly screen tenants and reject the ones who don't meet the criteria.
4. How do you handle vacancy periods?
If handled appropriately, vacancy periods can be a breeze for investment property owners and result in a negligible loss of income. Therefore, it is imperative to find out how your potential new property manager handles them. For example, how long do they allow between tenants? Do they handle repairs needed during this time, or will I have to take care of them myself? A two-week or less timeframe for turning a property will allow ample time to prepare the property and result in minimal vacancy for you, the owner. In addition, experienced property managers will be able to anticipate what standard work might be needed and quickly line up contractors should there be any surprises when tenants move out.
5. Do you take photos before tenants move in and after they move out?
The answer to this question should always be yes. If property managers don't do this, it can lead to problems come move-out time. If there isn't any proof of the home's condition before the tenants moved in, then there's no way to prove whether they did or didn't cause damage.
6. Do you advertise and show the home when my current tenants give notice?
This question must be answered with a resounding 'yes.' Think about it – if your property manager waits until your tenants move out, then has to have cleaning and repairs done, then has to take photos and get an ad together, and then start showing it – that's a lot of wasted time. Instead, a prudent property manager will begin advertising just as soon as your outgoing tenant gives notice, affording you an extra month or two of market exposure before you ever go vacant. Plus, there's a good chance your property will be pre-leased, relieving you of any stress regarding a prolonged vacancy.
7. Do you perform inspections while tenants are living in the home?
While you certainly don't want to invade your tenants' privacy, going a year (or perhaps more) without seeing the condition of your investment property doesn't sound great either. When working with a professional property management company, be sure to ask if they do property inspections. Having a professional visit the property once or twice a year will allow you to rest easy that your property is being well cared for and address any issues that may be found during an inspection.
8. How do you choose vendors to complete repairs?
You probably don't want an unlicensed plumber from a Craigslist ad working on the kitchen faucet in your investment property, do you? That's why discussing vendors with a potential property manager is essential. A well-equipped property management company will have a list of core service providers who are licensed, insured, and have a proven history of doing good work at a fair price. So if you ask a potential property manager this question and they don't really have an answer, keep looking.
9. What technology options do you provide?
Gone are the days of exclusively writing paper checks and mailing account statements. Today's investment property owners and tenants need electronic payment and communication options like everyone else. So, find out if the property management company takes online payments, allows maintenance requests to be made online, and makes owner account information easily accessible. The more convenient it is to pay rent or report a maintenance issue, the more likely it will be handled promptly.
10. Say I found another property I'm interested in. Could you help me figure out if it would be a good investment?
Though, as we mentioned earlier, you may want to shy away from those who do real estate sales and property management, property managers are often licensed real estate brokers and can give you some great advice. An experienced local property manager will be familiar with the area, current trends, and rental rates and be able to assist in your decision-making. In addition, if you have your eye on a fixer-upper, a knowledgeable property manager will be able to make expert recommendations on what it will take to get the property rent-ready.
11. What sets you apart from other property management companies?
If you've been interviewing several potential property managers, find out what makes each stand out from the competition. Do they offer something to residents that makes their lives a bit easier? Do they facilitate preventative maintenance on the owner's behalf? Do they provide you with one point of contact? These are just a few examples but if a company can tell you why it stands out from the competition, consider its answer when making your final decision.
12. What do you expect from me, the owner?
Good relationships require clear expectations from both parties. Just as you need to know what to expect from the property management company, you want to know what they expect from you. Will you have to approve every single repair down to a $5 light switch plate? Will you need to be on the lookout for important emails or phone calls? Will you have to make leasing decisions yourself? Again, those are just some examples, but setting clear expectations will allow you to have an excellent business relationship with your new property manager.
When interviewing property management companies, you have to do your homework. You should, of course, see what their online reviews are like or ask for recommendations, but you also need to speak to them directly. By asking good questions and having a clear idea of what you're looking for, finding the perfect professional property management partner will be a breeze.
As a leading property management firm in the Cape Fear region, Sweyer Property Management recommends that property owners strongly consider working with a trusted and experienced property management company. Whether it pertains to the eviction process or another area of handling your investment properties, we want to make sure property owners and investors understand the relationship they are entering into when choosing to work with a property management firm.
If you have investment properties and do not use a professional management company, we hope you consider doing so. The experts at Sweyer Property Management will be happy to provide you with a free rental analysis or, if you prefer, give us a call at 910-239-1338.
Sweyer Property Management is a full-service professional property management company specializing in all aspects of rental management. If you're an investor or property owner looking to learn more about our services and what a professional property manager can do for you, reach out to us today at 910.256.3031 or via our website. Sweyer Property Management has exhibited continuous growth throughout the Wilmington, Leland, and Hampstead areas while maintaining an excellent Google+ rating for customer service.