Make sure you also read Examining the Organization - Background, Qualifications, Portfolio.
The service you receive will only be as good as the people doing the work. This step is critical in ensuring you hire honest, knowledgeable professionals who will be attentive to your needs and the needs of your tenants.
Here's a list of issues to review and questions to ask the property management firms you interview:
How many people do they have on staff?
There are pros and cons on to both large and small size companies. While these are certainly not universal, here are some to consider:
- Larger company benefits
- More specialized staff (i.e. the accounting dept. consists of trained accountants)
- Typically have an in-house maintenance crew
- More process-driven
- Able to negotiate better vendor contracts and advertising rates because of size
- More likely to have made a significant investment in enterprise level software that helps them perform property management functions, as well as other more general tasks like accounting, communication and administration.
- Plenty of back-ups to fill in when someone gets sick, goes on vacation, quits, etc. This load-sharing can also help with burnout.
- Smaller company benefits
- The buck stops with the people you directly deal with.
- A shorter chain of command means quicker responses and less finger pointing when there are problems.
- You may have more pricing leverage
- The fact that a mom and pop company has their name (sometimes literally), reputation and personal identity tied to their business can be viewed as a positive motivating factor to provide good service.
What is their staff turnover rate?
The property management industry has a higher turnover in general, so bear in mind this figure is only meaningful when compared to other property management companies in the area. High turnover is a bad sign. You want to deal with the same people, not a new face every few months. Additionally, this may a sign of poor management and possibly financial instability. If financial stability is a question, you can always run a credit check on the company.
Who is the specific PM that will handle the property?
The interview with management may go well, but if the manager they assign to your property is sub-par, it really doesn’t matter how well the rest of the organization operates. Make a point to meet the specific property manager(s) who will be stewarding your properties. Consider the following:
How do they show? Do they dress and act professionally? Do they seem knowledgeable about their profession?
A nice outfit, warm smile and firm handshake don't cut it. Ask enough questions to the point that you are satisfied they know what they are doing.
How long have they been a (insert your type of property) property manager for (working as an actual PM, not an assistant)?
Relevant experience is key. They may transition quite well and do a good job but either way you want to know their background upfront.
How long have they been with this company, where and for how long were they with the company before that?
Job hopping is not a good sign, and because of the localized nature of real estate, more time spent locally is preferable to a recent transplant from different rental market.
How is their compensation package structured?
This says a lot about how invested your pm will be in the performance of your properties. Wouldn't you want your property manager to be rewarded if they do a good job, and to experience pain, if they don't? Look for pay structures that establish a direct correlation between compensation and key metrics like low vacancy rate, delinquency rate, etc.
Who would you be dealing with if that person is sick or on leave?
There will be a day when the planets align and Murphy's Law comes full force. Your manager is out of town and a situation arises that requires immediate attention. Is there a qualified back-up person who will know how to solve the problem or it fall on you to deal with the problem?
What are their office hours, do they close on weekends?
Property management is a 24/7/365 vocation, look for a property manager that will be working for you and your properties on the weekend as well.
Who handles after hours, weekend and holiday calls?
It needs to be someone who is qualified to competently address owner and tenant concerns IMMEDIATLEY, rather than explaining that you or the tenants will need to wait till Monday morning before you can get redress. If one of your tenants has a pipe burst at 11:30 Friday night, you don’t want them talking to someone who is not qualified or capable of promptly getting the problem solved. Regardless of the answer you are given, the only way to know is to call the given number and see who picks up. If tenant or owner emergencies are met with an answering machine you may want to think about moving on.
How quickly do they respond to tenant and owner calls?
If during the interview process you have a hard time getting a hold of them, or getting a quick reply, consider it a sign of things to come. Why would you consider hiring a property management firm that is hard to get a hold of?
Next we'll be taking an in-depth look at property management contracts, and how they govern your relationship with a management company.
Originally posted on managemyproperty.com under, "Examining the Organization - Size, Staff, Customer Service"
Photo Credit, MauraNeill