Five Considerations of Hiring Property Managers
1. Management Fee
The property owner needs to understand the purpose of the management fee (typically 10%). The percentage management fee pays for the property manager's time. The 10% allows someone else to help shoulder the burden of owning the property. The owner is paying for someone else to field 2:00 am calls. It is important to remember that the property manager cannot take all of the responsibility and burden off the owner. In the end, it is the owner's property and the owner's responsibility.
When hiring any professional, an interview will be conducted to hire the correct candidate and then the professional is left to alone to do their job. Working with a property manager is no different. During the interview process ask good questions; require forthright answers, hire the right candidate, and then get out of their way. If an owner is a high micromanager then they should hire a certain type property manager (see Property Manager categories below).
3. Personality fit
The owner's personality has to fit the property manager's systems and procedures. Sometimes owners will have difficulty with a property managers systems and procedures. If a property management company sets office hours between 9-5 Monday through Friday and owner wants an update on their property @ 6:00pm on a Friday evening they will have to wait until 9:00 am Monday. This may drive some owners crazy who want to be very involved in the day-to-day management. If this is the case they probably should hire a manager who will be more responsive to the owner's needs.
Communication is a two-way street. It is not only the property manager's responsibility to communicate effectively. Owners should understand they have to lead the property manager in how they expect the manager to manage the property.
Here's an example: My wife is a director of marketing for a company. She has to be the leader in guiding and directing the advertising agency as to what she wants for the project. She cannot expect the advertising agency to try to guess what she wants in the project.
If your property manager is slow in returning your phone calls explain to them the level of communication you expect. In return, ask them how much communication they expect from you.
Many property managers would rather only communicate with you on as needed basis. Much more than this level of communication from the owner is overkill.
5. Property Manager Categories
While Property managers fall into three categories, the size of the property management company is neither better nor worse than the others. Choosing the size of property manager has more to do with the level of owner pampering and paperwork provided rather than a property manager being good or bad.
Small 1-50 units
Property managers in the small category are usually unlicensed with no training in property management. These managers will have more time for the property owner. This type of property manager is usually not much more than a handyman who will show and rent apartments. If a property owner wants to be hands on and needs to be updated on every specific action of the property this is the manager they should hire.
These property managers have the time to cuddle and coddle the owner. They will provide the owner with receipts for repairs and nothing else in documentation.
These managers will have no systems in place to and will not be able to negotiate vendor discounts. No 1099s and no accounting documents prepared for your accountant.
Medium 50-150 units
These managers have more of a professional approach with the use of some systems. They have the purchase power to negotiate some vendor discounts.
The paperwork may be enough for the owner to understand the numbers, but may not be enough information to submit to an accountant or to the IRS.
Large companies have invested a lot of money in their systems procedures. They will have an in-house maintenance staff. Their accounting reports can be submitted to an accountant or the IRS.
No time with the owner. Communication is very professional, but impersonal, done mostly through email and voicemail. Large management companies offer very little owner pampering and handholding. The downside: even owners who have been in real estate for many years still need some positive reinforcement once in a while.
Ryan Windley coauthored The Property Management Start-Up Guide - How to Start a Property Management Business and Still Keep Your Life in order to introduce entrepreneurs to property management as a viable business.