There can be quite an animated discussion on the topic of what makes a property manager outstanding. From a client-owner’s viewpoint it would include the property manager’s level of integrity and reliability. The bottom line for an owner of a residential rental income property is, “Does this property manager really have my best interests in their mind and heart?” An owner wants to keep his units filled and doesn’t want to be “nickel-and-dimed” on maintenance and repair costs. They want the property manager to ask permission before undertaking a costly project or replacing an expensive appliance like a refrigerator or an air-conditioning unit.
The nation’s best property managers have mastered the art of retaining residents. They’re more responsive than the average property manager and give the resident more than one way to communicate with management (for example, by both email and by telephone voicemail). Great property managers are renowned for being fair, reasonable and consistent. That’s not easy and goes against the grain of human nature. It’s easy and tempting to become calloused by all the demanding, irresponsible or unreasonable actions of some of your residents. If you as the property manager have screened your residents carefully before filling the vacancies you’ll probably discover that most of your residents are relatively good people who deserve to be treated in a fair, reasonable and consistent manner.
Why not strive to be the kind of exceptional property manager that finds ways to let your residents know that you care about their comfort and safety? Come up with thoughtful, energy-saving updates like new thermostats or long-life, low-wattage light bulbs for porches and ceiling fixtures. More residents want easier ways to pay the monthly rent. Offer them the choice of direct deposit into your business account, or an auto-pay system that electronically transfers funds (ETF) from their accounts based on a signed, authorized agreement. Make sure your local laws allow for these payment options.
Know the basic rights that your renter-residents have in the state you practice your property management business. Familiarize yourself with books (before your residents do) such as “Renter’s Rights: The Basics” by Attorney Janet Portman. Know the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) regulations on the rights of your residents. Each state has its own page at the HUD web site. Here’s the one for California as an example. Recently I interviewed what I call “an outstanding property manager.” She seemed to really be in touch with what’s happening from both an owner’s perspective and a resident’s point-of-view.
“Word spreads fast when a property manager is one of the best or one of the worst in an area,” she told me. “Being a property manager today is more challenging than ever, and I use all the tools and technologies available to stay on top of things.” “Residents are text-messaging more and using social media sites frequently. They’re using Pay-Pal to make their rent payment more than ever before,” she opined. She said she’s trying to be preemptive about managing her time and her “problem residents” so she has enough time to take care of the needs of her other residents as well as her client- owners. “I’m chasing down late rent payments all too often these days,” she remarked. “If the resident is chronically late on payments I’m decisive about evicting them as they take too much of my time.”
Her concluding remarks to me were indicative of an outstanding property manager. “I’m always striving to find a better renter’s agreement form, a better screening process to fill vacancies, a better system to provide prompt and satisfying responses to my clients and my residents—after all they’re the one paying my salary—and I need them as much as they need me.”