How to Find the Right Property Manager: What to Look For, What to Avoid, and More
Choosing a property manager is no easy feat. There are so many different places to look and people to fill the job that it could make your head spin. Fortunately, there are as many resources to help you choose as there are people to fill the role. The “best” property manager will be different from one property to another, but there are some general rules of thumb that you can keep in mind to help you along the way. In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know, the biggest things to avoid, and how to find the right fit for your needs.
What Do You Think a Property Manager Does?
This is an important question because people often have different ideas about what property management entails and what the duties of the job will be. From one listing to another, the job could range from standard office tasks to everything from maintenance and even security, so you’ll want to narrow your criteria. Make a short list of what you need someone to handle. Sure, you need them to manage your property, but how? Do you need someone to run the office and keep things moving? Are you looking for a property management firm that can take care of multi-unit buildings?
When you answer what you’re expecting from someone in the property manager role for your properties, you’ll have a much better idea of what you’re looking for. For the sake of this exercise, assume nothing. Just write down what you want to hire this manager for and don’t worry about whether it’s actually part of the job.
Experience and Licensing
Of all the things you could put first on your list, these are two that need to be on the top. You should always look for a property manager that has experience—namely, the right kind of experience. If you have a 500-unit condo building, you wouldn’t hire a property manager who’s primarily worked in duplexes and triplexes, for example. Choose someone whose skills and services suit your specific needs.
Make sure that they have a portfolio of experience to share and check out any customer reviews or testimonials they have available. Make sure that you verify any professional licenses, too. That way, you know that you have the best people for the job and some paperwork or licensing issues won’t prevent them from being able to do their job properly.
Give Them a Scenario Interview
One of the best ways to choose a property manager that suits your management style and needs is to see how they manage. This is best done by asking questions based on scenarios that you give, allowing them to provide you with a full example of their problem-solving and management skills in action. You should find out how they handle things like late payers and abandoned units, as well as what their track record is like with rental rates, occupancy, and other statistics.
Some people go as far as to offer a type of “live” interview where they put people in the job for a day and see how they do. Perhaps you’ll have them shadow your existing manager (or you) and offer their insight or alternatives to how things are done. Ask them what they’ve done in the past, with examples of their own experience, to see how they can handle things, too.
Choose Between an Individual and a Company
You’re also going to have to decide as to whether you want to hire an individual property manager or if you want to give control of your properties to a management company that can provide total management of all aspects while you handle other things. There are pros and cons to each, but ultimately it’s about finding what fits the needs of your business.
Companies may have more resources and tools, but if you’re just looking for one person to manage a couple of properties, a team might be overkill. Just know that you have the option and compare both so that you can see what’s going to be best. You might even want to compare rates and services between individuals and companies because with so many solutions out there today, it’s more affordable than you might think to choose a premium management solution.
Ask How They Automate
Modern property management software makes it easy for managers to do their jobs. Companies and property owners can streamline so many routine tasks and duties, from sending notices and letting tenants pay rent online to signing and renewing leases, and more. You don’t have to use all of these tools, but working with a manager that uses some of them will ensure that things are being done efficiently and that they’re working in the best interests of your property, which should be their focus at all times.
Automation and AI are changing the world of property management. There is so much work that is no longer required to be done by humans that it frees up a lot of resources. Of course, companies and managers have to take advantage of these tools to create the maximum benefit.
Pitfalls to Avoid
There are some things that you’ll want to keep an eye out for, too, when you’re in the market for a good property manager or management firm. For starters, never hire anyone who claims to have licensing that you can’t verify. The Internet unfortunately makes it easy for anyone to say anything but proving it is another thing entirely. Make sure you validate and verify all credentials, including licenses and insurance.
Another thing to watch out for is any sign of high turnover rates or poor building performance during their tenure. While it might be related to other issues or at the fault of someone else, it could also be a sign of poor management. You don’t need to reject these candidates immediately. Just question the issues that concern you so that you can be sure that you’re making the right choice.
Never hire someone with regulatory violations or legal issues. Again, many will try to talk their way out of this one, but there is nothing good that can come from getting involved with someone who already has a bad reputation in the property management industry. The manager of your property is a reflection of you as an owner, and whether that’s an individual or a firm, you want them to reflect well on you in every way possible.
The Bottom Line
When choosing a property manager, there’s a lot to consider. However, you’ll realize that if you just take the time to explore your options, you’ll learn a lot of what you need to know along the way. Remember to choose someone who would manage your property or properties the way that you would (or the way you want them managed), and the rest will fall into place. Never settle, and never hire anyone that has legal issues or any serious violations on their record.
A property manager can make your job as an owner much easier, but only when you choose the right people for the job. This is a partnership and you need to find your perfect partner—these tips are a good start. In no time, you’ll be on your way to a great collaboration that will take your real estate ownership to the next level, whether you’ve got one property or a dozen that need to be managed.