Make Finding a Property Management Company Easier on Yourself by Asking the Right Questions - Part 2

This is part 2 of a 4 part series where we have outlined important questions to ask a property management company before hiring them.

Series 1 Companies Credentials

Series 2 Property Management Services

Series 3 Property Management Fees

Series 4 Tenant Screening Process

Property management companies come in all sizes, capabilities and expertise. Just because one works for one investor does not necessarily mean they will work for you. Below we have outlined some important questions to ask a company during your initial interview process regarding services they provide. Their answers to these questions will give insight into their business capabilities and can provide you with an understanding of the type of services they offer which are important to you.

Series 2 - Property Management Services

Properties they manage - Property management companies are as different as car dealerships are to each other. For example, a Mercedes dealership will have the best inventory and the most knowledge of the latest selection of new Mercedes. You could visit the Toyota dealership in your neighborhood, but chances are you will not find what you are looking for. Of course, they would love your business and will try and talk you into why a Toyota is a better fit for you than a Mercedes.

Same with a property manager, they are not created equal when it comes down to their property portfolios. You need to ask what types of property they manage and make sure your type of property is one they manage. If you own a single family home, a company that manages mostly large apartment buildings or commercial property would not be a good match. In this case, your best match would be a company that has a minimum 50% or greater of single family homes in their rental pool.

Some companies manage all types of investment properties...single family homes, apartments, commercial and community associations, but chances are they hold a specialty in one or two areas.

Inspections - A thorough property inspection should never be overlooked by a property management company. A property inspection needs to be conducted upon tenant move-in and at move-out. A property inspection can range from drive-bys, a walk-through or a video inspection. If disagreements arise between tenant and manager as to items missing or damaged, actual documentation from the move-in inspection and pictures of before and after hold validity versus a verbal agreement.

A video inspection of the interior as well as the exterior of property is the best option. Still pictures are good, but sometimes do not capture all areas of property. The video will not only capture all areas, but is easily interpreted and validated as the subject property. A signed checklist at move-in from tenant validates that tenant concurs with the inspection findings.

Maintenance - When it comes time to performing maintenance or repair work to their rental properties some property management companies have their own in-house maintenance personnel. These are usually employees of the company and are paid a salary through the company. The costs or hourly rate of any maintenance or repair work that is required will be dictated by the management company itself.

On the other hand, the management company may decide to outsource all or some maintenance work to outside vendors. These vendors could range from a handyman, specialized tradesman such as a plumber or a large facility that performs all types of maintenance work.

There are pros and cons to both and I do not advocate one over the other but will outline a few points of interest:

In-house Maintenance

Pros:

- More readily available, since they work within the management company

- Direct communication with management company and their policies

- More intimate with property...they are the "one" contact and know the history of your property

Cons:

- May be more of a "jack of all trades" versus being specialized in a certain field and having the appropriate licenses

- May not be as determined to perform or finish maintenance work in a timely manner as he/she is not being paid based on the job. Whether he/she finishes in 2 hours or 8 hours, its all the same.

- If in-house maintenance crew is not available, either the repair work waits or the company will need to search for a outside vendor on short notice

Outsourcing Maintenance

Pros: