Chances are when you hear “property manager,” you picture a handy guy or gal who takes care of the lawn, wheels the trash bins to the curb, and collects rent checks. For casually managed rental properties, that may be the extent of the job. But for professionally managed properties — be it a sprawling apartment community or a single family home — the property manager plays a more proactive role in protecting the owner’s investment, handling everything from tenant placement to daily maintenance. Let’s have a closer look at the core functions of the professional property manager.
For real estate investors, there’s nothing worse than a rental property without a tenant. Property managers are responsible for filling vacancies as quickly as possible. A good property manager knows the rental market inside out, and will create a compelling ad tailored to the kinds of tenants you hope to attract. A rental ad should list key features, but also tell a story about the surrounding community, and this is where the property manager’s local expertise comes to the fore. An ad for a single family home in the outer burbs might mention proximity to schools and public amenities fit for family outings, like parks and museums, while an ad for an apartment downtown might emphasize local watering holes and public transit options. In some cases the property manager will also set the rent, offering incentives and discounts when necessary to attract new tenants.
Experienced property managers have seen thousands of tenants, and will employ a consistent screening process — credit and background checks, rental history — to select tenants with a solid track record of paying rent on time and sticking around for more than a season. Pro tip: Property managers who cultivate good relationships with their tenants will often get quality referrals from their current tenants. Word of mouth still fuels the real estate biz, and property management is no exception.
Keeping the owner’s property attractively maintained, safe, habitable, free of pests, and generally in good order is the property manager’s bread and butter. This includes making scheduled and emergency repairs as well as ongoing maintenance, such as lawn care and extermination. An experienced property manager will have a network of reliable local contractors who can get the work done right the first time, and with minimal inconvenience to tenants. Property managers also work with homeowners associations to ensure the owner’s property is in good standing with the HOA’s rules and regulations, and that tenants are made aware of these guidelines.
Property managers rely on tenants to let them know when maintenance issues arise. This is another area where the property manager’s soft skills come in handy. Tenants who are happy with the way their rental is being managed are more likely to report preventive maintenance issues that could cause long-term damage to your property, like a fridge that leaks intermittently — it may not bother the tenant much, but it’s wreaking havoc on your kitchen tile.
For inexperienced landlords, this is an often overlooked aspect of the job of managing a rental property. Noise complaints, rent increases, messy move outs — anyone who’s rented for more than a few months knows disputes inevitably arise between landlord and tenant and, in the case of multi-family buildings, between neighbors. Good property managers communicate effectively and with empathy to resolve disputes in a way that feels like a win for everyone.
Knowledge of the Law
Federal, state, and local laws regulate many aspects of the rental business, from tenant screening to security deposits. Put simply, the property manager’s in-depth knowledge of the law, coupled with detailed record-keeping, can help you avoid costly legal mistakes.
Did I forget to mention rent collection? That’s a breeze these days with an online rent collection platform, which allow you to receive rent payments directly into your bank account.
To recap: Property managers make sure the rent gets paid on time and the front yard doesn’t go feral, but that’s just the beginning. Professional property managers protect your investment by finding the best tenants, handling any disputes that may arise, keeping the books, and generally acting as the owner’s eyes and ears. Because you can’t be everywhere. That would be weird.