Knowing the right questions to ask your property manager prior to letting them handle your property will not only stand you in good stead over the coming months and years, it’ll also give you immediate peace of mind, too.
If you’re thinking of taking on a property manager, be it for the first time or as a seasoned landlord, there are a few things you should get straight before you sign on the dotted line. The question is, what are those all important queries?
We’ve listed the top 27 (yes, twenty-seven!) below. So, go grab a coffee and settle in for some serious property management study.
1. What’s your personal history in property management?
Knowing that your new property manager has a wealth of experience behind them will obviously help ease any concerns you may have about their capability.
While a lot can be learnt about property management online or from some very highly regarded books, nothing compares to ‘real-world’ experience, so find out how long they’ve been active and what their track record is like.
2. Do you have a designated lettings team?
If your property manager is part of a larger estate agency that happens to handle lettings, it’s important to find out whether or not the company has a designated lettings team, as opposed to their rentals being handled by whoever happens to pick up the phone.
A company with staff whose sole purpose is to serve landlords and tenants will always outperform the multitaskers, so make sure your new property manager’s focus isn’t distracted with sales or other unrelated tasks.
3. How many rentals do you currently manage?
This is an excellent way to judge how well the property manager is currently performing, so be sure to ask both on an individual and company level. Ideally, you’re looking for a sweet spot here, but you’ll need to exercise some shrewd judgement of your own to ascertain what that figure will be.
Too few could be a sign of an inexperienced or poor property manager, while too many could end up making your life more difficult, as they’ll be harder to reach and constantly juggling between you and other clients. A lot will depend on the size of the company they work for and what your gut feeling is about their ability to handle the workload.
4. What kind of properties do you have on your books?
Obviously, you want this to reflect the kind of property you own, but it’s also good to see a property manager with a wide range of different houses and apartments on their books, too.
Why? Well, it’s another decent indicator of their ability, as being able to successfully manage a variety of property types shows a broad knowledge that could prove useful to you further down the line.
5. Can you supply references?
This is one that many fail to ask, but it’s a mistake not to. References can take the shape of past clients or other property professionals your new manager has dealings with.
Be sure to speak with each directly and not just accept a written reference. You want to be able to ask pertinent questions and find out what’s good and bad about the property manager. A written reference is likely only going to provide you with the good points.
6. What services are available?
Each lettings agency will have a different range of services available, so it’s vital to drill down on exactly what they offer to find out if it matches your requirements. Too often, landlords jump in and expect their PM to accommodate their needs when their service roster doesn’t even come close.
It’s a good idea to make your own list of essentials before you speak with your prospective property manager so that you can go over each point in your meeting. Ask, too, about the key differences between their service packages and how they compare to the local competition.
7. How much do you charge?
Let’s not be coy here, fees matter and they can have a dramatic impact on your business’ bottom line. It is, therefore, incredibly important to find a property manager whose fees align with your budget, but you should also be leery of those who seem to be offering something too good to be true. It usually is.
Find out how the charges are made, be they percentage based or fixed rate, and whether there is an option to tailor them to your own individual requirements in any way.
8. Are there any additional fees?
This is a huge point, and you wouldn’t be the first landlord to fall foul of hidden fees, so make sure you ask about things such as finder fees, eviction costs, maintenance charges, viewings, account set up bills, etc.
Ask them to supply full details of ALL of their fees in writing before you sign anything. You don’t want any nasty surprises coming back to bite you.
9. What does your marketing entail?
Naturally, you want your offering to be seen by the greatest number of people possible, so it’s important to find out exactly how broad your new property manager’s reach is. Ask about things such as social media, client databases, email marketing, and property portals in order to ascertain just how hard they push new rentals when they first go to market.
10. What is your average void period?
Void periods are every landlord’s enemy, so asking how long the manager expects your property to be empty for is perfectly acceptable.
One thing to remember here is that this can be very area dependent. Asking for the company average is a good way to set a benchmark, however, and it will give you an opportunity to question what’s happening should your listing take longer to fill.
11. What is your average tenancy duration?
Just like the question above, this will likely be different from one town or city to the next, so there’s no set figure to work with, but it will, again, give you an idea of what to expect.
12. What percentage of tenants renew?
This is another good indicator of how the tenancies under the property manager’s control have been handled. In this instance, the higher the figure the better.
13. Do you handle viewings?
A good property manager should be working alongside professional letting agents who will handle the viewings for you, but this isn’t always the case. Be sure to find out where you stand from the start, otherwise you may find yourself showing prospective tenants around your property when this might be the last thing you want to do.
14. What tenant screening measures, if any, do you utilise?
Every property manager will have a different opinion and approach in terms of how they vet potential tenants, so it’s always worth asking about their own individual methods and procedure when it comes to screening tenants.
If you have specific requirements, such as your new tenant must have references from a previous landlord, ask whether they’ll be able to work this into their own process, too.
15. How are your rental valuations calculated?
This is a question that can shed light on the PM’s experience and bring confidence to you, the landlord, on their ability to handle your investment correctly.
While the answer itself will likely be relatively straightforward, asking how they arrived at the given price will show whether or not they’ve gone down the standardised comparison route or whether they’ve taken a more nuanced approach.
Knowing they’ve really thought about the specifics of your property and what it can achieve on the market is a good indicator that the property manager is doing more than merely ticking boxes.
16. Can I set my own tenancy agreement?
For whatever reason, you may want to include or exclude certain stipulations from your tenancy agreement, but you need to ask whether or not your property manager is willing to work with you on this before you proceed. Some will be more than happy to do so, while others will insist on you sticking to their prewritten, templated agreements.
17. How do you collect rent from tenants?
Ideally, rent collections should be made in such a way that the payment process is traceable at a later date. Thankfully, this has never been easier to achieve, with online payments and direct debits now commonplace in everyday life. Red flags should fly if your property manager says they prefer to accept cash.
This is also a good opportunity for you to ask when you can expect to be paid and what happens if your tenant misses a payment or flat out refuses to pay. What procedures do they have in place to handle such situations? How is your income protected? Will they handle the whole process, or are you expected to?
18. Will you handle repairs and maintenance for me?
This will often depend upon the level of service you request from your property manager, but there are still relevant questions that can be asked even if repairs and maintenance are explicitly stated as being part of your chosen package.
Things such as, who will conduct the repairs? What are their qualifications/level of experience? Will they handle the entire process? What are the charges like? Is there an option to handle certain jobs yourself?
19. How often will you inspect my property?
As we explored in 9 Ways Landlords Can Lessen Their Upkeep Costs, carrying out periodic inspections can help landlords catch small jobs before they turn into big problems. Ask your property manager what their inspection policy is and how they handle them.
20. How often can I expect to be contacted?
It’s always a good idea to get a rough handle on when you can expect to be contacted and why. Will they contact you every time there’s a repair? Come to you with questions from the tenant? Inform you of market shifts? Give you feedback on the tenancy? and so on.
21. What is your response time to tenant requests?
Your new property manager should delight in telling you how quickly she will respond to your tenant, and ideally this should be within a few hours. Be sure to ask how easy it is for tenants to contact her and by what means, too.
22. What insurance cover do you have?
Now, you may think that having insurance would be a given, and we agree...it should be! However, in some instances, this isn’t always the case, so be sure to enquire. At the very least, the PM should have liability insurance.
You can also ask about the extent of the cover and what it entails. This can vary from insurer to insurer, so there may be slight differences from what you’ve been used to with other property managers or if you’ve been covered yourself whilst self-managing.
23. What about legal cover?
This isn’t, unfortunately, quite as common as insurance cover, but legal cover provided by the property manager can be a huge help should the worst happen and you end up in court for one reason or another.
If they do offer legal cover, ask them how it works and what your responsibilities are. Do they expect you to do any ground work? Will they represent you in court? Have they had any experience of dealing with tenancy issues from a legal perspective? What was the outcome?
24. What security deposit protection scheme do you use?
As you may have read in our article on Deposit Protection Schemes, TDP (Tenant Deposit Protection) is no longer a nice thing to have, it’s now a legal requirement. There are, however, different types of TDP, as well as a few different providers. Ask a few questions to get the low down on who your PM uses and what the cover looks like.
25. What length of contract do I need to commit to? Can I cancel at any time?
This is an obvious question, but an easy one to miss. No one wants to be tied into something they regret, so be sure to ask how easy it will be to cancel your contract if you’re dissatisfied with the service you receive.
26. Can you help me grow my portfolio?
Unlike the query above, this one is less obvious, yet it can be a good one to ask, nonetheless. An experienced property manager should be happy to advise you and help grow your portfolio if and when you decide to do so.
Now is the perfect moment to ask if they personally invest in the property market as well. An affirmative answer here means they are far more likely to understand the investment side of the property market, and that could tip the balance as to whether or not you decide to partner with them or not.
27. What happens if I decide to sell up?
Finally, if you decide to cash in your chips and sell your investment property, how will that be affected by your relationship with your property manager?
Some may have a clause in their contract which states that you must initially list your property with them if you decide to sell, which may not be what you want to do when the time comes. Better to find out now, rather than later.
Phew! That’s quite an exhaustive list of questions, but if you ask them all when you meet with your prospective property manager, you can walk away safe in the knowledge that you’ve left no stone unturned.
If you have investment property in or around Wanstead, East London, and would like to speak to one of our highly regarded property management team, please do get in touch.
We have been operating in the E11 postcode area and beyond for well over a century and would love to help you look after your portfolio, regardless of whether it contains one property or 100. Give us a call or drop us a line!