What questions Landlords must ask and the answers to expect
Buy-to-let landlords tend to fall into one of two types. Those who’ve tried the DIY landlord route and discovered it’s not for them (usually having had a terrible landlord experience). And those landlords who have had to sack an underperforming property manager. The overriding aim of both these types of a buy-to-let landlord is the same. Landlords want hassle free property investment.
If you have invested in property to give you lifestyle benefits, extra income to spend on holidays or days out with the children or grandchildren, for example. Then you probably won’t want to get your hands dirty with the day-to-day responsibilities of managing your property. Seeing your property investment grow in value while you benefit from the rental income it produces. What you don’t want is the hassle of fielding calls about dripping taps, finding plumbers, coordinating repairs, chasing and collecting rent, making sure your gas safety certificate is up to date, etc.
Here I examine the factors that distinguish great property managers from the bad. The questions to ask to find a property manager who really will help to make your property investment hassle free.
How big is the property manager?
It should be one of the first questions you ask a prospective property manager. A property manager with a dozen or so properties may be able to offer a reasonable personal service, but why haven’t they got more properties and buy-to-let landlords on their client roll?
A property manager that has an extensive portfolio of landlord clients and properties under management will have grown its book by being good at what it does. However, while size in itself is a clue as to how good the property manager is, you do need to dig deeper. You also need to assess what your property manager’s capability is.
If you’re a buy-to-let landlord with a portfolio of eight properties and employ a property manager with twenty on their books, do you think the manager will be able to maintain the same level of service?
Regarding size, a property manager grows because of the service they give. The more properties they have on their books, the more likely it is that they do their job well and have numerous satisfied buy-to-let landlord clients. The service provided is directly related to the number of employees managing the properties on its books.
What systems and technologies do they use?
Technology is playing a bigger part in property management today. Property managers are utilising different technologies to stay in touch with landlords and tenants. Our landlords’ tenants have the benefit of live online reporting of problems and issues, allowing photographic evidence to support our assessment of need.
Technologies that allow you to view your accounts and property investments online give you real-time access to all the information you need as a buy-to-let landlord who is growing a portfolio.
What processes and procedures are in place?
Consider the processes and procedures that the property manager has in place. For example, will you have a dedicated property manager as the single point of contact? Will that manager be expected to do it all? Is there a team working with him on managing the properties under his control? Are the separate functions of property management (for example, maintenance, accounts, bill payments, and tenant certificates) handled by experienced and qualified staff?
What are the property manager’s inspection routines?
Regular inspections and inventory monitoring for loss and damage of your property are important. Ask the property manager about their inventory management routines, how they record inventories (for example, photographic and video), and the regularity of inspections. How do they keep you informed of how your tenants are treating your property?
A detailed inspection routine must be in the property management contract. Included as part of the service level agreement.
Does the property manager own and manage its properties?
It is a difficult question to assess. On the one hand, a property manager who owns its properties and manages them will have the experience and expertise. They’ll understand the problems you face, and be more in tune with your goals for your property investment.
On the other hand, if they are managing their own properties as well as yours, whose properties do you think they will put the most effort into? If the property manager has a vacant property at the same time, yours becomes vacant, which is likely to be tenanted first?
What is the property manager’s maintenance capabilities?
We’ve heard of buy-to-let landlords that have used smaller property managers for the ‘extra personal service’ they provide. The problem is that they then discover all the maintenance work is carried out by the property manager, who turns out to be a one-man band. Plumbing and electrical work are performed substandard and haphazardly. The work needs redoing when you sack the property manager.
Always make certain that your property manager employs local tradespeople with experience and expertise in their line of work.
You should also agree on an amount that the property manager can spend on maintenance or repairs, without the need to get express permission to do so.
Tips to find the best property manager
Apart from asking all the above questions when you ‘interview’ a new property manager, here are some other things you can do to make sure the property manager you hire is the best for you:
Get referrals and testimonials
Speak to other property investors, estate agents and landlords and find out who they have used. Ask for their recommendations, but remember they can be biased. If you hear the same story from several different sources, it’s a good indication that what you’re hearing has solid foundations.
Check out the property manager’s work
Have a look at how the property manager works and what work they have done. For example, how do they advertise rental properties (press and online capabilities)? What properties do they manage? If they manage only terraced houses and your portfolio is mostly apartments. Then will the property manager have the experience you’re looking for?
Ask if you can speak to current tenants as well as current landlord clients. It will give you a balanced view of how they treat their clients and properties. Discover duration for minor repairs. Do tenants expect to sign a new lease, and if not, why not?
Check certifications, qualifications, and landlord body memberships
Do they have quialified employees? Do they undergo continuous training, and which landlord and rental agencies do the property management company belong? The Association of Residential Landlords (ARLA) and the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) are the two major associations for landlords. Members have to be suitably qualified. And are expected to maintain high standards and keep on top of current and evolving laws and regulations.
For more information about how easy property management can transform your portfolio. From problematic to life-changing passive profitability, download our effortless property management checklist.
Or simply contact us by phone +44 1522 503 717. Or use our online contact form for more information about how we source and vet tenants. And how we help our landlord clients build long-lasting and profitable property portfolios.
Yours in effortless property management,
Brett Alegre-Wood MARLA MNAEA