Thinking about a career in property management? It’s a growing field that can be great for people who like helping others and enjoy variety on the job. But it’s also a line of work that comes with some unique challenges that you’ll have to solve in order to be successful. Here are a few of the most common issues property managers have to get a handle on.
Screening, signing, and helping tenants
Not every property manager is in charge of marketing to prospective tenants, but even property managers with marketing teams need to be skilled at matching people with properties. It’s good business—and smart management, because tenants who are happy with their space from the start will be easier to work with over the course of their lease. They’re also more likely to renew. So, the more you know about the pros and cons of each property in your portfolio—and the more skilled you are at listening to the needs of prospective tenants—the better.
There are other tenant-related tasks that property managers have to handle, too. Running background checks can prevent some property management problems by making sure you’re getting trustworthy tenants who’ll pay rent on time and take care of the property. When you sign those clients, keeping your lease records organized and up to date is a must. And when tenants make repair requests, you need a system for responding, scheduling service and following up afterward.
You can track all of this information manually in a simple spreadsheet, but property management software can make it much easier to keep tabs on all your tenant and maintenance data in one app1.
Communicating with tenants
Signing new tenants is just the beginning of your relationship with them. And like in any good relationship, communication is key. If you want to earn your tenants’ loyalty (and referrals), get to know them, keep them updated on important events and take care of their small concerns before they turn into big problems.
For example, if your new resident mentions low water pressure in his shower, looking into it fast will make your tenant happy, and it could spare you the cost of repairing a major leak and water damage in the wall should things worsen. Also, if fixing the water pressure means all tenants on that floor will have their water temporarily turned off, give those residents as much notice as you can.
Are your tenants businesses? Getting to know your commercial clients matters, too. Does the owner of the new coffee shop think they’ll need more space by next year? Start talking with them now about how you could help them with that. The goal is to convince your business tenants to grow with you, not to outgrow you.
What are the most effective ways to communicate with your tenants?2
- Share important information in writing. For example, if the water’s going to be off for a few hours later this week, every client should get a written notice as far in advance as you can provide it. But don’t stop with a note on the door.
- Send email newsletters and updates. Each property’s monthly or weekly newsletter can include important information, plus fun details about on-site amenities and planned activities.
- Keep your website up to date. Not everyone checks their email, so making regular updates to your site can help keep all your tenants in the loop.
- Visit your commercial tenants in person and during their business hours, when possible. If you manage residential properties, let tenants know when you’re around to talk and encourage them to drop by. Spend time walking the property so residents can talk to you when they see you.
- Call your tenants from time to time if you can’t visit them in person. A quick chat or a voice message lets your tenants know you care about their experience with your property.
Hiring and retaining great team members
Of course, it won’t just be you interacting with tenants. You’ll also need a team of great employees. Many experienced property managers say that hiring the right people is their biggest challenge.3
But employees can also be your greatest asset. So how can you tackle this? Here are a few best practices for recruiting, hiring and training.4
- Promote your company culture. All workers, but especially younger ones, want jobs that have meaning and leaders who have clear values. A job where the goal is to help tenants thrive is more appealing than a job where the goal is to answer the phone, respond to emails, and sign a monthly quota of leases.
- Build a pipeline. Set up relationships with local organizations that can connect you with the talent you need. For example, you might partner with a community college real estate program or a nonprofit that helps veterans start their civilian careers. A referral program can encourage your current employees to refer people, too.
- Hire for attitude. You can teach new hires how to use your property management software, but the soft skills your tenants will expect, like being a good listener and solving problems, are harder to teach.
- Train and promote from within. Cross-train your team so that everyone’s always learning new skills. This makes it easier to cope when someone’s out sick or when you need to replace an employee who’s leaving.
Handling insurance coverage and claims
Whether it’s water stains from plumbing leaks, missing roofing from a freak storm or something else, property damage happens. To be prepared, property managers have to know the ins and outs of insurance coverage for their properties, their tenants and contractors and even themselves.
Here are some of the policies you may need to buy, upgrade or make claims on as a property manager5:
General liability (or property management liability) to cover physical injury claims by tenants and vendors. For example, if a painter trips on a broken curb in your parking lot and gets injured, you and your property could be liable for medical bills and lost income.
Professional liability to cover damages because of errors and omissions you might make on the job. For instance, if you deny a tenant’s application based on inaccurate information, they might sue. Being protected by Thimble can help you with the associated costs of a legal case.
Commercial property coverage for the buildings you manage, in case of fire, storm damage and other perils.
Workers’ compensation coverage for your employees, in case they get injured or sick on the job.
In addition to the insurance you and your properties need, it’s also wise to encourage (or require) your tenants to carry renters’ insurance to protect their personal or business property, like furniture and computers.
It’s also a good idea to require painters, landscapers and other vendors working on your property to carry insurance in case they accidentally cause property damage while they’re doing their job. For example, if a carpenter you hired drops a tool on your tenant’s luxury car and dents the hood, their liability insurance would cover the repair costs. It is always a good idea to require that you be listed on these vendors’ policies as an additional insured just in case you get brought into a lawsuit because of a claim against one of them. You can require that vendors show you a current Certificate of Insurance (or COI) before they start working for you.
Property management challenges can feel daunting, but keep in mind that the property owner hired you to help manage these issues, not prevent them!
And now that you know the most common problems are helping your tenants, hiring the right people and protecting your property with the right insurance coverage, you’ll be prepared for most of the hurdles that come your way. Ace these tasks and you’re on the path to a rewarding career!
- Capterra. 7 Most Popular Real Estate Property Management Software.
- Forbes. 15 Steps Landlords Can Take To Build A Great Relationship With Tenants.
- Unicom. 5 Biggest Property Management Challenges.
- MultiHousingNews. Talent Recruitment and Retention for Property Managers.
- Landlord Academy. Understanding and Keeping Track of Insurance as a Property Manager.