In this article, I’ll lay out five practices that the best property managers turn into longstanding habits. I’ve returned to them consistently throughout my career, and they apply to the management of all forms of real estate, from retail to residential, office to industrial. When managing, organization is of the utmost importance. You’ll find that principle at the heart of these tips.
1. Inspect Twice a Year
You (or somebody from your company) should set foot in every unit you manage at least once every six months to inspect. Smart owners will walk through their units once a year alongside you. Encourage this! Owners who’ve seen the needs of their property firsthand are much more likely to approve needed repairs. So I recommend using whatever planning technology you’ve chosen to tell you ahead of time when 180 days have passed and you’re due to check in on each specific set of units.
2. Schedule Strictly
In keeping with this theme, shrewd managers have developed the habit of strict scheduling. Any time they think of something that should be done consistently, they reach for their keyboards and take the steps necessary to put it into practice. Utilizing a master calendar is key. Gone are the days of having to flip back and forth through a physical calendar, marking up dates in handwriting you might not even be able to decipher when the date actually arrives. I use Outlook as my Master Calendar, and I don’t entrust anything important to my own mental recall; why would I? I make reminders for EVERYTHING. If you think this is overkill, imagining explaining to an owner that you forgot to pay their property taxes. I’ve never once regretted writing (or typing) a reminder to myself, but I’ve often regretted not doing so. Simply put, nothing falls through the cracks when you adhere to an intricately detailed and automated calendar.
3. Enact Preventative Maintenance
As I wrote in my article on Managing Your Manager, think of it this way: would you rather have a cardiologist who prevents you from having a heart attack, or one who merely treats you after you’ve had one? One example of a simple-but-effective preventative maintenance measure is cleaning out rain gutters and downspouts at properties to keep roofing and stucco from sustaining water damage in the event of heavy rainfall.
4. Limit Your Clients’ Liability
Next is a practice that falls under the category of going above and beyond the call of duty: audit your client’s insurance policies and shop them around. You’ve told them your mission is to save them money, right? So put your money where your mouth is, and save for them in areas other than your direct professional relationship with them. This will show them they can trust you, that you truly have their best interests in mind. We regularly refer clients to our insurance agents if we see that they’re paying more than they ought to be. It’s not always limited to the price—through these reviews, we’ve found clients who were underinsured, over-insured, or had the entirely wrong insurance for their property type. During the biannual inspection I mentioned earlier, look actively for any trip dangers or trip hazards that you can eliminate for your client. Anyway you can conceivably save your clients money, you should.
5. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
The last habit of highly effective property managers focuses on communication: every six months (I know, here we go again with the precise scheduling), you should speak with each of the owners you represent, regarding their goals. What exactly do they want to get out of a working relationship with you? Are they considering any renovations you should know about? Have their goals for their property changed over the course of the last half-year? This can make for a great access point to a more general conversation about how they feel their property has thrived (or not) under your management. Either way, you’ll learn plenty and become a more effective manager of their property. You can’t fully satisfy your client if you don’t know exactly what they want.
Your planning is only worth as much as your ability to follow through. In any field, you’re guaranteed to have your plans upended by unexpected circumstance, and how you respond to adversity will define your business. So once you’ve integrated these practices, commit to following them ferociously. Then you’ll be well on your way to new heights of effectiveness in management.
David Crown is the C.E.O. of Los Angeles Property Management Group, and has over twenty-five years of experience managing all types of income properties. A hands-on leader who has managed properties in 16 states, Mr. Crown has been asked to serve as an expert witness in property management matters, and currently serves on the Forbes Real Estate Council. He can be reached directly at (818) 646-8151.