I’ve written often about the importance of open communication between a property manager and the property owners they represent. Transparency is paramount in our industry, where owners ought to know exactly what they’re paying for, and managers ought not act on assumptions. In this article, I’ll present a comprehensive guide for positive and profitable interactions with clients. Managers will learn from it how to better communicate, and owners can take away what they should expect of their manager.
I always introduce this point with the same mantra: one size fits all fits none. That is to say, there’s no perfect algorithm for property management that suits all owners across the board. And on top of that, owners don’t often go out of their way to express to you exactly how they want to be involved in the management of their property. It’s up to you as a manager to get to know their style of ownership and ask them what type of involvement they want to have in the management process. There are clients who essentially want to wipe their hands clean of the entire operation and receive only the most essential updates, and there are others who want to hear every miniscule detail of the work done for them. Prepare to accommodate both, and learn where each client lands on that spectrum of involvement, because that knowledge will determine how you communicate with them going forward.
Healthy communication with clients doesn’t just come about naturally—it requires the strict scheduling. Don’t rely on yourself to organically wonder every six months how each of your clients’ goals may have changed in that time period. Instead, after you’ve established their desired level of involvement and goals for their property at the beginning of your working relationship with them, schedule a call (with automated calendar reminders) every six months to check in with each property owner about their priorities. They’ll appreciate the opportunity to talk about any remodel work they might be considering, and this can segue nicely into a more general conversation about the quality of job you’ve done for them so far.
Another communication-related point I’ve touched on before has to do with the value of walking every owner through the details of their first statement. If you agree that transparency is crucial to high quality property management, put your money where your mouth is and spend time with the owners you represent, talking with them about the nitty gritty details of what they’re paying you for. Offering to do this will show them that you have nothing to hide, and that you’re willing to make an extra effort to give them the peace of mind that comes with full understanding of everything in their monthly statement. We set up screensharing with owners to make sure that we’re literally on the same page with them when we talk about their statement, and you should do the same.
My last recommendation for those seeking better communication in property management is one I haven’t written about before, and it’s more of a general philosophy than a trick of the trade, so use it wherever and whenever you can. It’s simply this: in all your interactions, apply understanding. No matter how detailed or meticulous a particular client wants you to be, have the wherewithal and the patience to step back and intentionally see things from their perspective. I don’t just mean see their property as they do (though that is important)—I mean that you should sincerely try to understand their situation, and assess whether you’ve truly earned their trust. Maybe this sounds moralistic, or like an attempt at being profound, but I intend it only as practical advice. There’s no doubt in my mind that trying to better understand the perspective of your clients—even when that’s hard to do—will make your business relationship more manageable and more profitable.
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 (323)-433-5254.