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February 2016

What to look for in a Property Manager

By Leah Calnan

A property manager should be competent to look after all the day-to-day running of the property, from assisting the owner with the review of a tenancy application and subsequent tenant selection to co-ordinating maintenance. The property manager needs to make suggestions on property improvements and updates, collect the rent and to transfer rent money to the owner.

He or she should have a good understanding of what the owner expects and be proactive and responsive with clients, not simply pass the problem onto the owner to make a decision. Owners appoint the services of a property manager for advice, experience and to provide direction and recommendations when it comes to making the tough decisions. As an owner myself, I love nothing more when my property manager emails me with both the problem and solution relating to one of my investment properties – it provides me with confidence. I lead a crazy busy life, so being presented with such solutions ensures this is one less thing I need to think about in my day.

An example of a good property manager would be someone who regularly completes routine inspections of the property, not only to see what maintenance is currently required but also to suggest what the owner needs to think about for the future. For example, when the current tenants vacate the carpet will likely need to be replaced, or perhaps the gutters need to be cleaned and window frames need repainting in the future. Forward planning is very important for owners because it allows them to budget and therefore they won’t be surprised when the tenants give their notice to vacate and all of a sudden need to find $3,000 to $5,000 to re-carpet the house.

When looking for a property manager, I recommend investors take a few minutes to speak with someone they are looking at employing and not to base their decision on fees or location alone. Times have changed, and a property manager no longer needs to be around the corner from the property. If you don’t have the time to call, then email them and review the timeframe it takes for a reply. This will give you an excellent indication on a property manager’s communication and time management skills, which are both very important skill sets.

In regards to qualifications and experience a property manager needs to know a lot of information – which includes the legislation requirements in your state, assisting owners and tenants with budgeting, insurance policies, an understanding of owner corporations, building requirements (which is especially important with so many people buying off the plan) and how to communicate with tradespeople to address maintenance and/or renovation issues.

Finally in my experience I don’t believe “x” number of years makes a good property manager, as there are some who have been in the industry for 20 years and haven’t attended any type of training since the dawn of time. So when it comes to appointing a property manager to look after your property, look for someone who can think outside the square, who will go the extra mile for you when things go pear-shaped, has a passion for the industry, someone who regularly updates his or her skills and knowledge and is not afraid of technology or change.

Leah Calnan is the director of Metro Property Management in Victoria and is the chairwoman of the REIV Property Management Chapter.