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Rent Sense: Be a Smart Investor

Rent Sense: Be a Smart Investor

By Neil Fjellestad and Chris DeMarco

Fjellestad, Barrett & Short

We regularly receive inquiries from frustrated rental owners that complain about their experience with property management companies.  Among the top complaints are the following:

•    Prolonged vacancy with no solution
•    Uncollected rent with no resolution
•    Request for services and updates are ignored or procrastinated
•    Property repairs and maintenance are not timely, workmanship is shoddy and/or not competitively priced
•    Financial reporting deadlines are not met

We listen with empathy since we have done plenty of clean-up after property has been mismanaged. However, we also ask some pointed questions of the complaining rental owner. We want to know the conditions under which their property managers were hired. What were the specific expectations within what time frame and what resources were made available? Often we discover that the rental owner wanted to dictate the terms of the management assignment without the experience to predict the results.

Then there is how the rental owner chooses to be involved. Have they been part of their management team?  Some owners are more involved than others, so did they clarify these expectations.

Some well-intended “hands-on” rental owners actually create a hindrance to a company’s systematic approach, policies, procedures and routines that are the essence of quality management.  With this in mind, did the owner refer all inquiries, questions or concerns to the property manager?  Did they stay in contact for support?  If they were not available to weigh in on an issue before the decision did they support the decisions of the property manager put in a tough spot due to the owner’s absence?

Did the owner invest sufficient time each month to carefully review the financial statement?  The owner will likely not understand everything or might need clarification on a line item. The best bet is to ask until everyone is on the same page. A smart investor will maintain sufficient funds for repairs, property improvements and the unexpected. Also they will discuss major real estate decisions with their property manager for possible consequences or alternatives before moving forward with a re-finance, a purchase or a sale.

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