At DeDe’s Rentals, the renowned property manager in Santa Rosa, we receive new client inquiries seemingly on a daily basis. Interestingly, many people ask the same initial question: “What is your management commission?” In the opinion of broker Keith Becker, there are other, more important questions that should be asked first. Finding the best property manager for your rental investment is like developing any other long-term relationship: it’s important to look for chemistry and compatibility.

It’s critical that you make some basic primary assessments. Evaluate the personality of the property manager: how do they relate to you as a customer? By extension, what will their approach be to dealing with tenants? Are they severe and unyielding? Accommodating and overly willing to capitulate? A good property manager must be welcoming and diplomatic, but authoritative and serious when the need arises. A professional manager has to wear many hats, each task requiring a different approach: marketing and negotiating a lease-up is distinct from resolving tenant-liable repair obligations, which is itself unlike the demands associated with collecting unpaid rent, assessing security deposit accounting or navigating unlawful detainer actions. Can the manager negotiate a wide variety of challenges successfully?

Does the property manager know the local rental market? More importantly, do they know the market for YOUR type of residence? A professional who specializes in condominiums, for example, will not necessarily be the best match for your rural horse property. Knowing the market is important in determining how much rent to charge, what kind of properties are most in demand, and how to keep the residence up to the expectations of qualified tenants.

Communication is critical. You have the need and the right to expect contact as necessary. Vacancies come up, major repairs occur, evictions are considered… the property owner and property manager should anticipate coordination and communication. In this era, there are many different ways to stay in touch. Cellular phones, landlines, texting, IM, email, Skype… how does the property manager prefer to remain in touch? What circumstances would prompt them to contact you? Are your needs and expectations consistent with the manager’s? If not, can accommodations be negotiated, or are the property manager’s procedures fairly rigid?

Who is responsible for what? Is the property manager willing and able to pay the mortgage or other “ancillary” expenses? Under what circumstances? In the event of an eviction, will you, the owner, be obligated to represent yourself in court? Who makes the decision on tenant application approvals? Who determines the market value of rent at lease-up and at renewal? Expectations about the rights and responsibilities of both property manager and owner should be clear.

An additional detail: licensed property managers are responsible for handling large sums of trust funds, and are responsible for making major decisions in your name: “the actions of the agent are the actions of the principal.” It is imperative that you select a trustworthy and ethical property manager. The property manager should have your best interests in mind at all times, when dealing with applicants, tenants, vendors, and the maintenance needs of the property.  Taking the time to ask appropriate questions will help you decide who is most qualified to manage your investment property.

Finally, once you’ve had the opportunity to consider these numerous and important details, you might still have a question about fees. To quote Peter Falk in Columbo: “just one more thing…” In the wider scope of what a good owner/property manager relationship entails, commissions could be a secondary consideration. The best property manager for you may not – in all actuality, probably will not – be the one that offers the lowest management commission! If you have any questions please feel free to contact us at DeDe’s Rentals. We will be happy to help you.