How do you restructure your property management company or property management department to satisfy a savvy client? Rhys Standley, Owner of Just Property Management in Australia, has a creative solution that has increased his company’s client satisfaction and employee satisfaction. We met Rhys at the recent LPMA event in Australia, where the best minds and operations in property management meet once a year. Rhys started his property management company six months ago and manages 1,000-plus properties. He has also founded an outsourcing company called qResults. Today, we go over what Rhys did to restructure Just Property Management.
Property Management Clients are Savvy
There’s a new economy compared to what has been standard in the past. Customers and clients have a lot more information at their fingertips than they have ever had before. Now:
- they want to know more
- they do know more, and
- they want instant answers.
The days of making a phone call and waiting a few days to get a response is unacceptable in today’s climate. Because of that, a lot of property management companies are forced to change the way they do things. A process that once worked doesn’t work anymore because clients are able to expect more. Unless you adapt to new expectations, you’ll become extinct pretty quickly and you won’t grow your business.
Perception of Being a “Specialist” in Property Management
The typical real estate office is set up like a general practitioner’s office. There’s a lot going on; residential sales, commercial sales, auctions, homewatch services, residential and commercial leasing. That was the way Rhys had his company, until he completely rebranded his company by doing just property management. Doing only property management in his market was unique at the time, and landlords reached out to his company more often. Embracing that one specialty will shift the way your customers see you. You’ll no longer be a general practitioner – you’ll be a heart surgeon. People were happy to pay Rhys a little extra as they expect better service and advice because he’s a specialist, not a generalist.
This will create a culture shift in your office and in your marketplace. At that point, reality changes. You need to have the expertise you claim to have. Your systems must be on-point and your checklists have to be thorough, and everyone needs the right training. Going against what everyone was doing at the time has allowed Just Property Management to manage 1,000 doors in a relatively quick time.
If you already only do property management and your competitors do too, see if there is an opportunity to dig deeper and see what you can offer that the rest of your competition isn’t able to.
Revolutionizing the Property Manager Job Function
In your quest for efficiency and the best customer service, the role and the job of the property manager has to evolve. In the past, property managers have done everything, they’ve:
- shown prospective tenants their properties
- processed applications for properties
- completed property condition reports and entry reports
- typed lease documents
- conducted inspections
- and coordinated maintenance.
All these tasks help contribute to a high turnover in the property management industry, due to the stress that comes along with the job. So, Rhys asked himself: What is the one main thing that a property manager should do? It came down to communication.
Communicating with your clients is a manager’s most important role. If all a property manager had to do was take phone calls from investors, all of the other issues would take care of themselves. Owners would be a lot less likely to complain, and tenants would be happier too. Owners and investors don’t care who is taking care of maintenance or typing up lease documents. They do care when their property manager can’t be reached.
Here’s a typical situation. A property manager is out of the office doing inspections or dealing with a tenant issue at the property. An owner calls because he drove past his property and noticed the lawn is overgrown. He tries to reach the property manager, but can’t, so he leaves a message. By the time the property manager resolves the issue in the field and returns to the office, there are dozens of emails to respond to and phone calls to return. That owner doesn’t get called back, and then the problem is not an overgrown lawn – it’s a lack of communication and responsiveness. When property managers are time-poor, customer service suffers, and the property management business suffers. The issue for the owner is that he’s paying a property manager but that manager doesn’t have the courtesy to return his call. That makes the owner feel like the manager doesn’t care about him or his property. If you can cut that off and take the call, you prevent a lot of brush fires from occurring.
Internal communication is important for the property manager to focus on as well. Delegating tasks in the office is essential. The manager is not giving those tasks away. There will still be follow up, and the property manager will be aware of the maintenance, inspections, and other things going on at a property. But the manager’s role is to be the conduit to the owner; the front of all knowledge. The property manager needs to know what’s going on at the property, but doesn’t have to personally do every task. That saves a lot of stress and heartache.
Outsourcing Your Property Manager’s Tasks
At Just Property Management, outsourcing has been a major part of restructuring the property management business. Outsourcing helps with cost and productivity when a property management company can’t afford layers of full time management employees. You can outsource both documentation and physical tasks.
For documents and data entry, outsourcing to another country can be useful. Using a company in the Philippines gives access to people who have really clear and efficient English skills. They prepare lease documents, send out notices, and update reports. The owners you work with don’t care who is doing those tasks, they just expect that it gets done. It also frees up time for the property manager to do the things that matter most: communicate with owners.
Outsourcing the physical tasks is a little different because you need people who are physically present. That’s where contractors come into play as they can help outsource entry report updates, and inspections. When property managers do inspections, it can actually be a conflict of interest. They are inspecting a property that has been occupied by tenants they have worked with for years. So, they might not give an accurate report if they feel intimidated by a tenant or they really liked a tenant. An independent inspector will give an impartial inspection report. You’ll also have someone doing these reports who specializes in the work and is able to dedicate the necessary amount of time.
Final inspections are time consuming, and they occur when a tenant vacates and it’s time to go through the property condition report. Typically, this process should take two and a half hours. If a busy property manager is doing it, they will feel pressured to get back to the office, so they’ll give only an hour to the process. That’s going to create conflicts, especially when things get missed. With an independent inspector, there are no time pressures. The property manager can show up at the very end and see what kind of damage was left behind so that the owner can get a full report. A good inspector will blend mechanical knowledge with an eye for detail. Recruit good inspectors, train them, and have them document everything they do.
Streamlining Operations with Job Sharing
When your business grows from 100 doors to about 300 doors, you face some new challenges. When you’re smaller, you’re doing everything yourself. You’re in the trenches. Then, when you get to the point that you really become a business, you have staffing issues to manage and these structural things become more important. At Just Property Management, there are full-time property managers and then there are part-time assistant property managers. Rhys used to employ full-time assistant property managers, but with employee turnover, it forced him to get creative.
He now only hires part-time staff members who will work for one week and then take the next week off. This type of job sharing ensures that you can cover all the gaps that might occur when someone takes a day off or goes on vacation or gets sick. The office is a lot more streamlined, and there’s really no downtime. That reduces complaints from both tenants and owners. It’s something to consider as you’re shaping your own management company.
If there is any feedback or questions, please contact Rhys at Just Property Management. If you have any questions about property management marketing or what is in the works for the 2018 PM Grow Summit, please contact us at Fourandhalf.