Reasons to find the best property manager money can buy
We were taken for a ride by a property manager we had in Toronto. His services were cheap (5% of the rent and no charge for new tenants except advertising costs). Well, cheap, if you don’t count the fact that he was stealing rent money from us!
Before hiring him to manage our tri-plex in Toronto, I researched him a bit and learned that he was a Mom & Pop-type shop, but I didn’t check references or dig much deeper than that. His scam? He collected $950/month from our tenants but only told us we were getting $890!
The extra $60 was likely hitting his back pocket. We are sure he was taking a cut from our other two units as well. However, we were never able to prove that. The only reason we caught onto his scam was because we moved into the house and the tenants started paying us the rent instead of him. Imagine our surprise when the cheque was for $950, and we were expecting $890!
Looking back, we could have easily protected ourselves. Now, we want to help you prevent it. Investigate your property manager before hiring him/her (as per article 2 above). After hiring the property manager, we suggest you do the following:
- When ads are placed for your unit(s), get copies of the ads. Also, ask where the ads are being placed and check for the ads yourself (looking back, I had noticed an ad for our unit for $50 more than we had agreed to rent it for. I wrote him to change it, and he said he would, but now I think it was a red flag that I should have recognized).
- Ask for copies of the signed leases.
- Ask for proof of expenses incurred (always get receipts, but for larger repairs or purchases get pictures or visit the property yourself).
This may not save you completely, but had we been able to get copies of the leases or asked to see the ads, our property manager would have had a harder time stealing from us. We are getting ready to hire a new property manager for our Toronto property, and we can assure you that we won’t be just grabbing the cheapest man on the block, and we definitely will be keeping a much closer eye on the rent and the expenses.
Getting your hands dirty
by Dave Peniuk & Julie Broad
Are you ready to clean, make repairs, place ads in the paper, screen tenants and handle emergencies? If you aren’t, then we hope you have hired a competent property manager for your new investment property. If you decided to save the cash, then you should be prepared to do any (and all) of the following:
- Clean the property of clutter and maintain the outdoor areas of the property while occupied. This includes snow removal in the winter and lawn maintenance in the summer. When vacant, you will likely have to get in there and clean it yourself (or hire someone) to make it more presentable.
- Repairs and maintenance (from small things like changing a lightbulb or unclogging a toilet to bigger things like painting or electrical work).
- Determine the market value of rent in order to advertise the units (check comparable houses/units in the area by checking online or local listings).
- Determine best places to advertise and place the ads for your rental units (front lawn, local university, paper, online, etc.).
- Show the property, take applications and screen potential tenants.
- Collect rent, and deal with problem tenants (giving notices, working with the local government tenancy office, evicting).
There is a lot of work involved in managing a property. Often, the work involved (and any problems) are unexpected and happen at inconvenient times.
The Investor’s Saviour: A Good Property Manager
by Dave Peniuk
A good, reputable, hands on property manager really is what makes property investing enjoyable. We haven’t been so lucky with all of our property managers, but thankfully, in Nanaimo we have one. Lindsay Widsten is one of those property managers that makes investing almost painless. He keeps our tenants happy, provides us with monthly statements, only contacts us when necessary and has earned our trust completely. In fact, he is so good, that we often forget we even have the four properties in Nanaimo!
Before you choose your property manager, it’s a good idea to take some precautionary steps, including:
1. Check the Better Business Bureau;
2. Contact associations like ROMSBC, GTAA etc. and ask for a recommendation, or if they know the property manager you are considering;
3. Ask if s/he is licensed, and with who (get details);
4. Ask for 2 or 3 references from your property manager and give them a call;
5. Drive by a couple of the properties currently managed by the property manager;
6. Ask friends and family for recommendations.
Do your homework. Hiring the wrong property manager can cause you a lot of grief. But hiring a good one, can save you time, money, and stress!
Published December 17, 2006