Three things to look for in a good property manager

This year’s harsh winter had many owners struggling with record-breaking amounts of snow. From ice dams, to roofs collapsing, it was a wakeup call for many as they dealt with snow removal, bitter cold and plenty of parking issues. Property managers play a key role here, and a harsh winter season shines a light on the value of good property management. Regardless of the season, here are three things to keep in mind to make sure you’re working with a good property manager:

  1. They know the building inside and out. If there’s anything the past winter has taught us it’s that knowing a building inside and out sets you up for success. Whether dealing with normal elements or unprecedented levels of snowfall, a property manager should be able to know how much snow can sit on top of your building’s roof, whether or not it should be raked, know where the drains are and where the snow can go on the property. This rule of thumb also applies to the summertime – property managers can even use the warmer months to set up video capabilities on the property. This way, they’ll have a record of what is going on and can react more quickly to emergencies.

Take what happened to a building in Needham this past winter. The tenant thought a contractor had pushed snow against the building and cracked its façade,    but the contractor had taken video of the snow accumulation and it showed that the snow was drifting, not being pushed against the building.

  1. They plan effectively to avoid financial burden. This might be the most important part of finding a good property manager. Effective planning can prevent many problems owners and tenants face. When dealing with problems like record snowfall property managers should sit down with owners and go over all of the options and steps they can take to recoup their costs – and do so quickly. An early recommendation can make a tangible difference.

When signing a gross lease property managers work with owners to establish costs for the first year as a base off of which to work, but it’s likely that there will   be unexpected costs that come up. This past winter we saw electrical rates go up 43 percent in the month of January – a jump that pushed properties over         budget in some cases. Good property management helped fix this problem within a month, getting a new rate before a second budget-breaking bill came in.

  1. Proof of a strong vendor base. A good property manager will have a very strong vendor base from which to draw. Variety is especially important when these vendors are in high demand, as can happen during the winter when every building is in need of the same services. If your property manager only has a list of a few vendors he or she uses repeatedly you may be in trouble when they’re booked up during a snowstorm. A strong network of vendors means that prices will remain stable and that you should have a backup plan ready to use in an emergency.

When demand is high, vendors can come in from out of state and charge much more than the normal rate to shovel off roofs, which was saw happen this           winter – at sky high rates of $200 per hour. Having strong relationships with many different vendors allows property managers to keep the prices competitive       and avoid overpaying for necessary maintenance.

Property managers play an important role, but owners know that good property managers make a big difference. Remember to be looking for property managers who clearly know the buildings they’re managing, who have a strong network of vendors to call on and are effective planners and you’ll be on track to a worry-free – if not snowfall-free – season.

Steve Prozinski is COO & Director of Property Management at NAI Hunneman

A version of this post previously appeared on NEREJ.

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