EPMEPM: Case Studies

Communication Guarantees and Accountability in Property Management: David Traeger

David Traeger talks to EPM about his brand new PM agency, DT Property Management, solutions for communicating with clients and the advantages of his background as both landlord and tenant.

David Traeger dt property management

Tell us about yourself and your agency. When did you start in property management, and how many staff do you currently have at DT Property Management?
I’m from Perth originally and come from an IT support background. I’ve worked as a PM for franchised agencies in both Perth and Adelaide, and started my own business in July 2015. It’s still early days so I just have an admin person so far, but I’m looking to hire again soon.

I began property investing prior to being a property manager; it was my love of property that initially drove me towards wanting to be in the industry.

What makes DT Property Management or your team unique?
Our focus is on property management only, with no sales or auction department, so we can remain 100 per cent focused on what we’re trying to provide.

We have an online web-based portal for owners to see financial summaries, previous statements and invoices, inspection reports and so on, which answers common questions 24 hours a day. The tenants’ one allows them to log maintenance issues along with photos so we can rectify these quickly.

Our whole metro area coverage allows clients to keep all their properties under one management and maintain just one relationship. We also offer a communication guarantee.

As investors ourselves, we can relate better to landlords when we’ve experienced some of the things that can go wrong with property. It also helps us to have a better understanding of where the market is at and price rentals accordingly, getting investors optimal returns.

What are the key features in maintaining healthy relationships with landlords and/or tenants? How does your communication guarantee fit into this?
As an investor (and once upon a time, a tenant) who has been on the other side of the PM-client relationship, I’ve felt the annoyance of waiting days for a response to my inquiries. I think being a property investor prior to being a PM helped me ascertain what the expectations really are.

I always meet the tenant in person when I take over a property from either a new purchaser or following a change in management. This starts the relationship off on the right foot, which pays dividends months down the line.

Our communication guarantee stipulates that we will return all phone calls and emails within four hours (during business hours) and this helps reassure both investors and tenants that we’re there for them and are on the ball. In most cases this has led to a reduction in trivial questions, because they trust we’re on top of things.

How important is technology to you, and what effective tools are you using at the moment?
It’s very important for being able to manage your time efficiently. Coming from an IT background, I did a trial of several software apps or programs when the business started and went with the ones that gave me the most value.

For example, I love using PropertyMe; it imports bank statements, automatically reconciles the trust account and sends all the tenants their receipts. I use it for entry/exit and routine inspections, too. A client who also has properties in other states said, “Every PM should send me inspections like this!”

I also use Inspection Boss to take bookings for home opens and check prospective tenants into them. This allows for professional reports to investors on how their property is doing in the market and also allows for easy follow-up with prospective tenants to garner applications.

Tell us about your flat fee structure?
This mostly stemmed from our own investment properties (we have 11) as we got tired of all the junk we were getting charged for. Quite a few have monthly admin fees, routine inspection fees, end of year statement fees and so on. My philosophy is that this is all part of what a property manager is expected to provide as a baseline.

We have a letting/renewing fee and also a management percentage. A couple of prospective clients have attempted to negotiate on that, but I’ve declined.

Do you have a mentor, or someone who inspires you?
I have a few, but they probably don’t know that they inspire me. I think it’s good to draw on a range of advice and views from different areas.

For example, there’s someone I talk to regularly who owns a property management-only agency interstate, who has already been through the first-year highs and lows that I go through and can help steer me through that.

On the other side of the coin, a friend who owns an unrelated, albeit very successful, mortgage broking company has provided lots of advice and inspiration in my pursuit of running a successful business.

What’s the best advice you have been given?
Give your clients something worth raving about and they’ll be your best form of advertising.

What are your most important values?
Accountability is number one. Doing what you said you were going to do and not having any excuses.

How is the market in your area and what are your predictions for the next 12 months?
We are located centrally and manage the whole Adelaide metro area, so some parts are doing better than others. We’re averaging about 11 days on market and have zero vacancy right now, so the market seems to be fine if properties are marketed and priced correctly.

I’ve started seeing a lot of interstate investors showing an interest in Adelaide, perhaps as their cities have reached peaks. Over the next 12 months I predict we’ll see a lot more buy properties over here, which presents opportunities for a lot more managements.

What advice would you give someone starting out in property management?
Take notes in your system whenever anything is said or done by a landlord or tenant; use calendars and to-do lists so that nothing ever gets forgotten.

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