Property managers across Australia are returning from their Christmas holidays and getting back to their desks for another challenging year ahead. Award winning property management professional Sarah Latham suggests some new years resolutions for an organised and successful year.
What’s your New Year’s resolution? “This year will be different,’’ I can hear everyone murmur, “I’m going to be more organised, take a more pro-active approach to the business and provide a better level of service to my clients”.
Every property manager knows how hard it is to break away from back-pedalling, procrastinating and putting out spot fires. To be able to push forward and cut these daily little challenges off at the pass requires organisation, forward thinking and a ‘go get ‘em’ attitude. Chances are that property managers returning to work during the first week back in the New Year will have a one-to-two week window before their workload starts o pick up as clients return from the break. Make the most of this period to plan for the year ahead.
Here are a few ideas for those property managers who want to start the New Year fresh and tackle property management head on.
If you’re an experienced property manager and are familiar with the ebbs and flows of your area’s rental market, you’re going to know exactly which months are the busiest in terms of high property turnover and prospective tenant enquiry levels, so plan ahead. Print out a list of all your periodic inspections due for the next six to 12 months. Group them so that properties located within a particular suburb or area are all collected together. This helps with better time management and avoids you driving from one end of town to the other on any given day.
It also enables you to schedule more periodic inspections in, say, April rather than in February for example, because you know that February is a high leasing month and you’re going to be spending most of your time showing properties, carrying out endless ingoing and outgoing inspections, reference-checking tenancy application forms and signing up leases. Schedule your inspections monthly in advance to fall due in the mornings, before your day takes hold of you.
Diarise, Diarise, Diarise!
If you get your diary organised at the beginning of the year then your days will flow so much more smoothly, knowing what’s ahead. Put recurring reminders in your diary the day before your inspections to send SMS messages to the tenants reminding them about the following day’s inspection. Block out time at the end of each inspection day to type up that day’s property reports and arrange the maintenance immediately – and stick to it! Ensure you have a reminder in your diary for the start of each month to send out tenant letters for the next batch of periodic inspections.
This can be tackled the same way as periodic inspections, but you’re more restricted in terms of fixed term leases, market conditions and length of time since the last rent increase. It all comes down to diarising. Set up your recurring diary reminders now that will take you right through for the next 12 months. Work out the best day to send out rent increase letters to your tenants to fit in with their rental payments, and block out time in your diary to do them.
Increasing Revenue from Existing Clients
When was the last time you took a close look at the management fees your clients are paying? Your property management database should export a report outlining all clients, when they signed up with the company and what management fee they’re paying. Go through the list and highlight any that have been with the company for more than five years and are paying below the market rate in fees. Increasing fees more frequently by smaller increments can be more easily absorbed, and if you’re doing a decent job most owners are agreeable to the rise.
Again, with your property management database, you should be able to generate a report outlining all your creditors and when their insurances are due. Don’t leave it until the last minute to contact your tradespeople chasing them for their ‘Certificate of Currency’ insurance information. You don’t want to find yourself in a position where you can’t give your favourite plumber an urgent job because their current insurance information isn’t on file. Merge a letter to them now reminding them that there is certain information that your office requires in order to give them jobs and letting them know when it’s due.
Extra Tip: You could even ask them to direct this insurance information to your office’s receptionist or telephonist, to better utilise those staff members whose primary job it is to answer the phone or sit at the front desk. Marking each one off as the insurance information comes in and the subsequent follow-up is an easy task that can be done by anyone.
No Reason Calls to Landlords
This is one area property managers find really hard: picking up the phone for no ￼￼reason, aside from just to say ‘hello’ to their clients and make sure they are happy with the level of service being offered to them. This seems to be a hurdle that is easily overcome. Why not start off the year by phoning your biggest clients, asking them how their Christmas was and if they went away on holidays? It’s a perfect opportunity to make easy conversation without having to phone them with negative news, as is often the case. Wish them a happy New Year and promise them a repeat phone call in six months’ time. You will be surprised at the response you get, helping you build a better rapport with your clients for the year ahead. One thing to remember: if you promise to chat to them again in six months’ time, make sure you diarise to do so!
A property manager’s biggest nightmare! Let’s face it, when the New Year gets into full swing, there is little to no chance of tackling this bad boy until at least mid-year. Involve the whole team, pick up some pizzas and make it an ’after hours’ event. Split the alphabet up between the team and leave them with the responsibility of checking and double checking that all keys logged into the book are also in the database, not forgetting to ‘un-tag’ any lost managements from the year before. Additionally, make a list of all properties that don’t have keys assigned to them and put someone in charge of requesting copies from the tenants. Award a prize for the one that finishes first, if need be, but ensuring that your key system is 100 per cent up to date saves many embarrassing incidents – for example, leaving the office to go to an ‘open for inspection’ and realising there aren’t any keys; or worse, meeting an owner for a property inspection and not being able to gain access!
Sarah Latham is a Director at Latham Cusack Property Services Pty Ltd.