Property Management Companies: What You Need To Know

By Howard Bell

Property Management companies come in all sizes and shapes. It seems that many of them are a small business or family business. If you have a large portfolio of properties or a large multi-family income property you can attract a variety of companies because many are paid as a percentage of rental income. If you have a single family home or a smaller rental property its just not that attractive to many companies because they won’t see much income from it and you may not get the attention you deserve. You may find better service from a smaller property management firm.

How Do You Find Them?

Check with the standard sources such as referrals. You can also ask:

Local Real Estate Agencies – They may have a local property manager they often recommend to or perhaps one of the agents also manages property.

Check with your local Property Management Association or apartment association for a list of local firms


In rural areas the State Apartment Association may be a good resource for a firm near you.

What Do You Look for In a Management Firm?

Valid Brokers License: In may states a brokers license is required to operate a property management company. You can check to with the local dept of real estate to validate it and see if it has ever been revoked or suspended.

Management Fees: Property Management fees are generally a percentage of rental income. Fees can vary from company to company and you should shop around. Expect fees of 5% or more as a percentage of rental income. If you own a single family home or a duplex that has a low rental income number, you may get quoted a flat rate.

Maintenance Staff: Does the firm have its own maintenance staff? Are they 24 x 7 for emergencies? Will they provide you with itemized statements and for larger jobs three independent bids? Does the company charge a fee on top off the management fee for major upgrades?

Working Relationship: Are they friendly and is the staff easy to reach at during normal business hours? Is the office clean and uncluttered? Do they respond in a timely fashion and can they provide referrals or testimonials for you to contact. In short, do you want to work with them?

Reporting: All property Management firms should have software that will provide you with clear and professional monthly statements. Accounting: When will the manager mail your check to you? Can you use direct deposit? State laws usually dictate accounting rules for managers its good to have that information at hand. On Line Statements: Many firms will have on line monthly itemized statements available to owners. This convenience will increase transparency and save you time. EFT: Does the management firm allow tenants to pay online. This would allow bounced checks to be discovered sooner and that increases your cash flow. 1099: Will the management company provide you with an IRS-1009 and a summary profit and loss statement for tax purposes?

Reserves: Most companies will require you leave some funds on deposit for small needs your property may require. This way they don’t have to call you each time they need to send someone to fix a small item. You should ask how much reserves the company requires. Also, set a limit on how much a company may spend on your property for maintenance or repairs without contacting you for approval. Is $500.00 appropriate or $750.00, discuss your comfort level before you sign

Vacancies: Do they charge a rental fee? Often companies will charge a percentage of the months rent for the service of renting a unit. The screening should process include an application, a credit report, a conversation with the prior landlord and income verification using the 1040 for self employed or pay stubs. The service should include reporting a qualified tenant to you and a proper lease. We provide a lot of info on tenant screening information. Be familiar with the process so that you can determine for your self that a good job is being done. You only want good tenants, evictions are expensive. Viewings: Some companies will be there for a showing to groups of people interested in the unit. Other companies allow prospective tenants use of the keys with a small deposit. Find out how viewers can see your property and whether you are comfortable with the procedures. If the management company staff shows the unit ask how often they will show and especially on weekends.

Advertising: How will they advertise the vacancy? Be clear on all costs involved and have limits or a system of approval. Do they use the web? If so, can they create virtual tours or use photographs. These skills should translate into quicker rentals and better cash flow for you.

Evictions: This should require a lawyer and the proper legal procedure for your area. How do they charge for this and will the lawyers fees be invoiced so that you can see the true cost.

Termination of your Agreement: We like contracts that can terminate in thirty days with a written notice and without penalties. An exit plan that is agreeable to you is critical.

About the Author: Howard Bell is the founder of, a web site dedicated to providing hundreds of articles to the real estate industry. Howard is an active property manager with a certification in financial planning and a California real estate license


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