Being a property manager is stressful enough as it is. Many might wonder what is property management in a socially-distant world? That answer is a bit complex. Some landlords and property managers are extremely hands-on, they may live in the property they manage or own other companies that are complementary to owning properties, such as roofing or driveway sealing companies. However, this isn’t you, and that isn’t a bad thing.
All this means is you will have to get creative with remote property management ideas when it comes to leasing and managing your rental properties. If you find yourself a long distance from your rental properties, or not able to devote the time you want to them, you certainly need every remote advantage you can possibly get.
In this post, we will dive into a few ways you can turn remote property management from an uphill battle to a leveraging point to increase your business, streamline processes and make you confident things are going smoothly even without you on scene. If you find yourself wondering, “what is property management in a remote world,” then this is the place for you.
What is Property Management in a Remote World?
In this guide, you’ll get the answers to the question above in the form of these main sections:
- Advertise Your Properties
- Screen Potential Tenants
- Collect Payments Digitally
- Hire a Trusted Handyman
- Install Security Systems
- Schedule Visits to Properties
- Maintain Relationships with Tenants
Advertise Your Properties
As you know, competition is stiff. If your properties are in a bustling, growing city you face competition for tenants from people buying their own house, high rise apartment complexes, and HOA communities. All of this means one thing: you must stand out from the crowd:
- What makes your property different?
- Are utilities included?
- Is the proximity to shopping centers or places of work appealing?
- Do you have an awesome view?
- Are the appliances top-of-the-line?
You may also be faced with another question: during these times of social distancing, how should you best convey your offering to prospective tenants? Advertising. It’s as simple as the old adage “you have to spend money to make money”.
One of the best ways you can advertise your property is learning how to make a virtual tour of your property.
From there, leverage targeting tools to display ads over Facebook and Instagram. If you are a property director for a complex, consider teaching yourself Google ads to market your listings across Google’s network as well as video form. While nothing truly replaces physically checking out a property for prospective tenants, offering virtual tours is sure to pique people’s interest and allow them a glimpse into their future all while staying socially distant.
Screen Potential Tenants
Interviewing future tenants, while not mandatory, is a great step you can take to make sure you will be renting to someone who is going to be respectful of your property. Ideally, these people will have seen an ad you put out, clicked through your virtual tour and reached out for more information. Consider grabbing a cup of coffee if you live nearby or set up a quick Zoom meeting to make an introduction.
Screening tenants ahead of time can help you choose the right person to pick if there are multiple offers on your property or high demand in the area. Ask questions that make them feel welcome and not turned off or in a position where they feel pressured. A few you could ask are:
- So what brings you to the city?
- Have you rented before?
- What interests you in this particular property?
After you get the icebreaker questions out of the way, you will want to ask a few direct questions that can truly separate a good tenant from a bad tenant, such as:
- Have you ever broken a rental agreement?
- What would your past landlord say about you?
- How many people will be living in the unit you’re interested in?
By no means should this discriminate against prospective tenants, rather, take this as a speed date to get to know them.
Collect Payments Digitally
Remote property management naturally comes with built-in challenges, but one of them doesn’t have to be collecting payments. Utilizing an online small business bank can allow you to invoice tenants directly from your phone and also collect payments. This removes the hassle of making trips to the post office to collect traditional payment methods and will likely fit better into your tenants’ bill schedule.
In fact, CreditCards.com found that in 2018, nearly 45% of bills were made electronically as opposed to checks and cash which were only 17% and 6% respectively.
The convenience of electronic payment methods will not only benefit you and your time but also your tenants as well. Digital payments can also serve as a lower-cost alternative for you, and makes it easier for you to remind them as opposed to sending individual letters of rent notice.
Rather than spending time playing catch-up with tenants giving you the “I posted the mail three days ago” or “It should arrive tomorrow” excuses, digital banking and payment will help you streamline your collection process, helping you get paid faster and saving time in the long run.
Hire a Trusted Handyman
Another aspect of remote property management that can be a challenge is upkeep on your properties from a distance.
This is when a trusted handyman comes into play. Hiring a handyman can be the best investment you make for your rental properties, especially when you’re trying to remain socially-distant from the property. A good one can be your boots on the ground for any situation that comes up, whereas an unreliable handyman or one who isn’t good at their job can not only cost you more money in the long run but also lead to shoddy work and put your property in disarray.
The challenge comes with finding the right one for your situation– maybe you just need someone a few times a week, or if you have multiple properties that require upkeep, you may need to consider hiring a full-time partner for your properties. So where should you go to find a trusted handyman?
Just as you do with screening tenants, the screening/interview process for handymen can be even more important due to the fact you are paying them. Whereas with potential tenants you want to come off as friendly, your relationship with your future handyman is much different, and the questions you ask should be much more business-driven:
- Can I trust you to be available when I need you?
- Is this your full-time work or something you do on the side?
- How long have you been doing this?
- What work do you specialize in?
- Do you work solo or with a team?
- Are you licensed?
- Do you have insurance?
Asking the right questions early on can weed out the untrustworthy handymen quickly. As many professionals have been furloughed from office jobs, some are taking up alternative work arrangements, like handyman work, but might not be experienced. The last thing you want as a remote property manager is to have mounting maintenance problems across several properties. If you can find yourself a reliable handyman that does good work, consistently and on time, not only will you keep your tenants happy with their living situations, but you can also know with confidence that any maintenance problems will be taken care of as opposed to becoming bigger issues.
Install Security Systems
Whether or not your properties have safety concerns or you have a security system for your own house, these protective measures can be a great asset. Many security systems are affordable and can be as simple as remote door locking or security cameras around the property. Security systems by all means aren’t a requirement for your properties, but they do come with a list of upsides.
Prospective tenants will value your stress on their safety and will see the extra measures as great amenities they likely don’t see everywhere else. Additionally, if you aren’t able to be around the property as often as you’d like due to social distancing guidelines, they can be a great way for you to keep an eye on the safety of the building remotely.
If something happens at one of your properties, these security systems can alert law enforcement quicker, thus protecting not only your property, but more importantly your tenants. From a financial perspective, these can also be useful for insurance reasons should there be any damage to your properties. If you are looking to add security systems to your properties, you must communicate with tenants:
- Who is responsible for the upkeep?
- Who is to set the codes?
- If there are cameras, when do you have access to view them?
- What is the phone number associated with the system in the event of an emergency?
Much of this should be clearly stated in the lease to avoid any confusion or legal missteps down the road. While a security system for your rental properties may be in your best interest, some tenants, especially if you are just installing them, may see it as an infringement of their privacy or a lack of trust from you as the landlord. Do your best to frame the security system as an overwhelming positive for them and be prepared for any question or concerns they may have.
Schedule Visits to Properties
What is property management in terms of scheduling visits in this remote world?
Well, as a remote property manager, you may sometimes feel out of touch with your properties if you go long stretches of time between seeing them. If you have the ability to drive by your properties every so often, you should.
However, you aren’t legally allowed to enter the property unannounced. When you lease a property to a tenant, that is their property, and many states require you to provide 24-48 hour notice before appearing. And be sure you wear a mask and social distance when possible, if you do end up taking a visit.
If traveling to your property isn’t feasible, enlist the help of someone you know in the area, or have your trusted handyman be your eyes and ears as to what’s going on and the status of your property. Understanding the condition your property is in as a remote property manager and regularly having a sense for what’s going on can make your job that much easier.
Maintain Relationships with Tenants
Even if you’re doing so remotely, maintaining a healthy relationship with your tenants can be the key to a stress-free lease term. One of the top ways to maintain a positive relationship is making sure maintenance requests are done on time and to a sufficient degree. While minor fixes like a light bulb are up to the tenant, issues with the furnace, air conditioning, or broken appliances can become nagging, and even more so if they’re used on a daily basis.
As a remote property manager, you may have a different perspective than the tenant, but consider that they are the ones paying you. At the end of the day, your job is to provide them with a safe, adequate living condition, so take any feedback or suggestions they may have as positive and look at them as a way to help you improve your business. A good rule of thumb is to outline what your relationship will look like in the contract.
Leases can be a stressful situation for tenants, so talk with your attorney to lighten up the language and include a section about your tenant-landlord relationship and consider including the following points:
- Open and clear communication
- A mutual trust for each other
- Always talk to each other about a situation before letting it get major
Showing your human side can go a long way to your tenants seeing you as more than just someone who collects their money every month.
So, in this piece, we aimed to answer the question: what is property management in this socially-distant world?
Being a remote property manager is no easy task, whether you have one house, or a multi-building apartment complex.
Challenges from maintenance, to collecting payments and even the personal side of getting out of touch with your properties can play a role in making you feel burned out. But, surrounding yourself with the right people, using the right systems, learning how to create virtual tours and doing the heavy lifting ahead of time can help you position yourself for success. What are a few ways you manage your properties remotely?