Residential Property Management Companies have a reputation for being reactive in the way they manage buildings and some may argue that Lease’s only allow them to be such.
A Property Manager will be your sole point of contact when it comes to the management of your building. A Property Managers job description involves dealing with reactive maintenance, communicating with residents, project management, financial micromanagement and so on. They ultimately can have a lasting effect on the value of the building and therefore your flat too. It is therefore important to ask these, sometimes difficult, questions to really see what value you are getting from your Property Manager.
Here are our top 5 questions to ask your Property Manager and why they affect your building:
Why ask it: This one may seem simple. You need to visit a building at some point to see what is happening in a building, right?! Well you would be surprised that the average number of times a Property Manager comes to a building in London is every 3 months according to our research into Managing Agents in London. That means your Property Manager is only visiting your building every 90 days at the most.
How does it impact my building: having managed buildings in London for quite some time, I am in a qualified position to know that you cannot attend a building every 90 days and feel satisfied that you are on top of what is happening. Even the most efficiently run buildings only get that way through hard work and attention, quite the contrary to this 90 day trend. It goes without saying that a Property Manager should attend a building, in our opinion, every 14 days to ensure that everything is ticking along nicely, that the cleaning is being carried out perfectly, that there are no small repairs needed, that customer satisfaction levels remain high. If you aren’t getting this level of attention, there is a fundamental flaw in the management of your building and you should consider other options today.
Why ask it: now this question may seem odd to ask a property manager since they work in a service industry rather than a sales one, however, a property managers ability to manage a building can have a positive or negative effect on the value of the building, even if it is just from an aesthetic point of view.
How does it impact my building: so you understand that a property manager can actually effect the price you rent of sell your apartment for, aren’t you a little more encouraged to ensure you are getting the best service for your money?! By asking your property manager about property values in the local area, it gives you an insight into the commercial frame of mind they have. Are they looking to have a positive impact on prices? Are they trying to make your building the most attractive purchase option in the immediate area? These are all question that will impact your most expensive asset and therefore it is worthwhile asking this question, after all, wouldn’t you want to have a property manager that will promote the building value as much as they could?!
Why ask it: this question sounds like a more personal question than a client would typically ask a service provider as the answer will give insight into the relationship between the company and the employee. In my experience of working with multiple teams I started to notice a trend for residential property managers that work in London. I call it the ‘rule of three’. I noticed that your average property manager tends to be happy running the same portfolio for 3 years. After 3 years and if there has been no progression or expansion, that individual starts to falter or even look for a new role. Having discussed this with my industry network, it seems to be roughly the same, irrelevant of the company. With one of the biggest gripes we hear from prospective clients being ‘our managing agent is like a revolving door at the moment, shifting the management of our building from one person to another’, it is essential to find out what motivates your property manager to stay for the long term.
How does it impact my building: much like any industry, the longer you are in a role, the better you become. It is therefore essential to find out what your London Managing Agent is doing internally to ensure it keeps its staff. At Strangford Management, we use a range of data analytics and key performance indicators to not only ensure service standards are met but also reflected in performance based rewards, incentivising our staff to outperform others in the industry.
Why ask it: this is a standard, day to day question that almost everyone wants to know. How quickly will the issue be resolved and when will I get an update on how its progressing. Whilst the question is pretty standard, communication is one of the top reasons customers change their service provider. It goes without saying, when it comes to your home, you need to be kept up to date on what is happening.
How does it impact my building: again, one of the biggest problems flat owners can have is the length of time it takes to resolve repairs and maintenance issues. What if you have a viewing with prospective tenants and the lift isn’t working? What if you have family coming to see you and there are multiple lights out in the corridors? Not only is that going to frustrate you but it may lose you potential tenants. These days, with the increase in on-demand services, big data, mobile optimization and internet of things, any managing agent in London must be looking at the way they communicate from online portals that instantly update leaseholders when a change occurs to proactive engagement through social media channels. Property Management requires an innovative approach to prevent regressing back to the age of paper purchase orders and leaflet newsletters in the mail box.
Why ask it: They say in life you are the average of the 5 closest people to you. I think this also rings true in business. You can tell you a lot about the company and a property manager by the larger professional network they keep. You entrust a managing agent with the ongoing management of your home and therefore you need to have peace of mind that any professionals providing advice or being sent into your building are best suited for you.
How does it impact my building: This part of the question is best left to a hypothetical example. Imagine you are looking to sell your precious home after years of enjoyment. You get ready to go to work and leave your flat. You notice the lift isn’t working because the lift engineers are slow to react. So you take the stairs. You then notice a few lights don’t work, possibly having been blown for a week or two now so you are walking down the stairs in dimmed light. Eventually you get outside the building and go to work. You then chase your solicitor to find out how the sale of your property is going but they tell you your managing agent is slow to respond with a sales information pack as they are waiting for a copy of the insurance documents. After a slow day you return home to find the managing agents contractors have sent you a letter as they need access to the roof and can only do so through your flat. Being a large contractor they insist that you provide access either with a morning slot (8am – 1pm) or an afternoon slot (1pm – 6pm) meaning you are going to have to take time off work to accommodate them. You agree to a morning slot tomorrow and when tomorrow arrives, they don’t arrive and you can’t get an update from your property manager as they are out of the office.
Whilst hypothetical, I have heard such nightmare stories from prospective clients. Bear in mind the above all happens within a 36-hour period. As if you didn’t have enough stress with the sale of your flat, you now have more coming from 3rd parties.
This example shows just how important it is to understand who the managing agent use for certain tasks but also find out specifics such as response times and service level standards so you know exactly what to expect before these situations arise.