A lot of things go into a successful investment experience. You need to have the right property, the best tenants, and a good plan for maintenance.
You also need an excellent San Diego property management partner.
There’s a lot of time, resources, and effort that goes into leasing, managing, and maintaining your properties, whether it’s one rental home or an entire portfolio. When you’re looking for a San Diego property management team, you need to know what separates the great companies from the good companies.
Start with some basic online research when you’re looking for a property manager. You can get to know a lot about a company by their website, their online reputation, and what their reviews and testimonials say.
Once you have a list of management companies that seem like they’d be a good fit, you’ll want to start calling them to schedule interviews and ask questions.
You’re looking for a management company that can help you earn money, retain tenants, and protect the condition of your most valuable assets.
Here’s what to ask when you’re talking to potential management partners.
1. How Will You Communicate with Me and My Tenants?
You’re looking for a property manager with whom to have a relationship, and all relationships depend on good communication. So, always ask about how a company communicates. Think about whether that tracks with how you were able to get in touch. Did they take several days to return your call or did they promptly answer the phone?
Responsiveness is essential when it comes to managing properties. If there’s an emergency at your rental property, you want to know the management company is going to pick up the phone and talk the tenant through the immediate necessary steps.
Every owner needs to know that every question will be answered and every need will be met. Your communication expectations might be different from what your management company is able to provide. You want to know this sooner rather than later.
Are you someone who needs to check in frequently to make sure everything is going well at the property? Make sure your property manager can accommodate that type of communication. Maybe you’d rather not hear from your management company unless something is wrong or a decision needs to be made. Establish all these expectations before you begin working together.
Ask about tenant communication as well. While it’s important for your property managers to communicate well with you, it’s possibly even more important for them to communicate proactively with your tenants.
Tenants are going to need their property managers when maintenance is required. They might need to talk about lease renewals or report a problem with neighbors. If rent is going to be late one month, they’ll need to know they can get in touch with their property manager to give them the head’s up and share a plan for when it will be paid in full.
Ask about the process of communicating with tenants. Do they have an online portal that they can use to send messages? Are emergency contact numbers available? Do tenants have the contact information for the nearest police station, fire department, poison control center, etc.?
When there are several channels set up for communication and an effort is made to answer the phone and return messages in a timely manner, you know you’re working with a great team.
Everyone is busy, so it’s unreasonable to think that your property manager will be available to you every minute of every day. But, you do want to know that they prioritize communication with their owners and their tenants.
2. How do You Market my San Diego Rental Property and Choose Tenants?
The leasing process needs to be efficient and effective. The end result should be a highly qualified tenant who is placed quickly, so you avoid long vacancies. You’ll want to be sure you’re getting the best possible rent in the San Diego rental market.
Ask about vacancy times and rental values. Talk about how your property is going to be marketed and what kind of data they use to set the right rental price.
There’s a lot that goes into the leasing process. Some of the follow up questions that come during this discussion might be:
- How do you price my property? Where do you get your market data?
- How does the marketing process work? Do you take professional photos? Where do you list my home online and how quickly do you respond to tenants when they want to schedule a showing?
- Do you offer in-person showings or self-showings, or both?
- How are tenants screened? What is your rental criteria?
- Can I see a sample lease agreement?
- Where do you hold the security deposit?
- What’s included in your move-in inspection?
A good property manager should be able to estimate how long it will take to rent your property given the current market and the local competition. Well-managed leasing systems are important for establishing expectations, generating immediate rental income, and ensuring a reliable tenant is put in place.
3. How Do You Handle Rent Collection and Day-to-Day Property Management?
You’ll pay a monthly management fee that covers all the operational and day-to-day tasks that are involved in managing a rental home.
What’s included for that fee?
Ask about what a company’s management looks like once a qualified tenant has been chosen and is living in your property.
Most property managers in San Diego will be prepared to tell you about their systems and processes for:
- Rent collection.
Ask about how rent is collected and when it’s due. Find out if there are late fees when rent doesn’t come in on time and whether you’ll receive those late fees or they stay with the management company. Ask how you’ll be paid – is there a direct deposit into your bank account or can you expect a check? You need to know what happens if rent isn’t collected. How does the eviction process work, and do they typically try to avoid eviction?
- Routine and emergency maintenance.
You’ll want to know how routine maintenance is handled and what the plan is should an emergency occur at your property. Find out if there are preventative maintenance plans in place and always ask about the vendors and contractors a property manager uses. You’ll want them to be licensed and insured. You need to know if they’re an in-house team or if the work is hired out. What kind of maintenance costs should you expect?
- Rental property inspections.
Ask about inspections and how relationships are developed and maintained with tenants. Are maintenance inspections conducted? How does the move-out inspection compare to the move-in inspection? Will you see maintenance inspection reports?
Can you expect to receive monthly reports that show your income and expenses? Are there more involved or advanced financial statements that are generated? What about taxes?
When you ask about ongoing management processes and systems, you’re looking for assurances that your manager will be responsive and available to you and your tenants. There should be a plan in place for anything that could potentially go wrong, such as a burst pipe or an unexpected vacancy or a missing rent payment.
4. How do you Monitor and Comply with California’s Rental Laws?
California is well-known for its strict rental laws. When you rent out a San Diego home, you have to be aware of rent control, just cause eviction requirements, security deposit timelines, and habitability requirements. There are restrictions on how you screen. You need to know the difference between a pet and a companion animal.
Ask any potential property manager in San Diego how they navigate the complex legal system.
Find out what they know about the fair housing laws and how they maintain compliance. Discuss security deposit requirements and eviction experience. It’s always a good idea to work with a company that is constantly improving and willing to invest in ongoing professional education.
Laws change frequently. You need a property manager who keeps up.
It’s easier than ever to make a legal mistake during the leasing and management process. Even the wrong wording in your marketing materials can land you in the middle of a fair housing complaint. You hire a property manager to ensure those mistakes aren’t made.
5. Do You Invest in Property Management Technology?
Technology has become absolutely essential to effective San Diego property management. Good tech keep costs down and also protects you and your investments by providing outstanding documentation. You and your tenants should have portals so you can keep up on the things going on with your home. Accounting statements should be readily available and accurate. Transparency is critical, and you want to know you’ll always be able to see the income and expenses associated with your investment.
We strongly urge you to work with a manager who understands technology and is willing to continue learning more about it. This is an ever-evolving field, and a lot of the software and platforms that are available to property managers now will lead to a better and more profitable investment experience for you.
There are many more questions that you could ask a property manager, and we’d be happy to share some of our own answers. Please contact us at Chase Pacific Property Management & Real Estate Services.