Jan Malmstrom is without a doubt one of Australia’s most loved and experienced property management professionals. In this article, she generously gives Leased her top 10 tips for rent roll growth.
The focus of most property managers and business owners is normally on the growth of their asset – the rent roll. If this is not the case in your business, it should be! What is it that brings new managements through the door? What is it that makes one business grow organically with seemingly no effort, but another similar business appears to struggle to attract any new managements?
The number one reason why landlord clients will leave any agency is a property manager’s poor communication, or a complete lack of communication. This is an absolute fact, as those who have been in the industry a while will agree. However, sadly, it continues to happen and it simply should not. How hard is it to respond to emails, phone calls, messages, or any other form of communication used? How hard is to make sure all emails, calls, and messages have been dealt with before the property manager leaves at the end of the day? Perhaps an office with a client communication problem should have a strict office policy on how ‘communication’ is handled within that office. For example, phone calls to be returned the day received, messages to be dealt with the day received, email responses within 24 hours. Happy owners are those who receive quality communication and are kept informed – and happy owners won’t leave your agency!
Marketing is not always about glossy brochures, full pages in the local newspaper or even T.V. advertising. Marketing is the constant exposure of your business. Everything you send out from your office, as well as the presentation of your office and your staff, is actually ‘marketing’ your business and the service you provide.
From the vacancy list at the front of your office through to the cleaning guide provided to tenants when they vacate – every document; report; email; letter, must look professional and without spelling mistakes or grammatical errors.
Perception becomes the reality, so if the perception the public has of your business is not good, because of poor office/staff presentation or unprofessional documents, they won’t want to give you their investment property to manage. They will not believe you care enough about yourself to care enough about their property.
3. ATTENTION TO DETAIL
Good Property Managers are pedantic, anal and paranoid! They know what can happen if the ‘i’s’ aren’t dotted and the ‘t’s’ aren’t crossed. It may take a few more minutes to make sure everything is included in that Entry Condition Report, but it will make life so much easier at the end of the tenancy. The same applies to every property management task, attention to detail must become second nature so that everything that happens with every property under management, is attended to as it should be.
4. SOCIAL MEDIA
The world of property management has changed incredibly over the past five years and there is no doubt whatsoever that it will continue to change even more. If your property management department hasn’t accepted that social media is now part of how we manage property, you need to consider what you need to do to meet the needs of today’s landlords and tenants – you need to, and fast!
5. SYSTEMS, SYSTEMS, SYSTEMS
The ideal time to put systems in place is right at the beginning, this makes sure the growth of the rent roll will be handled efficiently and profitably. But it’s never too late to introduce or implement systems into your property management department – it will certainly be harder, but the benefits of having good, workable systems in place will far outweigh the time taken to develop them.
Landlords will be happier because tasks are being attended to more efficiently. Tenants will be happier because their requests or needs are being handled more quickly and again, more efficiently. Property Managers are always happier when there is a system to follow, as it makes the job much easier and business owners are generally much happier, as increased efficiency normally creates more profitability and better staff/job ratios.
6. CUSTOMER SERVICE AND FOLLOW UP
Everyone talks about the need to provide good customer service but sadly, not everyone does anything about it. The same applies to ‘follow up’, this is just as important as providing quality customer service. If there’s no follow up system in place, things can very quickly get out of hand and it doesn’t matter how good your service has been the landlord will be unhappy if the task hasn’t been completed.
I absolutely believe that if we did all of the items covered in this article, customer service will happen as a matter of course – all these things, if done properly, will help provide quality customer service, without even thinking about it.
7. EMPLOY THE RIGHT PEOPLE
Property managers usually have very specific skills. Not everyone is suited to the job, but good property managers do have what is needed to get the job done. Having said that, there are property managers who are better than others at bringing in new business, but their admin skills may not be as good as they should be. In this case, perhaps this type of property manager needs an admin assistant to deal with the paperwork, which allows more time for the property manager to focus on what they do best – growing the rent roll.
Some property managers are ‘technicians’, they are better at handling the reports, completing documents and improving the systems that make the department function more efficiently. This type of property manager is just as important but perhaps their role needs to be defined so that they aren’t required to focus on new business – they won’t normally have that skill.
8. HONESTY AND INTEGRITY
In my humble opinion, these are the two most important words to live by, not only in property management, but also in real estate generally, and perhaps life itself.
The very worst thing you can do is not tell the truth. You have to be honest with the people you deal with, even if its bad news, you must tell them exactly what the position is. If you have made a mistake, be honest about it and do not put off telling them – otherwise I will guarantee it will come back and bite you and that is much worse. Always be honest! People will know if you are not telling them the truth – without any doubt whatsoever.
Act with integrity. Property management is all about having people trust you to do certain things for them. Landlords need to trust that you will care for their valuable investment; tenants need to trust that you will look after their interests as well; and most definitely business owners need to trust that their staff will care for the reputation and integrity of their business as a whole.
9. TOTAL FOCUS
To effectively grow a rent roll there has to be total focus from everyone within the business on making sure that it does happen.
This means everyone – from front office reception through to the tradespeople you engage – they are all on the team. Some business owners still don’t believe they should be involved in the property management department; but they need to have the same, if not more, focus on what’s happening within the rent roll, as they do with the sales department. Strong, profitable businesses have been built on well run property management departments that work with the sales team. It is important to have a system in place to ensure investors are introduced to property managers, by the sales team. It is just as important that landlords are introduced to your sales team if they want to add to their portfolio or sell their existing property. Both teams must work together to ensure business is retained or developed, everyone must have the same ‘focus’ on making sure this happens, it can’t be any other way. This will most definitely grow both departments and ultimately, the business as a whole.
10. THE BUSINESS PLAN
At the end of the day, if you do not have a Business Plan for your property management department that includes all the above items – and much more – your rent roll may very well stagnate or go backwards.
It is no use making a decision to do anything unless it is in writing, the whole team is committed to the plan, with regular reviews to ensure things are happening the way they should. No business will achieve the success it wants unless there is a logical and well-structured Business Plan in place.
We have all heard ‘If you fail to plan, you plan to fail’, and it is absolutely true. Take the time necessary to construct a good Business Plan – you will not be sorry!
These 10 ‘Tips’ are all very basic items, but in my experience it is the basics that provide the problems in most instances. Get the basics right, and always remember one of my favourite expressions – “People don’t care how much you know – until they know how much you care!”