How to interview your new Property Manager.
We have written about the importance of getting property management right but perhaps neglected to mention the importance of the Property Manager and how important their relationship is with the client.This blog will consider how to interview a property manager. However, when reading this, consideration should be given as to whether the property manager means the individual who is managing you or the company that the property manager works for.
Starting the process
In the 52 weeks of the year, Sarah and latterly Laurence have probably spent around 40 of those interviewing for their ever expanding staff and often we have felt like the panel of the X factor, although we managed to veer away from the terms ‘smashed it’ or ‘you look like a property manager, you sound like one’. We can admit we have often concluded an interview by saying you have the likeability factor and on many occasions “I really like you”. While we appreciate that 40 weeks seems a long time, for us it was imperative that the term Property Manager was truly interchangeable, particularly as we believe all our staff act as unofficial ambassadors for MIH.
In our current incarnation we feel that we have a team of ambassadors at MIH sharing the same ethos to Make It Happen for all of our/their clients. With this in mind we thought we would share what we feel makes a good property manager and ultimately makes MIH what it is.
No defining characteristic to a property manager
We admit that there is no defining characteristic that a property manager has to have. To be honest, despite our experience in the industry we would find it very hard to prepare a dictionary definition of a property manager. The very fact that the qualities we look for are undefinable means that trying to find the ‘one’ is very difficult. However, we have attempted to give it a go in order to help those looking to find the right property manager for them and when we say property manager, we mean both the firm as well as the individual.
Taking on the company not the person
After that cryptic statement we feel that should start by saying that when you appoint any managing agent you are actually taking on the company and not the property manager. With this in mind, we feel that it is imperative that any potential client should try to find out as much as they can about the company.
In the age of social media, it goes without saying that the first place any person looking to change their agents is going to look is the internet. It can be pretty daunting when looking at all the companies and what they have on offer and I think often the services are pretty much indistinguishable.
It would seem to us that the next steps would be to look at the online reviews. However, we feel that these should be read with caution (and we are saying this despite at time of writing having five star google reviews across the board), often the poor reviews are written by disgruntled owners/tenants who have a gripe that cannot be resolved to their satisfaction with the managing agent unable to respond due basically to the adage the client is always right and GDPR regulations.
In our opinion, potential clients should look at generic reviews relating to delivery of service, accounting and conduct. After all, what you as a client is looking for is someone who is going to manage the property for the benefit of all and not say someone who has complained about parking fines for example.
So where do you go from there?
Often when we are contacted by potential clients we direct them to the ARMA website and their Leasehold Advice, in particular their very useful guide “Appointing a Managing Agent” and “So what does a Managing Agent Do?” and once they have had a look at these we then will discuss potential management with them.
We believe that these documents give the clearest overview of what you should be looking for and that any company you engage with should be:
answering the questions as set out in the documents and
showing how they as a Company work towards meeting the objectives set out in the documents and also the client’s objectives.
Hopefully this will provide some indication of what MIH or any other company is about.
What should you be looking out for?
However, we still do not feel that this answers the question we stared out with, how to interview a property manager or what you should be looking for. So in our opinion, you should be looking to find out about all the constituent parts of the company before engaging them. A property manager can only be as good as the accounts team, the contractors and to be brutally honest the senior management team that supports them.
At interview stage you will be meeting the senior management team and therefore will have a fair idea of how the property manager will be supported and what the management ethos of the company is, but we feel that you can find out more by understanding the relationships between the property manager and the various teams supporting them, their relationships with contractors and ultimately how the Property Manager (as in the Company) works.
We suppose this brings us back to the indefinable quality of what makes a good property manager as in the person rather than the company.
What makes a good property manager?
For MIH, all team members have been handpicked by the Director and latterly the Head of Department. Several have been known to the Senior Team for many years and all have been chosen for their enthusiasm, their ability to work as part of the team and ultimately their interests in ensuring that the client’s interests are paramount in all we do, in short they need to be willing.
We believe that all our team are likeable and for sure they all have a good sense of humour however they don’t always sound or look like a property manager! The diversity of our team, and having been a team of all women originally means that the down side is the office can be a bit loud at times and we often have to take phone calls outside the main office which isn’t great if you choose to go outside in the rain although less troublesome in the summer months.
For us at MIH, we feel that perhaps the best way to undertake your due diligence on both the Property Manager, the Company and the Property Manager, the individual is visiting the team at work and meeting the team so that you can get a real feel as to how they work independently and as part of the team.
Afterall, you will no doubt come into contact with all members of the team eventually whether they are taking a message, assisting you with a query or dealing with an out of hours issue.