While some Australian property investors choose to manage their rentals, the majority rely on a professional property manager. The reason is simple: because it saves time and money.

Owners turn to real estate agents for leasing rental properties – where the agency simply finds tenants – but many agents do that and offer full property management for the life of the tenancy. There are also dedicated property management firms, not attached to an agency, which do both tasks.

A property manager can provide a long list of services: pricing advice, leasing expertise, negotiation and maintenance contacts, and knowledge of complex tenancy legislation, as well as the hands-on management of properties day-to-day. They can save owners a big chunk of money and help them make a larger profit year-on-year.

Property manager

Hiring a professional to manage your investment property can cost more upfront but deliver more profit and cause less stress in the long run. Picture: Getty

That means knowing how to choose a property manager for your rental is hugely important.

8 tips for finding the right property manager

Wanting to snag the best person to look after your most expensive asset? Follow our tips to find the best person for the job:

1.   Do your research

Kasey McDonald, the head of leasing at property management agency :Different, said research is vital when looking for a property manager.

“Jump online to read any customer reviews there might be for the property manager. This is a quick and easy way to learn about the experience other property owners have had with them and a rough idea of what working with them might be like.”

Nancy Navarrete, Ray White NSW business development executive, agreed online reviews can give “a good indication” of how a property manager will perform.

You can use realestate.com.au to find a property manager or even seek advice and recommendations on local Facebook groups.

2.   Look local

From knowing the demographics of the tenant pool to the best parts of a suburb or simply what rent to charge, local knowledge is king when it comes to managing rentals.

That’s why looking for a local property manager is always a good idea, according to Ms Navarrete. Search for agents or managers who have a presence in your suburb or manage rentals in the region.

3.   Listen to word of mouth

Word of mouth is one of the best ways to find a great property manager.

“Speak to family members, friends, colleagues, or anyone you know who owns a property and ask them what they think of their property manager. How did they choose them? What has their experience been like and would they recommend them to others?” Ms McDonald said.

4.   Focus on communication

How a property manager communicates is vital, so find out their approach, Ms McDonald said.

“One of the most important things to consider when deciding on a property manager is how easy they are to reach. When something goes wrong with your property or you have an issue with a tenant, you want to know your property manager is reachable and responsive.

“Also, consider how they communicate with you, be it via text, call, email, or maybe through an app. It’s important their preferred communication style suits you and your needs.”

5.   Ask lots of questions

As the old saying goes, there are no silly questions, so ask lots when looking for a property manager.

“Find out not only more about them and their property management style but also ask how their business (or whomever they work for) is structured, how they manage tasks, their policies, current portfolio, etc.

“All of this information will help you get a feel for how they like to communicate, manage properties, and approach decision making,” Ms McDonald said.

Considering a property might be your most valuable asset, it pays to make sure you’re working with the right team. Picture: realestate.com.au/buy

6.   Find out what they actually do

Never assume what a property manager does. Ask, to find out what specific services they offer.

Some offer advertising services – purely to find tenants – while others offer that plus full-service property management.

7.   Request an “onboarding plan”

Ms Navarrete said one way to understand what processes will be involved in managing your property is to request an onboarding plan from the prospective property manager.

“You want an agent who has structure, is organised and one that can make you feel like your property is in safe hands and being well managed,” she said. And seeing a breakdown of how onboarding would work is a good way to see just that.

8.   Understand their approach to key areas

Managing property might seem simple enough – you find a tenant, collect rent and occasionally arrange repairs – but in reality, it’s much more complicated.

Asking questions about how a prospective property manager approaches key areas will tell you a lot.

Ms Navarrete suggested asking how they manage rental payments, how often they complete property inspections, and if they provide updates on changes to legislation to their clients, as a minimum.

Different property managers may have a completely different way of approaching their work. Picture: Getty

5 questions to ask when looking for a property manager

Don’t just assume you’ve found ‘the one’ without really getting to know their approach to the job. Here’s what to ask when you’re interviewing potential property managers:

1.   What are your qualifications and experience?

As in any profession, experience is critical, so don’t be afraid to ask how long someone has been in the industry and what their professional qualifications are, Ms Navarrete said.

Ms McDonald also recommended asking about qualifications and experience, and even if the property manager has won any recent awards, to get a read on their expertise level.

2.   How many properties do you manage?

Ask how many properties are in the property manager’s portfolio, Ms McDonald said.

“Is it local or spread nationally? It’s important to understand not only the property manager’s workload but also the capacity of the business as a whole so you can assess how much time they will be able to dedicate to your property and if this will fulfill your needs and expectations,” she said.

Also, ask how many of the properties are in the same geographical market as yours.

When having your property managed you want to feel like your property is a high priority. Picture: realestate.com.au/rent

3.   What is your approach to communication?

Understanding a property manager’s approach to communication should be towards the top of the list, Ms Navarrete said.

“Ask how do they like to best communicate with their clients? You want someone approachable, and who can demonstrate good communication skills.”

Do they communicate over email or text message? Or will you always have to speak over the phone? This could be an important thing to know for those that have limited time to speak on the phone during work hours.

4.   What are your fees?

Ultimately, property investment is about dollars and cents, so get a good, clear breakdown of all fees so you can accurately compare one property manager to another.

Can you pay for just finding tenants? What is the bells and whistles package? Is there an extra charge to find new tenants, or is that included in the cost? Or can you find your own tenants to reduce the fees?

5.   Why should I choose you over a competitor?

“Ask what makes them different from everyone else out there?” Ms McDonald recommended asking.  That way, you can compare and contrast.

What else should you take into consideration when selecting a property manager?

While the bottom line is key, there are a few other things to keep in mind when making the final decision around who manages your property, according to Ms Navarrete:

  • How does the property manager makes you feel? Make sure you feel comfortable enough around them to ask questions and maintain a good working relationship.
  • Look for someone who will look after your home and the people in it, so you have one less thing to worry about.
  • Trust that your property manager can come to the rescue in tricky situations such as lease renewals, tribunal cases, and complicated maintenance work. “They should know you, your property, and your tenants well, ensuring you’re always informed and in control.”

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