Having been a property investor now for a while with two properties, it’s very interesting to be on ‘the other side of the fence’.
With over 15 years experience ‘on the front-line’, and over 8 years as a trainer and consultant to the property management industry, it was time to get involved in property investment as well.
I do recommend that every property manager becomes a property investor as I believe it will give you an edge to be recognised as a property manager who understands their clients on a deeper level. Your ability to truly empathise with a client will set you apart from the property manager that cannot!
So, having spoken with many property investors, and also from my own experience, here are ten things that they want you to know to be able to understand them better:
1- We want you to care!
Nothing deeply concerns a client more than if they are dealing with a property manager that has no ‘care-factor’. When you care about the needs and concerns of your client, you will win their loyalty. That loyalty will go out the window when a property manager displays an attitude that says they don’t give a damn!
2- We want you to communicate!
Nothing insults a client more when they email you, and they don’t get a response for several days (or not at all), or they call, leave a message (being told by the receptionist that ‘Jan is at lunch at the moment, but I will get her to give you a call as soon as she returns’), and then don’t hear from this person till the next day (if at all).
Poor communication is the greatest complaint clients have about property managers across the country. Being dedicated to communicating promptly is an attitude and a decision you make, but ensuring you have given the right expectations is also important.
Perhaps use your email auto-responders better and more often with a message like ‘Thanks for your email. As a busy property manager, I am usually out of the office at inspections, and it is difficult for me to respond to emails quickly. If the matter is urgent try me on (number) or otherwise I will endeavour to return your email within 24 hours.’
Clients are always happy when something happens ‘within’ their expectations. But, do something outside of their expectation, and you will upset them and create conflict.
3- Give us good advice and ‘tough love’
Most clients appreciate good advice and tough love. You are working in their best interests, and they want to see you demonstrate this.
If you call them at a lease renewal with a tenant known for regular rent arrears and say ‘Mr. Smith, we don’t recommend renewing their lease’ and your client says ‘well, just give them another go’ and then you respond with ‘Oh, OK’, this isn’t OK!
Some clients don’t realise that having a ‘yes’ person isn’t in their best interests! Your response should be, ‘Mr. Smith, keeping this tenant in the property heightens greatly the risk of eviction and severe financial loss. Yes, you have landlord insurance but these policies never cover all loss that will be incurred to clean up the property. It could result in you being ‘out of pocket’. We strongly urge you to allow us to find you a new tenant, and vacate the current one whilst the financial risk is at its lowest.’
4- We like to deal with one person and want stability
Most property investors only have one property, and they like to deal with one person in the management of that property. If an office has several people dealing with the same client, this need gets broken up, lowering the level of satisfaction for the client.
Also, know that your client will get upset if they experience a high turnover of property managers dealing with their property over a period of time. This tells the client that the department is in crisis because it cannot keep staff, and makes the client more susceptible to leaving the business.
5- We are not rich!
Contrary to what tenants, the public, the tribunal or magistrate and the media thinks, most landlords are NOT wealthy. Sure, some are and some own the property(s) outright with no mortgage, but most do find it hard to make ends meet when the rent isn’t there at the end of the month.
The fact is that they have a mortgage on the property, and have budgeted on the rent being paid on time. They haven’t accounted for rent arrears, nor have they allowed for repairs and maintenance outside of the basics.
If your client reacts when they get hit with an unexpected repair bill, or council rates just understand it has hurt them financially, at that time. Yes, they will get over it, but understand that they don’t have a big pool of funds to draw from, and therefore do what you can to ensure that you are ‘hot’ with zero tolerance rent control, use care when attending to maintenance and communicate with the client giving as much notice as you can with expected larger bills. Your clients will appreciate this!
6- We like to see what’s going on!
When doing routine inspections, giving a client a report without photos can cause dissatisfaction. If you are asking for repairs to be done, something like ‘the wall is cracking’ or ‘the pavers are moving’ needs to have a photo showing the issue. That way, a client can see if the matter is urgent, or not and they can prioritise accordingly.
7- We want solutions, not just problems!
If you provide the client note from a routine inspection that reads: ‘the carpet in the lounge has dirty stains’ or ‘there’s oil on the concrete driveway’, what are you doing about it?
Make sure you also add ‘I have advised the tenant that I will be back in 4 weeks to check the tenant has cleaned the carpet and removed the oil stains’.
The client wants solutions and actions to the problems identified, not just problems on their own! You are there to be a problem solver, not to dish out problems!
8- We prefer value and service over cheaper fees
Yes, I can hear it right now from property managers saying clients only care about fees!
I believe strongly that you can be the most expensive agent in town, and your clients will not be thinking you are expensive IF you provide them matching or greater service value.
BUT… cause problems, dissatisfaction or drop your service standards and they will question your fees!
9- We want to be kept informed
Most agents DO NOT keep their clients regularly informed with what’s happening either by a hard copy newsletter, e-newsletter or even on Facebook!
Clients have an interest in property investment and management and like to be kept in the loop.
Keep them up to date with what you have recently rented so they can see if rents have improved. Keep them up to date with what’s happening in the sales market, recent tribunal decisions, changes to legislation that affect them, what maintenance should be done regularly like termite checks, yearly gutter cleaning and pruning.
10- We buy peace of mind
The client has decided to engage a property manager primarily because they don’t want the hassle and headache of managing the property themselves.
They are buying peace of mind and trust that you will take care of the management of their property on their behalf. They like to see your monthly statement showing the rent is paid up to date, or in advance at that time, and want to know when maintenance and repairs are required, and that you are handling it.
This sense of peace of mind is foundational to your business to the point that, without it, you would be out of business!