Property management can be exciting and rewarding in many ways. But as you move up the learning curve, the necessary trial and error can prove brutal—and costly.
With Epic Property Management being built from the ground up, by a hands-on property owner, we’ve learned a boatload over the years. And we’re ready to share some of that hard-earned knowledge.
In this post, we’ll pass on 5 lessons we’ve learned the hard way, so you can take an easier route.
#1: Make Checklists
One major key to successful real-estate investment is organization. And checklists are a great organizational tool. They help ensure that all procedures are carried out the same way, every time.
But the real key isn’t the list itself; it’s effective execution. You need a system to ensure checklists are easy to
Furthermore, different types of properties will have different requirements—and therefore different checklists for various functions. Defining and refining the steps of each process is a long-term effort, and well worth the time investment.
Our average unit turnover checklist is about 20 steps long.
You’re human. You can’t hold everything in your head, and without documentation, it’s impossible to remember and implement every little need every single time. Without well-ordered checklists, half of what you learn this time around might be forgotten next time.
And missing something small—initiating lawn service, re-keying locks, starting utilities in your name, etc.—can have big consequences. A checklist helps ensure that you check (and double-check) all of the important steps have been completed, and that nothing slips through the cracks.
#2: Master Maintenance Scheduling & Tracking
Maintenance, both scheduled and unscheduled, is one of the most important parts of managing a property. In order to serve tenants well and save money in the long-term, a property owner must respond to tenant maintenance requests in a timely and efficient manner, as well as keep up with proactive maintenance.
If you don’t have a plan for how maintenance requests will be scheduled and tracked, you’re setting yourself up for problems in the long run: that contractor who never returned to complete the drywall repair, that leaky sink you forgot to replace, that cracked window the glass company forgot to order, etc.
A clear and efficient maintenance-scheduling system ensures that all of your properties get the attention they need, when they need it, and that no maintenance issues fall through the cracks.
In addition to maintaining scheduling systems and on-call maintenance personnel, it’s essential to track scheduled times and dates, as well as work completed, so there is a record should any issues arise.
This requires discipline and systems. So be honest with yourself about what you can do. If this is not an area where you know you can be bulletproof, consider hiring a quality property-management partner to take care of these complex tasks.
#3: Navigate City Inspections
Navigating city inspections could easily be one of the most daunting parts of managing a property. It requires constant calling, e-mailing, scheduling (and rescheduling), submitting (and resubmitting) of paperwork, and filing the right forms at the right times.
The scheduling itself is its own headache, as you’ll need to coordinate different inspectors for
- General building
You’ll rarely get all of these inspectors scheduled to come out the same day, and you’re lucky if you can get them all in the same week. So get ready to become a master of logistics and coordination.
The average property inspection process takes 160 days, and that’s if everything goes smoothly. But if you understand where to focus your energy, you’ll have a major advantage. Navigating city inspections comes down to
- Effective and systematic tracking of the work
- Knowing who, what, when, where, and what you’re waiting on
- Knowing the right forms to use, and tracking their submissions
- Understanding the process ahead of time, rather than figuring it out as you go
As a property owner, you’ll learn how to navigate these inspections through a lot of trial and error. Or you can hire a property-management team that knows the ins and outs of this process and can handle it seamlessly.
#4: Invest in the Right Tools
With the right resources in your toolkit, you’ll be prepared to handle whatever comes your way. This means researching and investing in things like
- Analytical real-estate investment tools
- Property-management software
- Tenant-screening services
- Maintenance scheduling software
In addition, part of managing a property includes investing in physical tools, such as cleaning and maintenance supplies. The costs of items like pressure washers, carpet cleaners, and landscaping tools can add up quickly.
But when you don’t have the right tools on hand, small problems can get big and expensive, fast. Tool up in advance (or partner well) so you’re prepared to provide quick, reliable, and consistent service from day one.
#5: Create A System For The Keys
This tip is extremely specific, but also extremely important if you own even a couple of properties.
Keys are key. And you need a simple but effective system for managing them.
Every rental-property owner fields frantic midnight phone calls from tenants who can’t access their homes and need keys quickly. Or sometimes, a contractor, appraiser, or real-estate agent needs access to the property, and the key isn’t where it’s supposed to be.
Even with one property, these seemingly basic situations can prove inconvenient and stressful—but they’re also completely preventable. So once you move up to managing multiple properties, a key system becomes essential. A single lost key will cost an owner between $300 and $400 by the time access is gained, new locksets are purchased, and labor is paid for the entire process.
This is one place where a property-management company can offer big help. Epic, for example, employs an advanced electronic key system that alleviates this headache, and we manage its codes and devices via our proprietary software system. It’s a big and valuable investment into our clients’ saved time and peace of mind.
Investment real estate can be a great way to build passive income and wealth, but it also comes with its fair share of complications. It’s essential to know what you’re doing and be prepared for the workload, or you’ll quickly find yourself overwhelmed and perhaps in trouble.
You can learn it on your own, try a few properties first, or hire an expert right out of the gate to handle property management with professionalism and expertise, freeing you up to invest without stress.
Whatever path you choose, the 5 tips above will help you launch and grow smarter. Best of luck!