Photo of property owner giving keys to property manager with signed agreement on table


If you’re thinking about hiring a property management firm, sometimes it’s difficult to know where to start. The largest? The oldest? The one with the biggest office? Smart business people know that’s not much better than tossing a coin. You need some inside information for making a good choice.

First, consider what sets some apart from the rest.

A good property management firm will find good tenants and manage your property carefully and well. But a great property management firm will do that in a way that helps you get the greatest return on your investment.

So how to tell them apart? Start by asking these questions.

1. What’s their reputation?

One of the first things you should do is head over to Google and do a quick company search. Do they show up in online listings? Do they have any reviews? What do the reviewers have to say?  A firm with highly rated online reviews is clearly doing something right.

2. What kind of experience do they have?

Even a young property management firm will have prior leasing and management experience in the history of its owners and staff. This should be a given. The question is, does their experience match the services you need? A firm with very little retail experience might not be a good fit if you own a retail business park. If you’re investing in a unique or historic property, a manager experienced in leasing, managing, and renovating historical properties might be a perfect fit. So check the owner’s history and areas of expertise.

3. Do they know the area well?

An out-of-town firm handling leasing and property management for your residential or commercial rental property is at a distinct disadvantage right out of the blocks. And, as the owner, so are you. A property manager with inside knowledge of the market and first-hand experience with what makes the area unique has a big advantage in marketing, leasing, and managing your properties. All things being equal, you’re always better off with a local firm that knows the area well.

4. What’s their leasing turnaround? How long on average does it take them to get a new listing under contract?

Turning over leasing to an experienced manager is a huge burden off a property owner’s back. But you want to make sure they’ve got the leasing process and market knowledge to get your property rented in a timely fashion. One good way of seeing how well they do that is to look at how long it takes them to get a property leased. Do their properties sit vacant for long periods of time? That might be a sign of an unorganized leasing process or ineffective marketing. Empty rentals means empty pockets. So ask for their average turnaround.

5. How do they list and market properties?

Marketing is a critical part of the leasing process.  Even if you own a highly desirable rental property, it doesn’t do much good if no one knows about it.  So look at how the management firm lists and markets their properties. Do they have a multi-platform approach? Do they promote listings online? And is their marketing appropriate to the market? A commercial space popular with independent businesses and entrepreneurs, for example, should be listed on social media as well as on the company’s website. And an easy online application process makes for an organized way of moving quickly from inquiries to scheduling and screening.

6. What’s their track record on keeping tenants? How much turnover do they have?

It’s important to get your space filled, but it’s even more important to get it filled with the right tenant. Low turnover and stable tenants tells you a lot about the management firm’s ability to do more than just get a tenant signed. It also tells you how well the property manager is able to find – and retain – high-quality tenants over the long term.

7. What’s their track record on responsiveness? How well and how quickly do they handle maintenance and repairs?

A prime asset for a good management firm is a stable, dedicated team of top local vendors and contractors. Together with a commitment to proactive upkeep and quick response, this is what allows a top firm to deliver high-quality services. So ask questions. How do they handle routine maintenance? How fast do they respond for emergency repairs? And do they have the capabilities of handling more extensive renovations that might prevent costly repairs in the future?

8. Are they flexible in the services they offer?

A firm that offers strict “packaged” management might deliver excellent services, but if you need a little flexibility for your particular properties, you’re stuck. So be sure to ask prospective firms if they’re willing to offer standalone services, such as leasing only options. And see if they have additional areas of expertise, such as design and renovation experience, that might be helpful with your particular properties. A firm that’s able to meet your specific needs is far superior to any of the others that offer the same generic packaged services.

9. Are they flexible in their fee structure?

Like flat packaged services, flat packaged fees often indicate a not very flexible relationship. If  you have one property with 10 units, you might expect different fees than if you had 10 unique properties. Look for a management firm that’s clear and transparent about its fees but also willing to be flexible according to the particulars of your situation.

10. What do tenants have to say about their work?

This will tell you a lot. How well a firm is managing your property has as much to do with how well they manage your tenants as with how well they manage the physical property itself. Strong positive reviews from tenants are evidence of supportive relationships. And strong relationships are evidence that the property manager values people as a critical part of each property’s return on investment. Now go back to those online reviews. How many are from tenants? And what do they say? If they’re positive, you know you and your property will be in good hands.

Work through the questions in this checklist, and you’ll be in a much better position to know which property management firm is best suited for your needs.

Do you have other tips or questions? Have you bumped into problems with leasing and managing your properties? Or do you have suggestions for future articles? Let us know. We’d love to hear from you!