Managing a rental home from across the country or overseas can be a daunting challenge for military home owners. At AHRN.com, we work to bring you the necessary tools and information – from tips for self managing to writing stand out listings. Today, we’ve asked one of our valued property managers, Ann Ezell, to share her insight on how to find a property management company for your rental.
Contracting with a professional property management company and agent (the property manager) to manage your home is an important decision you will make when you get military orders to relocate outside the United States or to a distant military base within the United States. Get this wrong and anxiety will become your constant companion. Your property can be subject to prolonged vacancies and improperly screened tenants who may not obey terms of their leases.
All tenant/landlord disputes begin in — insert your home’s county Magistrate Court. Legal actions against tenants can be evictions, and judge-awarded dollar amount judgments which you or your attorney must record at the county courthouse. Even if you win (obtain a judgment) you really lose, since the tenant can ignore the judgment by not paying you the decreed dollar amount. Your attorney can file “Garnishment of Wages” but if the tenant changes jobs, you are out of luck! Extreme and costly damage to property is more common than you may think.
If you are wise in your choice of company and agent, aka the property manager, you can relax with the knowledge that your agent and management company are doing everything possible to protect and promote your best interests as the home owner. Yes, you can save procurement and management fees if a relative or close friend agrees to find a tenant and/or to manage your home for you. Would you hire an attorney to represent you if that attorney had failed the state bar exam or been disbarred? Of course not! My advice to you is simple: “Don’t do it!” Property management done right is hard work; good companies and agents earn their commission.
EVALUATE AND COMPARE PROPERTY MANAGEMENT COMPANIES
There are specific guidelines you can use to evaluate and compare property management companies in your area.
l. Is the brokerage firm a member of the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and the state and local associations? For example, Georgia Association of Realtors. Each state has a real estate commission composed of lawyers who create state approved “Property Management Agreement” forms and “Lease Agreements for Residential Property” forms. These lawyers and the state’s Real Estate Commissioner are masters of tenant/landlord law in the state and incorporate federal fair housing laws as well. A licensed brokerage firm can advertise your home for sale or for rent if you desire both options. Many areas of the country are seeing dramatic improvements in the housing market which means renting your home can become a choice rather than a necessity. A properly executed contract on a state approved form protects you as the home owner, the brokerage firm, the agents of the broker and the tenants. Companies that aren’t members of NAR and the state (ie: GAR) must purchase forms from an office supply store or employ a real estate attorney to design forms for the company.
2. Ask property management companies to provide you with a written list of rental management services offered to home owners, company prices and fees and responsibilities of each party to the contract. There are differences among companies in each of these areas. Identify the companies that offer the best services and prices relative to your needs.
HOW CAN I CHOOSE THE BEST AGENT/PROPERTY MANAGER EMPLOYED BY THE COMPANY I LIKE THE BEST?
Does the brokerage firm delegate property management services to one or more salaried nine-to-five agents, or is property management a commissioned based service chosen by the agent just like residential sales or commercial sales? The business practice of salaried only agents/property managers is a huge disadvantage to you as the home owner because these agents are not always motivated to show properties or execute leases on weekends… when a majority of tenant applicants want to view homes for lease. This can result in prolonged vacancies. Ask the agent how he or she feels about working on weekends when needed. If the salaried agent doesn’t offer occasional weekend service, contact your 2nd or 3rd choice company that employs commissioned only agents. Yes, it is that important!
Interview 1 or 2 commission-only agents and ask the following questions:
- Do you perform credit and/or background checks on applicants?
- Do you contact previous landlords and employer references?
- How will you advertise my property for lease?
- Do you have any specialized training that makes you better qualified to serve military home owners, buyers and tenants?
Credit and background checks speak for themselves; landlord and employer references round out the tenant profile. Ask the agent to contact you if a marginally qualified applicant wants to rent your home. The agent should, as a minimum, advertise rental homes on AHRN.com but other advertising tools such as the Multiple Listing Service, company and agent websites, and public websites like Craigslist.org are also very effective. Print media like magazines and flyers are also helpful.
A licensed realtor can earn the following two advanced designations: Certified Relocation Professional or Certified Military Relocation Professional (New in 2014).
However you choose to handle the rental of your property while you are out of the area, research and preparation are key. Both the home owner and tenant are best protected when all expectations and standards are clearly expressed in writing. This applies to the homeowner and property manager relationship as well. Clear communication and expressed expectations from the beginning prevent head aches down the road!
Meet Your Contributor
Ann Ezell has been a residential realtor with RE/MAX True Advantage in Augusta, GA for 19 years. She is a Certified Military Relocation Professional who serves buyers, sellers and landlords in the Fort Gordon area. Visit Ann’s website at www.aezell.com to access general real estate information and view homes in all price ranges that are for sale and for lease.