What we do as property managers at Stephanie Clark Property Management has a personal impact on the lives of real people in our own community. If you think about it, a home is very a personal matter and where people live should bring them absolute comfort. Deciding to provide housing should never be entered into lightly or without understanding the responsibilities that you will have. I attempt to vet who we manage homes for (our clients) based on the interview that THEY request to vet US to manage THEIR home.
Vetting clients & tenants
I can typically tell by the questions I’m asked by prospective clients if they are going to provide housing that our office will feel good about standing behind. We can’t always make tenants (or owners) happy, but I like to think that they know that we are acting responsibly in our capacity. Regularly, I pass (kindly of course) on managing a home if I get a bad vibe or if the home is in poor condition and the owner is not willing make changes before renting. Once in a while, a dud will slip by me, but we catch it later. When I think about owners that have the best tenants that stay for long periods of time, my top pick is always Stephanie Clark. And she just so happens to be my boss. Yes her real estate office manages her rentals too! In fact, most of the office staff has rental properties as well, so we do know what you go through.
Ethics in property management
First of all, when I say “Stephanie’s tenants”, I mean homes that she owns and rents. As a property manager, she is limited in her impact on tenant retention at client homes. As property managers, we are the adviser to the owner and the facilitator of their will – within reason of course. We wouldn’t treat tenants irresponsibly at the instruction of anyone. Occasionally this results in an unhappy owner and we are kind of okay with that. I would guesstimate that about 1/2 of our suggestions are heeded with actions being taken as suggested at managed homes. So we are not the “decider” on all things that determine the happiness of a tenant by far. What I’ve noticed over the years of managing Stephanie’s personal rentals, I am going to share now with our thousands of readers!
5 Things I’ve Learned Observing Stephanie as a Landlord:
#1 She fixes or replaces items the moment we let her know that a request has been made. She doesn’t hesitate. She doesn’t waste time on common repairs with gathering estimates, because she trusts our department to move forward with known vendors and to ensure the price is appropriate for the task at hand. She immediately authorizes what is suggested to her nearly every single time. Her tenants don’t have a delay in services as she ponders alternatives or searches for the cash. She doesn’t fix old systems, she replaces them if it’s more practical.
#2 She updates regularly and not just between tenants. She is just as likely to update a dated look with a tenant in place as she will between tenancies. She has to do it that way, because they stay so darn long! I think tenants appreciate that. They aren’t expecting that to happen during their lease term and I think it is complimentary to them on a personal level. It says “I like you and I want you to enjoy my accommodations. Thank you for abiding by our lease” without you having to be a cornball.
#3 She doesn’t annually raise prices on her tenants. She goes a few years without raising price until we remind her that it’s been too long and the tenant is likely to be okay with the increase. Since she updates regularly, maybe her tenants think that it would be rude to leave after she just updated the kitchen. I don’t know why, but it works.
#4 She reads her inspection reports and has follow-up questions. We furnish our owners with detailed reports regularly. We are under the impression that the majority don’t give them much review, as they don’t ask questions about the findings, they don’t often schedule recommended repairs from them. They don’t typically move forward with suggested updates to keep the home marketable.
#5 She doesn’t use the tenant’s rent payment as the only source of income to make the current mortgage payment or pay for repairs. She maintains an account buffer of a few thousand dollars for expenses for each home. She doesn’t utilize rent as income, she lets the funds build up in the account for the necessaries. When you aren’t spending any/all profit, you may find that you build a nice little nest egg. It’s a great safety net.
Don’t “band-aid” when surgery is recommended
She’s basically a rockstar owner on all fronts. She’s easy to deal with and doesn’t complicate matters for the tenant unnecessarily. Having something in the home that is unusable. is already inconvenient and maybe bigtime depending on the system. So compounding that with delays or “band-aiding” something that is obviously (or visibly) in need of replacement tells your tenant things that will make their decision to go or stay at the end of the lease very easy.
How an owner responds to tenant requests makes a statement:
- I value your tenancy and want you to stay forever! This is recommended. The longer tenants stay in your home, it is statistically the best scenario for your investment to pay off for you and results in less wear and tear on your home.
- I am broke and shouldn’t be renting out my home and it’s only going to get worse as the years go by. I’m only going to do the bare minimum as often as possible. The home is never going to look better than the day that you moved in unless you do things to improve it.
- I appreciate your obvious pride in your/my home and how you care for it daily and want you to continue doing things that help me maintain my investment.
- I have no care of how you feel about me or my home and don’t desire to instill any loyalty from you to in-turn take great care of my home.
Find a happy place
Find a happy medium. Sometimes you get to be the “Stephanie Clark” and sometimes you may need to take another path that works for your situation at a given moment because of things that we may not know about – we get that. Treat your tenant ethically and expect that from your property manager towards your tenant. While you may be the client, no one that assists you in housing a tenant or a family of tenants wants to take actions that negatively impacts their lives without careful consideration.
Hire a property manager who is a proven entity
If you have hired a good human to manage your home, they won’t move forward with instructions from you that are not honorable or permissive under landlord/tenant law. If you are in a financial bind and can’t provide the best option for your home, plan to ASAP. Let tenants know you are working on it and honor your word. I find that people are usually understanding if given the opportunity to be. Have a financial plan for repairs, updates and vacancy loss always. Never expect others to lower their level of service to accommodate a bad situation that you have gotten into. Providing housing is almost like caring for a child. If you can’t accommodate any possible outcome, you should not dabble in it. Make sense?
Doing the “right thing” is key
One of the best things about Stephanie is that I ALWAYS know she will do the right thing. I put my reputation behind hers when I sell our services to the public – clients and tenants. I know that she wouldn’t want me to perform work for her that put me in a moral dilemma. So I feel good about how I am perceived by our clients, even when things don’t go the way that they are hoping. Her schedule is unbelievably full, but when employees walk in the room, she lights up. She treats your concerns as top priority and typically she comes up with clever solutions that you may not have thought of. She doesn’t answer calls unless it can’t be helped during “your” time. Even when she spars with me on a topic and goes a different direction than I am pressing her to, I always feel it’s an honorable direction and our relationship will still be solid. Those things make me feel good about what I do and where I work. I guess this is why she has a staff full of old-timers and I suspect she will continue to be successful long after I’ve moved on… or maybe I will work here until I die.
Managing homes, tenants, vendors, employees successfully
Stephanie would say that she tries to practice what she advises to others. I would agree with that statement. So that’s what I’ve learned in the years of working in property management and I’ve learned it from the best! Off I go!!
Mary – PROperty Manager for Stephanie Clark and Team