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Rental property management: Yes or no?
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"When it comes to screening residents, I like to have final say," Taylor says. "I've talked to property management companies and they're not as careful as you (would be). I've been doing this for 20 years, and I can count on one hand the number of landlords who have called me to check on tenants I have."

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Do your homework
As with all major professional services, hiring a property manager shouldn't be taken lightly. Plenty of research needs to be done to protect your investment, but people skip that part all the time, Karpinski says.

She recommends asking for 10 -- yes, 10 -- references. Call them and ask how well the property has been maintained, how prompt the company is in responding to service requests, how quickly and how often the owners get their money, what kind of extra fees they've been charged and if they're satisfied with the overall service.

"Very few people are elated with their property management company," she says. "A lot of times, I've called and people said they were looking for a new company."

Look for someone who is a licensed real estate broker, preferably someone who has properties of their own and knows what it's like to be an owner. If you're using a real estate agency, ask if they have a property management department instead of just doing it on the side.

Ask about their Fair Housing training and their professional affiliations and designations. The National Association of Residential Property Managers offers the Certified Property Manager and the Master in Property Management designations that require education, experience and service.

Review their tenant applications, their leases, their owner's reports, their move-in forms, their screening processes and their repair policies. Make sure there's a limit to how much the property manager can spend on repairs without your approval. It's often $100 to $200. They need your OK to spend more than that unless it requires immediate attention, "what we call fire, flood and blood," Banner says.

If they can't or won't provide those documents, don't do business with them.

Also ask about their marketing plan, their vacancy rates and their procedure for dealing with tenants who haven't paid the rent.

"You want to deal with a management company that says as soon as we're legally able, we start the eviction process," Taylor says. "I don't want them hemming and hawing, saying, 'We call them up to see what's going on.'"

Finally, you also need a good personality fit, someone you can get along with and who will represent you well to your tenants.

"You want someone firm, but not too harsh," Hill says. "If that happens, the tenants will either call you or they won't call anyone at all when there's a problem, and then the property deteriorates."

Bankrate.com's corrections policy -- Posted: Oct. 6, 2005
 
 
Create a news alert for "mortgage"
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