How much should one pay for professional property management services? It’s a good question. And the answer is… It depends, but hopefully it doesn’t cost not too much. At least that’s what most people would think.
There are three basic services for which most property managers charge a fee:
1. A leasing or often called a listing fee. (This is also sometimes called a procurement fee.) In any case this has to do with the tenant placement function.
2. Monthly management fee. This covers the cost of periodic interaction with the tenant (sometimes daily).
3. Annual lease renewal fee. Usually only charged when the management company is successful in negotiating a renewal at the end of the lease term.
Look at these incrementally, but also consider them collectively over a year’s time. These fees can be easily compared among competing agencies. You can be the judge of what’s reasonable. Keep in mind that such fees do vary from market to market. Be careful not to get hoodwinked into selecting the cheapest solution simply because it is less. Cut-rate management services may be just that, cut rate. The poor quality of services that you receive may explain the discount. A quality property manager can save you tons of money on the back end.
What you need to look for, and maybe even specifically contract for, is that there are no undeclared fees. Those are the ones that pop up and bite you when you least expect it. Read your management agreement carefully. Don’t get surprised!
Probably the fee that is most often hidden, or perhaps not fully disclosed, is the cost of home maintenance services arranged for by the management company. It is not uncommon for companies to add a surcharge to maintenance and repair invoices. For many property management companies this becomes a secondary or even primary source of profitability. The landlord is oftentimes completely unaware of these costs at the time they agree to work with the management company, and they may never become aware of what’s happening. Sometimes, even when such fees are disclosed, the disclosure language is so heavily couched in legalese that one would need a law degree simply to understand.
Get your prospective property manager to fully explain all aspects of the arrangement and make sure that what they say is also what’s printed in the management agreement. If the manager cannot explain everything to your satisfaction, move on to another manager that can. Don’t get caught paying for services your neither want nor need.
If you are determined to go for the least expensive service, keep these wise words of Benjamin Franklin in mind: “The bitter taste of poor quality outlasts the sweet taste of a discount.” You usually get what you pay for. Please be diligent!
Daniel R. Wilhelm
The author is neither an attorney nor an accountant. Nothing written should be construed as legal advice. Conclusions conveyed are outcomes based upon practical experience and should not be depended upon to be a common outcome of other similar circumstances. Consult with a professional before making tax or legal decisions.