Many landlords new to the residential lettings sector do not anticipate just how time-consuming it can be to manage a tenancy. On average, a buy-to-let landlord spends the equivalent of 10 days a year taking care of maintenance, emergency repairs, administration, and the many other miscellaneous tasks involved in running a rental property.
For this reason, more and more landlords are choosing to outsource this work to a professional property manager. However, many are still hesitant to sacrifice a share of their rental income without knowing what they're going to get for their money, particularly in an industry where traditional agents charge high management fees for poor service.
In the article below, Molly McParland (our strategic projects lead) explains what a property manager does and how Home Made approaches the responsibility of taking care of your asset (full management services available for 4% plus VAT).
What does a property manager do?
In my experience, to be a successful property manager, you truly need to be prepared for just about anything. This is my first role in the sector, and I wasn’t anticipating anywhere near this much variety among the issues I find in my weekly in-tray. There’s certainly never a dull day!
Over the past month or so I have, among other things, secured a pet licence with the building management team for a puppy in one of our properties, arranged a replacement boiler to be installed after the previous unit started to melt (it happens!), and organised for a trauma cleaning service to take care of a bizarre and dangerous mess that had appeared in a garden (through no fault of either the residents or the landlord).
Of course, not every issue that comes up is quite so novel. Most of my week is spent dealing with the more routine aspects of day-to-day property management, which involves a combination of property maintenance, logistics, and communication.
On any given week, our property management team will be overseeing a variety of different maintenance issues across our portfolio.
Sometimes this involves managing a large, property-wide maintenance project spanning the course of several days or weeks. These issues generally come to light when new tenants move into the property and reach out to us to flag any issues they have encountered, e.g. the oven hood isn’t working, the fridge is emitting a noisy hum, the shower leaks during use etc. We also catch many of these issues when we onboard a new client, as we inspect each managed property to ensure it is prepared for a tenancy and report any problems we find to the landlord.
Once we have a list of what needs to be resolved, the question is: how do we get this property up and running in all areas as quickly as possible so that the tenancy is a happy one? This might require sending in professionals to investigate further, as well as coordinating multiple contractors to attend to each issue.
As an example, this week I liaised with multiple contractors working on a property that we are helping a landlord to touch up. New appliances were delivered and installed, an extractor fan was replaced, the blinds and windows were fixed, and the whole flat was professionally cleaned. The tenants should be very comfortable in their new home, and in working with the landlord to get these issues resolved early in the tenancy we have set the best possible tone for the start of a (hopefully) long and happy customer relationship!
Additionally, we also take care of multiple single installations or inspections over the course of a week. This includes jobs such boiler installations, hob replacements, damp surveys, and much more. This week, I’ve arranged multiple free damp surveys to identify problem areas in a property and receive quotations for remedial work (as well as sending a cleaner to deal with the mould), organised a boiler installation, and researched different Saniflo systems to order the correct unit on behalf of a client.
Finally, there are emergency maintenance problems that require an immediate response. These are reactive issues that can range from the highly inconvenient (an oven has stopped working, the pipes under the sink have started leaking) to the actively dangerous (there’s a gas leak in one of the appliances). One memorable example involving a frozen pipe occurred during a recent cold snap. An external pipe had frozen completely solid and shut off the boiler!
The property management function at Home Made really benefits from being able to work hand in glove with a very knowledgeable and experienced tenancy operations team! It’s essential to have two or three reliable and fully-vetted contractors available as options for any given job to make sure we can get it done quickly, whether we need to do further investigations or arrange work at a property.
We pool all of our contacts into a large database of trusted providers, meaning we can always find someone at short notice that we know will carry out the job to a high standard. We are also able to share our diverse experiences and expertise and come up with solutions to less common problems and come up with an effective solution far more quickly than any one of us could manage alone.
Arranging routine and reactive maintenance requires a lot of logistical coordination. I have to make sure we have the right people for the right job, which means thoroughly researching the problem and selecting the right contractor from our network of providers. For a job requiring specialist expertise, this might mean finding and vetting a new supplier as soon as possible (the trauma cleaning service I mention above being a prime example). This is more complicated than it might seem at a glance.
For example, gas engineers require multiple certifications to complete different categories of gas work - an engineer who is certified to install a gas hob might not necessarily be licensed to fit a boiler. We need to make sure that any provider is certified to complete all of the work we need at a property.
Once the contractors have been identified, the next step is to ensure that they are where they need to be, at the right time, and have all the information they need: property address, access details, nature and location of the problem, the relevant contact details etc. The tenants also need to be kept in the loop, with at least 24 hours’ notice before anyone attends the property (except in the case of urgent works where they have explicitly requested that we resolve the issue ASAP) and any instructions they might need to follow.
In addition to the various maintenance and repair work that we need to coordinate, there are also routine property inspections (e.g. gas safety, EPC, EICR, inventory, pre-tenancy) and tenancy commencements and terminations to organise. It can be a challenge to juggle multiple stakeholders with very different schedules while making sure that everyone has the best possible customer experience, but it’s also one of the most rewarding parts of my role. Over the past few days I’ve welcomed four sets of tenants into their new homes and coordinated three pre-tenancy property inspections to make sure everything is perfect prior to moving day!
Effective communication is key to keeping a steady ship. I receive several calls and emails a day from tenants who have administrative questions about their contract, building management, their utilities, renter insurance, and other miscellaneous issues. Sometimes it’s simply a case of directing them to the right information, but on other occasions I will intervene directly to help resolve a problem. For instance, this week I spoke with EDF to ensure that they updated some billing details and stopped overcharging for electricity and organised a mail redirect to ensure that tenants received post at their new flat.
I also spend significant time ensuring that our tenants are fully briefed on any ongoing works taking place in their home. I always find that there’s no such thing as overcommunication when there are maintenance problems in a property. Keeping tenants updated, even if only to say there is no news yet, makes all the difference. It establishes trust and ensures their customer journey is a great one even when they are being inconvenienced.
I also dedicate some time every week to liaising with tenants and contractors on behalf of our landlords, negotiating deposit deductions, invoices, etc. This week, I negotiated the release of a deposit involving large items of furniture that had been purchased at the property and provided the details of a removals service.
It’s also possible to save on maintenance costs by walking tenants through the process of resolving certain issues and performing upkeep on the property by themselves. Straightforward tasks like bleeding a radiator or repressurising a boiler can normally be done without calling in a professional, so we save our tenants time and our clients money by communicating clear instructions to help them do it themselves.
Finally, I always take care to keep our clients updated on any ongoing issues at their property, provide feedback on any investigatory work we have done and help them to interpret the results of contractor reports, and keep them up to date with everything they need to know to stay compliant. For instance, I recently emailed non-resident landlord tax registration reminders to all affected landlords to help them manage cash flow and stay compliant.
~ Molly McParland
Home Made offers full property management services for a monthly charge of 4% plus VAT (deductible from the monthly rent). You can learn more about our service here. If you're ready to get started, book in your free valuation using our quick and easy online form.
If you would like to speak with us about your property needs, contact us via our website to find out how we can help.