Managing a rental property and all the building and maintenance tasks that come along with it are often more than one person can handle, especially if there are many units or if you own several properties. Hiring vendors to help with things you do not have the time, equipment, or expertise to accomplish yourself is a smart way to delegate tasks–but only if you’re choosing the right companies. As you search for property management vendors, here’s what to keep in mind.
1. Investigate the Vendor’s Reputation
When considering any new vendor, it’s essential to make sure they have a good reputation in the community and that others who have worked with the company are happy with the results of the work and the relationship created. Follow this checklist to cover all the bases:
If your friends, family, or trusted colleagues have any recommendations, consider those first as people hesitate to vouch for anyone unless they’re fairly confident you’ll also have a positive experience.
Visit the company’s website. Is it up-to-date? Do they offer the products and services you’re looking for? A poor (or even nonexistent) website isn’t necessarily a no-go, but only one of many considerations.
Start with reviews and testimonials provided by the company as these are the ones they consider their absolute best. Then, check on review sites such as Yelp, Google, and Angie’s List to see what others are saying. If the company is active on Facebook, Twitter, or other social sites, those are also good places to get an idea of whether others had a positive experience.
Keep in mind that virtually no company is without the occasional problem or complication. You’re not looking for a perfect record. Instead, you want to see that the majority of reviewers seem happy and, more importantly, you want to see how the company works to resolve any negative situations.
Walk a Job Site
In most cases, the proof is in the pudding. When you visit an active site, you’ll be able to see how the company works in real-time and see for yourself what their end results are. If possible, talk to some of the workers to see if they’re friendly and seem helpful. Be on the lookout for sloppy work, rude behavior, and other potential red flags.
2. Verify Insurance Coverages
When you hire a vendor to work on your property, your expectation is that they will get the job done right and that they will work to correct any mistakes or problems along the way. Making sure your vendors are properly insured is a critical first step as missing or incomplete insurance should be an immediate deal-breaker.
If your vendors are not properly insured, you could be on the hook for expenses, legal costs, and other damages that occur on your property, even if the fault clearly lies with the vendor. There are two types of insurance to look for, and every single potential vendor must have both:
This covers most accidents including damage to your property or injuries to the contractor and their employees. Depending on the type of work a vendor does, their policy may also cover problems that result from their products or services such as a failed installation that ends up injuring an individual or damaging other property.
If the vendor or one of the vendor’s employees becomes injured on the job, this type of insurance will cover the person’s medical expenses, lost wages, and any legal expenses that might arise as a result of the injury. Without this protection, you could be responsible for anyone who is injured on your property.
It’s not enough to merely ask about coverage. You must require each vendor to provide contact information to their insurance providers where you can ask for a Certificate of Coverage. Many vendors will have these certificates available to give directly to you, but by going through their insurance company, you’ll be certain that the policies are valid, that the insured dates cover the timeline of your job, you can ask about any exclusions, and make sure any vendors who are not local are in compliance with your local laws.
Any reputable firm will have no problem directing you to their insurance company. In fact, they should be used to this request and have the information handy. Any pushback from a vendor about insurance should be an immediate red flag.
3. Understand the Costs
Cost is probably one of your primary considerations as you still want to maintain a profitable venture. However, keep in mind that the cheapest provider isn’t always going to be the best route! It is expensive for vendors to maintain the proper insurance, pay the best workers, and carry the proper tools and equipment.
To make sure you’re getting a fair price for each job, always get a few estimates or rough estimates from different vendors. That way, you can compare pricing with everything else you know about that vendor to determine if the price is right. Lastly, it’s usually a good idea to stay away from fixed costs and pricing as this can make jobs more expensive than they should be.
4. Get a Timeline for Completion
The only thing worse than a poorly completed job is a job that never seems to reach completion. Time is money so be sure to consider timelines, especially for sensitive issues such as roof problems, leaks, flooding, and other issues that can compound over time. If you need a job done quickly, make sure you get a timeline in writing from the vendor before giving them the job. You may end up having to pay more for a vendor who can get to the site immediately, especially if after-hours work is required.
Long-term and non-emergency work should also include at least a rough schedule with a firm deadline for completion, and you may want to discuss remedies for overdue work. Installation of a new roof going over a day or two most likely isn’t a problem, but prepping units for occupancy can be. For example, if you’re trying to prepare a unit by the first of the month and the painters have not finished in time, you’ll have a compounding problem on your hands–especially if the new tenants have already signed a lease and received a move-in date from you.
5. Keep an Ongoing Vendor List for Property Management
You’ll obviously want to keep the information for any vendor you have used that delivered excellent work at the right price. However, it’s also a good idea to start building a vendor list before you need to use them. That way, you can do your due diligence with as much time as you need without the stress of a problem hanging over your head. The last thing you want is to scramble for a vendor in the middle of an emergency.
As you build your vendor list, try to find several different vendors for each type of job. Your list should include electricians, roofers, carpenters, plumbers, cleaners, and even landscapers (storms can cause serious damage to trees and other landscape elements that could lead to a dangerous situation for your tenants and neighbors).
In your vendor list, you should also keep a short record of the services that were provided by each and whether your experience was positive or not. Resist the urge to delete any problem vendors. Instead, clearly note that they are to be avoided. This will prevent you from accidentally contacting this vendor in the future if you need to expand your list.
Do Your Due Diligence or Hire a Property Management Company
Finding a vendor isn’t always a quick and painless process. But with the help of a property management company like Bay Property Management Group, they can handle these tasks and find vendors for you. However, if you do decide to take this on yourself, the extra effort you put in to researching potential companies, verifying insurance coverages, and comparing prices will pay off in the long run as you will know your buildings are being cared for by the best, that your tenants are safe, and your profits are still in the green. So, think about it – if you don’t have the time and effort to put into extensive vendor research, BMG is here is take over any of the tasks you don’t want to do yourself. Contact us today if you’re ready to get started!