Q&A: Why A Great Property Manager Is Everything

If you have a number of investment properties, you’ll know that managing tenant issues and general maintenance can be hugely time-consuming.

That’s why a great property manager is essential.

Chris owns several properties and has been a client of Rentwest for several years. But Chris also leased one of his properties short-term through Airbnb. This worked really well for him until COVID-19 hit, causing the short term rental market to change overnight. We caught up with Chris, to ask him about why he switched it to a long term rental, and why he leaves property management to the professionals.

Hi Chris! Thanks for talking to us. You’re in business for yourself but also invest in property quite a bit, don’t you?

Yes – I invest in property and shares with a view to retirement, just to diversify and create various income streams going forward.

Do you enjoy looking for properties and finding things that you might like to invest in?

No, not really! Finding the right properties can be a lot of work, and so can managing them – I’ve done it myself with a few properties when I was starting out, so I know. But when you’ve got a helpful property manager, like we do with Rentwest, that makes the process much easier.

What have you learned about investing since you first started buying property?

There’s always going to be ups and downs. When we started, we got very good returns but that hasn’t been the case in the last ten years. For us, it’s just about diversification and you have to go into it knowing that you’re doing it for the long-term.

We’ve just started looking after a property for you, that you previously leased short term on Airbnb, can you tell us a bit about it?

Yes, it’s a townhouse. We bought it because it’s in a good location – in a holiday town in Fremantle. We did originally have it rented out long term with a real estate agent, but it wasn’t working out so we put it onto Airbnb, and it started doing very well. We had a company managing the Airbnb bookings, bringing a cleaner in and dealing with queries 24/7 so it was a set-and-forget scenario to some extent. But then of course, the pandemic came!

There’s no doubt that COVID-19 has affected everything, and short term rentals were badly impacted by the uncertainty, and the lack of overseas and interstate tourists – was that your experience?

Yes, it cut off the supply of international tourists, and we had cancellations. We still had some demand because people were returning to Australia and needed a place to quarantine. But I had to make a decision – take a risk and keep it on Airbnb, or bite the bullet and go back to leasing it long term, and that’s what I did. At the time, of course, Rentwest was already managing some of our other properties, and Nicky has always been very helpful and very professional. So, we decided to switch over back to the longer-term 12-month rental lease and have it managed with Rentwest as well. Nicky was able to expand on all the uncertainties and get a tenant in fairly quickly which was good. We have that peace of mind now til things settle down.

Given your investing experience, what do you believe you should look for in a good property manager?

You want to find someone who can give you a realistic rental income appraisal. You definitely don’t want property managers who will promise you a lot, and then not deliver. You want a property manager who is fair to you and to the tenant – that’s actually a good thing because it helps you retain good tenants. However, you also don’t want a property manager who’s on the side of the tenant all the time, because then you’re paying for things that might not be necessary. It’s all about balance.

As a landlord investor, is it essential having that buffer between you and the tenant?

Yes, it’s great to have that middleman. We’ve had great tenants and unreasonable ones, who are hard to deal with and it becomes quite stressful. A good property manager will be objective and fair to both sides. We’ve been tenants ourselves, so we know what it’s like to have an unreasonable property manager.

What was that experience like?

Well, we were renting. And we had this agent who would come around for the inspection, and we would mow the lawn and so on in preparation for his arrival. But he’d go out and point out weeds we hadn’t pulled out, which was just ridiculous. As a tenant, I definitely wanted to leave at the end of that tenancy – so a property manager who’s too harsh on the tenant is not doing the landlord any favours. You need a good balance.

How can you figure out whether a property manager is a good fit for you?

It’s not easy to do, as property managers will always furnish you with their best testimonials and tell you that they screen tenants, ensure your property is taken care of, and so on. That’s all a great starting point but at the end of the day, it comes down to their performance as a property manager. That’s why we like Rentwest – we came to them via a recommendation from a selling agent and have always found Nicky professional and helpful. I will say that when you find a property manager who is good at their job, you stick with them!

Thanks Chris, that’s great feedback and we’re very glad you’re happy!

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