Whether you’ve just purchased your first rental property or you have an established portfolio, a good property management company in Washington, DC can help you manage the day-to-day tasks of running a property and get ahead of problems before they become too big to handle.
But how do you know what to look for when considering a company? Should you go with a firm that manages high-end condos downtown or one with rental properties near college campuses? What else should you consider when choosing a property management company anyway?
Not all firms operate in the same way, and not every property owner has the same needs. Some live close to their properties and plan to pitch in with repair work while others want their managers to handle everything from tenant screening to property inspections. More than anything though, you need a property management company that is honest, trustworthy with your property, and communicative on everything from monthly updates to major repairs.
Here’s what to look for in a Washington, DC property management company.
The property management company portfolio includes all of the properties that the company takes charge of each month. Whichever firm you choose, they should be familiar with your type of property and the amount of upkeep that it will need.
Before you contact a property management company in Washington, DC, browse the company website to get a feel for the types of properties the company looks after every month. You can usually find this in the residents' section of the website. Are the properties mostly downtown? Are they apartments? Are they apartments near college campuses? How expensive or inexpensive are property rents going for?
You need a property management company that has experience regulating your specific type of property. If you have a single-family home for rent, then you need a management company that can handle taking care of a large property. Homes and apartments have different maintenance needs, so find a manager with plenty of experience handling your property type before signing with anyone.
Rent rates at market
After you’ve looked at the properties listed on a company’s website, make a note of the zip code where many of these properties are located and plug the zip codes into Zillow or Zumper. This will give you a good overview of rental rates for the area.
Scroll through properties similar to the ones listed by the company. Are the rent rates similar? If not, why might the company properties be listed for a higher or lower rent? In general, the rents in the area should all be comparable with reasonable differences in amenities.
If the property management company lists its properties much higher or lower than other similar properties in the area, then they might not have a good understanding of the market or the amenities of their properties. This means that you might not make as much in rent as you could or that your property will stand empty.
Understandable fee structure
All property management companies in Washington, DC charge property owners a fee for their services. Those fees usually vary depending on how much or how little work the property manager needs to do.
Your fees for a reputable property management company should cover:
- Finding and retaining tenants
- Collecting rent on time
- Handling missed rent payments
- Balancing the property’s assets
- Maintaining and repairing the property
- Orchestrating tenant move-ins and move-outs
- Inspecting the property with each move-in and move-out
Some property management companies, such as boutique ones like Atlas Lane, also offer property owners other perks, including 24-hour maintenance and regulatory compliance. Do your research on company fees and don’t forget to compare.
Thorough screening process
Most landlords struggle with finding and maintaining long-term, considerate tenants more than anything else. Long-term renters tend to be more reliable when paying the rent, and they’re more likely to put care and effort into the property’s upkeep. They’re more likely to call your property home and try to take good care of it.
Your property management company needs to have a thorough screening process for tenants to ensure that their income is stable and they will be good neighbors within the community. It’s not enough just to ask for references. Property managers should be following up with every reference, checking employment, and researching the prospective tenant’s previous rentals.
Having a vacancy on your property can be stressful. For every month it sits empty, that’s a loss of a mortgage payment that will have to come from somewhere else. Ask your property management company all about their screening process and their tenant retention rate. It will put your mind at ease.
Open lines of communication
What’s worse than having a pipe freeze and burst in your rental property? Having a pipe freeze and burst in your rental property — and then finding out about it two months later.
You need to be kept up to date on your rental property, so it’s up to your manager to tell you when there’s a problem or a major repair needs to be done. A serious repair could deplete your property’s account balance, and if you don’t know about the repair, then you won’t know to hold back on major purchases until the account rebounds in a month or two.
The best property management companies in Washington, DC assign your property to one specific person, who is your point of contact for everything related to your property. This person will be in charge of finding tenants, scheduling inspections, and assisting with move-ins and move-outs. They will know your property’s history and help you fix problems before they become major repairs. If there is a problem, your contact will notify you at once and keep you updated on any repairs.
Having a single person to contact also helps retain tenants. When they have questions or need to enter a maintenance request, it’s helpful for tenants to have just one person that they know they can call or email at any time. Repairs get done faster and easier because tenants do not have to call back and get a new person each time, who then needs to be caught up on what’s happening.
Good communication also gives you peace of mind if you happen to live far from your property or plan to travel or live abroad. No matter what, you’ll have that one person who’s familiar with your property, your tenants, and your history.
Ready to sign up with the best property management company in Washington, DC? Learn more about how Atlas Lane can help you manage your property better here.