As always, the answer is, “it depends.” Obviously, the property will be big enough that you’ll want someone there running the office from 9 to 5. But let’s break things down a little further and help you think through the problem.
Chances are, you’ll need at least two administrators – at least one of whom should hold at least a real estate agents’ license. (This person could work under a broker with the management company, or you could have someone with a brokers’ license on hand working directly for you or for the property management company.)
Depending on the crime in the area and your tenants, I’d go for three – and strive not to have anyone working alone in the office for any length of time.
You’ll need two in the office most of the time, because one will have to be out running errands around the property and offsite, or showing units to prospective tenants, while the other mans the phones and handles routine tenant business in the office, prepares lease papers, etc.
With 120 units, you should be able to keep one or two experienced maintenance workers pretty busy, at least half time, and probably full-time. Especially if you have a lot of turnover, or if the building is relatively old and needs a lot of upkeep. If you can keep them busy, it’s usually more efficient to have them on the payroll yourself than to hire a contractor for one-off jobs all the time. If you have a property management firm, they’ll no doubt have some resources, if they’re big enough to handle a 120-unit property and you aren’t their only client.
Naturally, the age of the property is going to make a big difference.
Again, this is going to be very site specific. I would base your security manning on a formal site analysis which you should make with an experienced security professional. Some things to look at:
- History of the property
- History of adjacent and nearby properties
- Tenant make-up
- Cover and concealment on the property and nearby
- Access control measures available (key cards, locks, gates, etc)
- Lighting available
- Fencing, gating and other barriers
- Layout of the property
Will you need roving patrols? Do you have multiple points of entrance? Can you close off one or more of the entrances at night? Do you need security 24-7? Or only during hours of darkness?
If you don’t have a security background yourself, an on-site security assessment with an experienced security expert may be a real eye-opener. Furthermore, there have been a number of technology advances in recent years that make high-tech security and surveillance systems much more affordable and easier to install than ever before.
The gear can save you money, too – both in prevented crime, but also in manpower: It’s cheaper to point a light and a camera at a vulnerable area in the parking lot than pay someone to check it out every 15 minutes (and they probably won’t, anyway).
You may want to have one dedicated individual responsible for accounting or book-keeping. Normally the property management firm does this for you as part of their routine operations. If you’re trying to do it yourself, though, you may want your own individual there working as a check and balance on the other employees, reporting directly to you, along with the property manager himself/herself.
So that gets you to six people, pretty easily, and you’ll probably need more in short order – especially with security, weekend shifts, vacation and sick time off, etc. You can skimp a little, but you’re making tradeoffs at that point.
Writing about personal finance and investments since 1999, Jason Van Steenwyk started as a reporter with Mutual Funds Magazine and served as editor of Investors’ Digest. He now publishes feature articles in many publications including Annuity Selling Guide, Bankrate.com, and more.