What are some things a property manager charges for? My property has a yard and pool. How would a property manager charge for this type of maintenance?
When you sit down with a representative of a property management firm, they will likely try to shape the contract to include anything they can do and bill you for.
There is nothing wrong with this, at all – the best way for them to maximize their revenue is to maximize their value to their landlord clients.
The property manager is probably going to try to calculate the likely cost of yard and pool maintenance, and include that in the list of monthly items the manager is responsible in the contract. He’ll make a rough estimate, pad it a little to be on the safe side, and then add a profit margin for the property management firm.
Remember, also, that the property manager is trying to figure the all-in cost over the course of the year. This could well be a different figure than you’re estimate of “what I paid last month.” There could be big issues that will make a big difference in your costs each month for both pools and yards. For example, if you live in Montana, you’re probably going to throw a pool blanket on your pool for most of the year, and you will only need intensive maintenance during the summer. You may have to spend more for leaf clearance in autumn than you do the rest of the year, etc. The property manager must try to work something out that makes sense spread over a 1-year contract.
They can then either itemize the cost as a separate line item on your invoice every month, or they can bury it in a standard monthly fee for these deliverables. It makes no difference which.
As a property manager, you are free to exclude pool cleaning or yard maintenance services or anything else you like from the contract if you prefer. But if I’m in your shoes, I’d rather see what the manager bids, first. You could be pleasantly surprised. Here’s why: The manager may well have a special pricing arrangement with a local contractor, because they hire them so frequently to take care of their properties. If you can guarantee a contractor 40 hours of work each week, like an established property management firm can, you’d be surprised at the discount you can obtain on their services, versus hiring a pool cleaner or yard maintenance contractor for a couple of hours per month.
In some cases, a property manager will have their own maintenance people on staff, working hourly, doing routine maintenance issues like these, which may allow them to price even more competitively. I recommend being open to their recommendation.
If you think you want to retain responsibility for these items yourself, you can have them removed from the scope of engagement, if you prefer. If the property manager has not specified their cost as a line item, as described above, then you can ask something like,
“Well, I plan on using my own guy for these items. What can you knock off if you don’t have to worry about the landscape and pool?”
Whatever they knock off is effectively their line item price.
At that point, you can compare their price – whether explicitly stated or implied from their discount – to what it would cost you to have your own contractor take care of it, and decide accordingly.
Now, to put a finer point on it, here’s one possible solution – a fee schedule published by Mid-Florida Villas – a property management firm in Florida. They list a detailed menu of services. You can season to taste based on labor costs in your area and the unique needs of your particular property.
Click here to find a property manager within your area.
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.