No day is typical in the life of a Chesapeake Property Manager as you learn when you speak with Juli Stein and Thomas Brooks. Why? Because they deal with the unexpected, whether it's a snake to be removed or a new landlord eager to rent out a property with 24 hours notice.
At the heart of what both do day-in and day-out is deep caring for the properties under their safekeeping and consistent systems for managing the 160+ homes, townhouses and condos being rented out.
I caught up with Juli and Thomas to ask them about the responsibilities associated with being a property manager for Chesapeake Property Management.
Linda: Thomas and Juli, what does your 'typical' day look like?
Thomas: I look at new properties and meet with new landlords. We'll go through homes to look at what needs to be done. In the process, I make them comfortable with the Chesapeake Property Management systems.
When I walk through a property with a landlord, I'm looking at how to make the property ready for a tenant and address any potential safety issues indoors and outdoors. It's important to address those up front so as to avoid liability situations. For example, loose railings, or uneven sidewalks. I'll create a list of items to fix for the landlord. We refer to this as the Required and the Suggested Repairs List. This is specific to Chesapeake Property Management because we manage ~160 properties for individual landlords. It's important to be very clear about what needs to be done before any work takes place and before a property is rented out.
Ultimately, we want to provide a good home for a tenant and ensure that all goes well for the landlord.
Juli: I used to manage all of the properties myself. With Thomas handling new properties and new landlords, I focus on the day-to-day. I send welcome emails to new tenants and follow up on requests for painting permission or other changes to the property. I handle maintenance issues. If a water heater breaks in middle of the night, it's my problem.
It's important that there are no surprises for the landlord. Our landlords live all over the world. I act as a liaison between them and the tenants and I'm very open with tenants and landlords about what to expect.
When it comes to maintenance issues, I'll find the best vendor for the job, one who can be trusted, is licensed and insured. We don't mark up any vendor charges. We work with really good vendors, who know what they are doing, respond fast and charge a fair price.
Linda: What are some of the most surprising situations you've encountered as a Chesapeake Property Manager?
Thomas: The most surprising one came via phone about a snake on the front porch. The tenants were afraid to leave the house. I came by to 'evict' the snake.
Another time, we received a call about raccoons in the attic. I checked that out with the Homeowner Association Manager. Luckily, there were no raccoons. We think a squirrel may have caused the commotion.
Juli: We once had birds in the chimney of a townhome.
Thomas: And another time, the electrical was out. Before calling an electrician, I visited the site and discovered that a breaker was off. I flipped the switch and got power back on immediately.
Juli: We get to the point where we can anticipate situations depending on where the home is located. If there's a heavy rain, we know which properties will have drainage issues or roofing issues.
Linda: How do you manage property management issues?
Juli: We have an automated system for reporting issues online and also respond to phone calls.
We spend a great deal of time up front educating our tenants about the individual property, how to handle basic requests and what to ask us about before making changes to the property. For example, it's important to get permission before installing a TV on the wall or painting the space. It's much better to ask first and get approval from the landlord. After all, tenants are living in someone else's home and it's important to respect that.
Linda: Juli and Thomas, what do you love about what you do?
Juli: I love the problem solving. I get satisfaction figuring out solutions and making both tenant and landlord happy. I enjoy treating each home as my own. I feel ownership.
Thomas: Lots of problem solving! I like taking care of a large financial responsibility and helping the owner avoid lots of stress. I love the email "thanks" messages. I also like to get things done quickly.
Juli and Thomas: We like working together and collaborating to solve problems.
Linda: What words of advice do you have for landlords?
Juli: I tell landlords to look at the experience as a numbers game. Things will happen; things are going to break that they never thought would break. We'll take care of it. However, a landlord needs to plan on setting aside 10% of rent for repairs.
Also, don't underestimate how quick updates or cosmetic improvements like painting can help a property look better.
Linda: What words of advice do you have for tenants?
Juli: For tenants: it's really important to keep communications open. If they want to make a change, contact us for approval. Tenants need to take care of the property they live in as if it were their own property. Make sure, too, that any approvals for change are in writing. This will help to protect them.
Linda: Thank you, Juli and Thomas!
What experiences have you had with property managers? Do Juli's and Thomas' "day in the life of a Chesapeake Property Manager" experiences surprise you? Let me know in the comments.