WHAT RESPONSIBILITIES DO PROPERTY OWNERS WHO HIRE A PROPERTY MANAGER RETAIN?
Yes it’s true…we’re getting closer and closer to driverless cars. Several companies in California are pushing the limits and someday (maybe soon) your car may get you from point A to point B without you holding onto the wheel. But that dream is not applicable to real estate investment, at least at the level that the majority of us are involved. Hiring a property manager is the best way to maximize the value of your properties and free up the time you want for other things life has to offer, but it doesn’t mean you can entirely divorce yourself from the responsibilities that come with home ownership.
With this in mind, it’s important that property owners pay their own recurring bills, even if they find a property manager that offers the service. Owners are still in charge of managing their expenses and utility accounts are no different.
SETTING UP UTILITY ACCOUNTS
As a property management company, we’ve been asked by owners to set up utility accounts for clients. We don’t take offense, but we do refuse to do it. It’s not a task that falls under our umbrella. It’s like DoorDash or Uber Eats: something an unskilled laborer can do if you yourself don’t want to deal with the tedium or it’s raining or you just don’t feel like it. For the same reason a chef doesn’t take your order directly or bring your food to the table, your property manager should be spending their time and effort maximizing the value of your property by tending to maintenance and tenant related issues and surprises. Setting up utilities is 100% the role of the property owner and it’s so easy to do these days…I mean we’ve practically got cars that can drive themselves!
SECRETARIAL AND CLERICAL FUNCTIONS…IN A NUTSHELL
It didn’t take the unexpected arrival of ChatGPT to signal that secretarial and clerical jobs are becoming obsolete. Because of technological advances, most clerical functions can be performed efficiently and without much effort and setting up utilities falls into that category. Just like paying your mortgage, insurance, and taxes, utility setup and bill payment can easily be automated and they should be automated by property owners. When tenants move in, they will put personal utilities (i.e. electricity, cable) in their name (if that’s what you’ve agreed to in your lease) and many companies provide “hands free” transition back to your name once the tenancy has ended. It may take an online form to set this up, but the opportunity is there with most major utilities to automate setup and payment so you don’t have to worry about it…which is ultimately your goal and the reason you might hope a manager will handle it for you in the first place.
ONE OTHER UTILITY RELATED HELPFUL HINT
Yes you want to automate to increase efficiency, but you don’t want to totally take your eye off the road. Utility bills can be a useful lens into the health of your property or your tenancy. An unusually high water bill might hint at an unknown leak somewhere (it tends to be the shower’s mixing valve). Just as you want technology to consistently make these payments for you, you also want there to be some consistency year-over-year when it comes to utility usage and cost and some quick analysis will help you catch any irregularities before they snowball. Similarly, an eye on common area electric bills has helped several Nexus Property Management® clients discover that tenants were using extension cords to power everything from A/C units to space heaters and any other items they figured would be costly that they’d prefer not to pay for. If our clients had been sleeping behind the wheel, or hadn’t had a forward thinking partner on their side, they’d likely still be getting taken for a ride.
Most property management fee structures are pretty similar, so it makes sense for customers/investors to try to get the most bang for their buck. If a property manager offers additional services like setting up or paying utilities, it might feel like a greater value, but it’s not. It’s the equivalent of ordering a pizza from a place because they offer delivery even though their pizza tastes like cardboard. Do you want to pay the pizza chef who is an expert and takes great pride in his or her work, or the one who saves you from having to put your shoes and coat on? If you’re looking for a property manager who takes great pride in their work, contact any of our Nexus offices across Arizona, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.
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Mick Lefort is the General Manager of Nexus' New Haven County Franchise Office and the Vice President of Operations for Nexus Property Management®, a National Property Management Franchise that manages all types of rental property from single family homes or condos to large apartment buildings and complexes.
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