How to Find the Best Property Management Company in Northern Virginia
Are you looking for the best property management company in Northern Virginia?
If you’ve landed on this page then chances are, yes, you are looking for the best property management company in Northern Virginia. Well, let us give you some candid information and advice about the property management industry. Assuming you are a homeowner or real estate investor who is looking for the best property management company in Northern Virginia, there are a number of overall factors to consider when hiring a property management firm, many of which are addressed in our other informational articles. However, there are three immediate factors to consider – online reviews, if the property management company also sells real estate and the organizational structure of the property management firm.
First you have to know how to approach online reviews.
How Much Should You Trust Online Reviews About Property Management Companies?
These days, online reviews have become an invaluable resource because they provide a way for potential customers to learn about a company from past and existing customers. However, online reviews do pose a problem in that users can also post negative, fraudulent or even fake reviews which of course do not paint an accurate portrait of businesses. Additionally, even if a business owner responds to reviews of this nature, it does not result in a change of the overall star rating. This problem plagues the entire property management industry and is created by both prospective tenants as well as former tenants.
But why? Why do prospective tenants and former tenants take to social platforms, often enlisting friends and family, and post negative, fraudulent, fake or misinformed reviews? The answer is simple: Their rental application was declined for any number of reasons – excessive debt, bad landlord reference, low credit score, etc. Or they disregarded their end-lease requirements and either did something they should not have done or failed to do something they should have done and forfeit some of their security deposit as a result. Even though the property management company acted as per the direction of homeowner to decline a rental application or forfeit a security deposit, these individuals blamed the property management firm, i.e., they shot the messenger.
You see, one of the most challenging aspects of property management is tenant screening. This is one of the many reasons why smart homeowners choose to mitigate that risk and have their property professionally managed by a licensed and credible management company who is a member of NARPM and NOVA NARPM. We actually culled through reviews of property management companies from all across the country and found that most major and credible companies have similar one-star reviews from both prospective and former tenants. If you do enough research, you’ll notice the same thing. The language, length, and tone of these reviews becomes very familiar. You’ll see a lot of words in all caps, long rants which rarely include any tenant accountability.
WJD Management has a tried and true method of qualifying prospective tenants which you can read about here. The information we obtain is presented to the homeowner and the homeowner makes the decision to accept or decline the application. There are a wide variety of circumstances which can result in a declined application but regardless, some prospective tenants take it personally, become angry and vindictive and head for the nearest social media platform to tell the world about how unfair we were to them. In truth, we were just looking out for the homeowner’s best interests.
When a former tenant leaves a negative review about us it’s nearly always because they did not receive a full refund of their security deposit. In these instances, their actions or lack thereof resulted an expense for the homeowner which was reimbursed from their security deposit. Although these funds were paid to the homeowner, the reviews all infer that “the property management company stole our money.” And here again, we were only looking out for the homeowner’s best interests. So, you can see how these situations can be challenging, and how it’s also a good indicator of why you should hire a professional property management company to manage your rental property. When doing research, you’ll really need to read these negative reviews with a grain of salt, especially if you see a lot of positive reviews otherwise. Further, a few negative reviews may actually be a good thing because they indicate that the property management company was generally looking out for their homeowners.
Okay, so you’ve read lots of reviews about different local property management companies and there seem to be quite a number of similarities. Now what? Well, first and foremost you’ll need to determine if the property management firm has a vested interest in real estate sales.
Does the property management firm have a vested interest in real estate sales?
If the property management firm you interview has a real estate sales arm, you must contemplate some issues that may not be obvious during your search for the best property management company in Northern Virginia. You’ll need to find out if they will require you to use one of their real estate agents if you decide to sell your property. You may also have to consider what happens if a tenant would like to purchase your property. Will you owe the property management company a commission in that instance?
The most important question by far however is whether the real expertise of this property management firm is in management or in sales. The answer to this question is an accurate indicator of not only the quality of the service you will receive but also of the choices that may or not be available to you later as a seller.
It may seem like we’re telling you this to convince you that WJD Management is the best property management in Northern Virginia, but the truth is we are the only property management company that specializes exclusively in residential property management. We are the only licensed real estate brokerage in our area that does not have a real estate sales arm. What that means is that property management is all we do–we do not accept homes into our managed inventory with the hope of generating a future sale. When we need to find a tenant for one of our homes, the property is listed by our own Principal Broker. We do not farm the listing out to as real estate agent – who may be completely unfamiliar with your home – as many of the property managers with the larger “branded” companies in our area do. Moreover, because we do not engage in real estate sales, 100 percent of our company’s resources are dedicated to managing the homes in our inventory. It is no secret that the other property management firms in our area typically invest minimal resources for their property managers because they believe the real money is in selling real estate as opposed to managing it. And yet ironically, when sales slump, these firms look to their property management activity to keep their doors open.
What does the organizational structure of the property management firm look like?
One final consideration is the actual structure of the property management company. Does it employ the traditional “portfolio” arrangement or the newer “departmental” arrangement as WJD Management does? Although sound arguments can be made for both styles, we feel the portfolio style has some limitations which are overcome with our departmental structure. With a portfolio property management company, the homeowner is assigned a “property manager”. This individual may also be assigned to as many as 200 other homeowners. The property manager is mostly responsible for maintenance. This means that he or she is probably not involved in the marketing activity when a tenant must be found and must rely on others to answer such questions as “Why hasn’t my home been rented yet?!” In addition, this means that he or she may have to rely on someone else to address legal issues when a tenant states “I don’t care what you say, my lawyer says I have grounds for breaking my lease!” This also means that he or she probably cannot answer specific accounting questions such as “Why was I charged a double management fee this month?!” The list goes on.
Our departmental structure includes experts within each of the five modules that the best residential property management companies should consist of. These modules are marketing, leasing, maintenance, inspections and accounting, and in the best-case scenario, they are all “under one roof”. WJD Management has a Principal Broker with over 30 years’ experience in determining rental values and listing area homes for rent. We have Leasing Managers who thoroughly vet all prospective tenants before we hand them the keys to your home and who are intimately familiar with each of the many covenants of our lease. We have Maintenance Managers with many years of experience who work with licensed, bonded and insured contractors as opposed to “handymen”. We have Property Inspectors who faithfully take an in-depth look at your home every six months. And we have a Comptroller with an MBA who is also a certified tax consultant. Tying it all together is our exclusive, proprietary software which shares the information from each module with every member of the WJD team. So no matter what your question or concern may be, it can be addressed by practically any staff member or if necessary, immediately referred to the appropriate modular expert.
At WJD, we understand that as a homeowner or investor, naturally, you are looking for the best property management company in Northern Virginia. We hope that our candid advice and 30+ years of experience helps you to make a better and more informed decision about who you hire to manage your rental property. Additionally, if you are in the military, a foreign-service official, or a government employee, you may find this information particularly valuable because you may be overseas and unable to devote the time needed to thoroughly research Northern Virginia property management firms. Also, be sure to read our reviews – there you’ll find a longstanding list of happy homeowners and tenants as well as a few folks who apply to our above explanation of online review problems in the property management industry. Thank you!
If you are ready to rent your home, feel free to take advantage of our exclusive FREE Rental Market Analysis. Finally, don’t forget to connect with us on social media! Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Pinterest for tips, ideas and updates.