Why Hire a Property Manager
What can a property manager do for my Northern Virginia rental property?
Have you been wondering “Why should I hire a property manager for my Northern Virginia rental property?” or “What can a property manager do for my Northern Virginia rental property?” These are certainly valid questions and worth some due diligence, so we have put together what we hope to be helpful information that covers the basics of why hiring a professional property manager is almost always a good idea.
Most often, deciding to engage a professional property manager for your Northern Virginia rental property depends on your situation. We know that sounds fairly obvious, but cost aside, and regardless of whether you think you have the time required to manage your property yourself or not, you should first off know that not all management firms are created equal, though most provide a similar suite of services for similar costs. The main difference among firms in our area is whether or not they sell real estate. If they sell real estate in addition to offering property management services, the company may have a different mission plan than a firm that specializes exclusively in property management and does not sell real estate. If you want more details on what we mean by this, check out the “Does the property management firm have a vested interest in real estate sales?” section of a past blog post. As a rental property owner, your home is an investment and should be treated as such, and that should be your primary focus when engaging a property manager.
To answer your question “What can a property manager do for my NOVA rental property?”–the short answer is to greatly reduce the probability that you will end up in court. The long answer is a bit more complex, but ultimately leads to the same conclusion. With this in mind, when it comes to hiring a property manager, there should be four primary considerations: the rental market analysis, the tenant and the law, the lease, and the management process.
The Rental Market Analysis
Determining what your property will rent for and commanding top dollar for your property are inter-related but do not necessarily follow one another. For example, if you try to determine the rental value using Zillow (which may or may not be accurate), the price you select could be far removed from what a professional property manager would determine. It could be well beyond what the market will bear causing you an extended vacancy or it could be well below the going rate in your neighborhood, robbing you of that top dollar you want. Then there is also the often-overlooked reality that self-managed properties do not typically command the highest price possible because renters tend to prefer the security of professionally managed properties.
So, what goes into determining the value of your rental property? In many ways it is based on statistics, but you also need to have a good feel for the market’s pulse at the time when you want to list your property. Frankly, determining the rental value of properties is extremely time-consuming (believe me, I have been doing it for 35+ years) but it also really does require a “feel” for neighborhoods and current market demand. Every property management firm has a system, and some are better than others. At WJD we pull in a variety of factors, including location/neighborhood and the size, age, features and assessed value of your home relative to competing listings. Please see our blog post “How Much Will My Northern Virginia Home Rent For” for a detailed explanation of how we conduct a rental market analysis.
So, you have determined the value of your property and you are now ready to list it. Of course there are a number of legal considerations that go into how you list and market the property, but that aside, finding a qualified tenant is not always easy. Placing a good tenant yourself actually requires quite a bit of upfront planning and legal research. Whether you engage a Realtor to list the property for you or you post it yourself using local resources, you have to screen every tenant equally to avoid violating the Fair Housing Laws. This means devising a qualification matrix that can be universally applied to determine credit worthiness. In other words, you must faithfully qualify every applicant using the same factors such as credit score, rental history, income, debt and so forth. Failure to do so can land you in some pretty hot water with the law! At this point, you are probably starting to get a more robust answer to your question “what does a property manager do?” In this case, a professional property manager can be much more effective in placing a qualified tenant in your home because they have the education, experience, and systems in place to ensure that you get a good tenant who will pay the rent every month–and on time.
Yes, you can certainly download the standard Virginia lease agreement online. However, you must first determine whether your lease should be governed by Virginia Common Law or the Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act and then select the appropriate document. Either way, the most important thing is that you write a lease which is both legally compliant and completely enforceable in court. Why? Because there are a number of claims that require certain specific kinds of documentation in order to hold up in court. For example, if your tenant breaks something and you bill them for the repairs—and they refuse to pay or dispute the charge, you will need documentation to support your defense (if you end up taking them to court over it). Additionally, there is the matter of collecting the security deposit and setting up a separate escrow account to hold these funds for the tenant. Note: Comingling this money with your own personal funds is a great way to get in trouble with the law! And now we are back to why hiring a property manager is a good idea—supporting you with a strong, legally complaint and enforceable lease and properly handling the security deposit funds.
The Management Process
At this point, you have probably digested some of what goes into professional property management but may not have quite thought through the process for managing the rental property. What do we mean by that? Well, landlords are responsible for fixing things that break. If you do not live close to your Northern Virginia rental property or have a full schedule because of work demands or extracurricular activities, property maintenance will likely become a hassle pretty quickly. Imagine that you are at your son’s baseball game two hours away from your rental property and you get a call that a pipe has burst. It is your responsibility to handle that maintenance call by both guiding the tenant on what to do to minimize the damage to your asset while also arranging for the repair in a timely manner. In addition to maintenance, you must perform routine inspections, have a system in place for collecting rent, take ample photos at move-in and move-out, keep tenants abreast of season maintenance requirements, enforce the move-out cleaning requirements, and much, much more. Generally, at this point, hiring a property manager has more than paid for itself in increased rental proceeds, legal protection, and overall management of what is probably your greatest financial asset.
Of course, we hope you engage WJD Management for your property management needs, but more so, we hope you find this information valuable and educational. We are an award-winning property management company and have serviced the Northern Virginia region for over 35 years. In addition to managing our inventory of nearly 400 properties, we have remained committed to our industry. As the owner of WJD Management, I personally co-chartered the local NOVA National Association of Property Managers some twenty years ago, and I have also regularly contributed to leading publications like Inman News, Active Rain, The Huffington Post, and more. We also care about our local community and are active partners with several local charitable organizations.
If you would like to learn more about WJD Management, please review our comprehensive Management Program guide. 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.
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New Client Discount
WJD Management is offering new homeowner clients one free month of property management services when a new property management agreement is signed. That’s right. When you engage our services, your first month’s management fee is absolutely FREE! To learn more, consider a free no obligation custom assessment of the current rental value of your home.