We just placed a nice family in one of our single family rental homes and the reason they chose to move, is something we hear often. I think these tenants' reasons are valid and I hope you find this blog post objectively written and not a "Hey, look how great First Rate Property Management is."
Benefits of a Virtual Office
As technology improves, virtual and home offices are becoming the norm. My subdivision is full of people working out of their home and not all are working for huge corporations. I work from my home office almost every morning, and then some evenings and weekends. In many cases the business or licensing requires a physical business address, sign, and phone number. So they rent virtual space to meet those requirements. In so many ways I agree with this trend and believe it decreases corporate costs, increases worker performance, and in many ways improves employee's personal lives as they have the flexibility to do personal things throughout the day. But when it comes to property management, the virtual or home office may not be the best.
Tenant Complaints about a Virtual Office
One of the things First Rate Property Management does is follow up with our tenants throughout the rental term. The first of many follow ups with our tenants is just after they moved into the property to make sure the move went well and everything is good with the property. Here is part of the email that came from those tenants mentioned above.
"We left [name deleted] Property Management because all calls go to a message machine. With no office to go to, we would panic if they didn't return our calls; and sometimes it would be weeks before they called us back. When we began searching for properties, you [First Rate Property Management] were one of the few companies that actually had a live person answer the phone. When we called to schedule, you guys worked around our schedule and the other company wouldn't even meet with us. They told us to use a key they hid. With you, it was like we had our very own agent helping us. I liked that we were able to come into the office to sign the lease and discuss everything."
To be fair, I doubt that everyone with a virtual or home office directs all calls to a message machine before calling them back. Even though First Rate Property Management tries to answer every call live, there are times in the summer that we are not able to answer each and every call as they come in. Also, I know several really good property managers with home offices and I think they do allow face-to-face meetings at their home. Interesting enough, self-showings were a topic not too long ago and this tenant's experience reinforces one of the negatives I brought up. And lastly, although old fashion customer service of personal attention goes a long ways, I agree, a property manager needs technology to meet the needs of those who don't want the personal service.
Tenant Screening Issues with a Virtual Office
But, here is what this tenant and likely very few property owners know. As identity theft increased, the major credit data providers require a site visit where they verify a brick and mortar office and a sign, among other requirements. Unless things have since changed, that means someone with a home or virtual office would not be able to subscribe to their service, and would not have the ability to run the national credit and criminal checks that First Rate Property Management runs. Now, there are some online solutions and from what I am told, the credit reporting is instant and accurate. The criminal search is also instant, but because there is no one true criminal database, these online solutions can miss some criminal records.
Technology -- vs -- Personal Service
Earlier we demonstrated how personal service trumped that of technology, but I still think property managers need to provide both. An applicant can view our available properties online, apply online, electronically execute lease documents, electronically transfer deposit and rent funds, and make requests all electronically. Except for personally showing the properties, everything else can be done electronically and paperless.