Allowing someone else to look after a rental property for you is a big commitment, so it's a good idea to make certain that all the right contractors will be involved in the process. In addition, it's best to take stock of the firm's practices regarding move-in and move-out inspections. Learning all you can about the services provided by a property management firm will help you feel more comfortable about handing over control to them, and will ensure any renters are well taken care of.
At the most basic level, a property management company should process rent payments, hold security deposits, maintain lease agreement records, and screen prospective tenants. There's little in the way of managing the property itself involved at this level, but your fee will also be relatively low compared to other service levels. In addition, the firm itself will act as a point of contact for tenants in the event that repairs become necessary, regardless of the cause.
If you choose this level of management, make sure you have some essential service providers on hand to deal with problems. The most important would be a general handyman for minor issues, a plumber, an electrician, an HVAC contractor, and a pest control specialist. Most of these you'll pay on a case by case basis, but depending on your state laws and your homeowner's insurance, you may be required to maintain a pest treatment on the property, which will need to be retreated annually, such as by All Seasons Pest Control.
Full Service Management
You may lack the time to manage your rental property personally, or you may be too far away, either of which can make handing over control to a property management firm a more reasonable approach. This doesn't mean you should take a backseat; it just means you won't have to devote your attention to it on a regular basis. If you choose a more inclusive management option, make sure you're still involved in any repair decisions or changes that need to be made to the property.
Request photos of any damage being repaired, especially if you'll be the one footing the bill for it. If upgrades need to be made in order to keep the property up to code, make sure you know why, and find out the average cost of the update in question. Finally, don't just accept the word of the management team if there are concerns about pest infestations. Hire your own company and get a second opinion so that dry-rot and water damage don't get misdiagnosed as termite damage by a handyman who doesn't know better.
Owning a rental property is a great investment, and with the right property management approach, it will pay for itself over time. Whether you're directly involved, acting as a second party, or taking a more hands-off approach, make sure you're doing all you can to protect your interests and your tenants.