Making contractors work for you

Geoff Roberts
Geoff Roberts | 4 min. read
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Published on August 24, 2009

Having a good stable of contractors at your disposal is one of the more underrated tools for property management success. Following are some points to consider and a few tips for finding contractors that will make you (and your property) look good.

As a property manager, you’re not expected to know how to solve every single issue that arises under your watch. But you are expected to know exactly who to go to when problems occur. Contracted specialists are crucial to your business for a couple of reasons:

1. You want your tenants to feel taken care of at all times. From a renters’ standpoint, one of the biggest benefits of renting is that the responsibility for repairs and maintenance falls on someone else’s shoulders. One of the best ways to earn your tenants’ trust and loyalty is to demonstrate that you are reliable when it comes to resolving any necessary repairs as efficiently as possible. It’s also important that these problems are solved correctly the first time.

2. Fixing problems as soon as they arise is one of the best ways to save money in the long run. When there are dozens of things to address on a daily basis, it can be so tempting to let that dripping pipe or cracked window wait until next week. In property management, though, putting things off is never a wise idea. A dripping pipe can turn into a water-damaged ceiling; a cracked window can turn into a full-blown window repair.

With both of these points in mind, it’s important to anticipate future needs before problems actually arise. Whether the repair you ultimately need is big or small, it will be far easier to take care of if all you have to do is pick up the phone and call a contractor with whom you already have a relationship. Not only will you spare yourself the stress of frantically trying to find someone who’s available on short notice but, chances are, in a rapid-fire situation, you will not have the time necessary to thoroughly research the best and most cost-effective person for the job. Having a pre-established relationship with a contractor also increases your odds of receiving priority treatment, which can be invaluable when a pressing situation arises. And, sooner or later, it will.

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If you don’t already have a list of preferred contractors, move this to the top of your to-do list. On this list you’ll want to include specialists including: a plumber, a heating specialist (and air conditioning, if applicable), an electrician, and a handyman. Think carefully about your property’s amenities and structure and compile a list of other specialists as applicable.

As with so many other things, recommendations from people in the business and trusted friends are a good place to start. REALTORS® are often a great source for contractor recommendations because they deal with clients that need to make repairs and upgrades on a frequent basis. Also utilize reliable review sites such as Angie’s List. When you’re asking people for referrals, make sure that you inquire not only about the contractor’s pricing, but also about his efficiency, reliability, and track record in terms of getting things done right the first time.

Now that you’ve got a list, give your top candidates in each specialty a call. During this conversation, you want to ask about the contractor’s clients and his history in the business. Also be sure to get a feel for his personality. Is this someone you would feel comfortable inviting into your tenants’ apartments? Does he sound like he will have your best interests in mind? Does he appear to be knowledgeable enough in the field to get the job done right the first time?

Once you’ve found your list of preferred contractors, make sure that you remain alert once they’ve begun working for you. While you don’t want to micromanage, do be sure that you’re verifying their quality of work and efficiency. Property owners often run into trouble once they’ve become comfortable with contractors. Always check their work. It’s important to make sure that the quality of work and reliability holds up even after a contractor feels confident that he has won your business. While loyalty is desirable in business (and will likely work to your own benefit in the end), it’s also important that you remain diligent about maintaining and increasing the value of your property.

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Geoff Roberts

Geoff is a marketer, surfer, musician, and writer. He lives in San Diego, CA.

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