I was out of town for a seminar in Dallas for a few days last week. I did not tell any of my tenants that I was leaving. How did the week go? Here is how I did long distance property management while I was away.
There is generally no reason to let tenants know you will be out of town. It doesn’t necessarily hurt, but like anything, unless they are watching things while you are gone, it is information that should be restricted. Why let anyone know you will not be at home; it is only an open invitation that could lead to problems.
I did get three non-emergency calls (actually texts) from tenants during the five days I was away.
- One call was for a bi-fold closet door that came off the corner pins. It was definitely not an emergency.
- I got a call from a tenant that said her front door was hard to lock. It still locked, but was difficult to turn the deadbolt.
- I got another call from a tenant that said her screen in the window was missing. This is something I try to check before a move in, but I must have missed it. Always do preventative maintenance when you can. It will save an emergency repair later, or even a routine repair when you do not feel like doing it.
I could have called a local handy man to fix all of these issues. Or an electrician, or a plumber, or any other trades person depending on what issue was at hand. That is what property managers do, take phone calls and delegate out the work. And charge you money to do it.
Or I could just have the tenants wait for a couple of days until I return home. I decided that I would fix the items when I returned, as long as the tenants did not mind waiting. It probably saved over $100, and took less than one hour total. Not bad for an investment of time return.
When I returned home, I first went to the apartment that had the deadbolt that would not lock easily. It was the highest priority my mind. The deadbolt worked, but you needed to lift up slightly on the door while turning the key. Not a big deal, but an inconvenience.
The strike plate needed to be adjusted down, just a bit. I probably moved it less than 1/16 of an inch and then it worked perfectly. Total time spent, about 5 minutes. I forgot my 18V Ridgid cordless drill, so I had to use a manual screwdriver. I felt like a caveman… I have like 5 of them, why didn’t I have one with me?
I did get some face time with the tenant, and all is well from their perspective. At some point, all tenants have to make the decision on whether to move, or stay, and this face time is important.
I then went to the closet door apartment and spent about five minutes adjusting the lower peg on the bi-fold door, and put the closet door back in place. The total amount of time spent inside the apartment was ~5 minutes. I spent some face time with the tenants, and generated some good will. The good will is important later, especially when you have a new tenant and want a recommendation.
Never under estimate the amount of goodwill have you make by talking to a tenant directly. They know you are the owner, and regardless of how rich they perceive you to be, you still take the time to talk to them. (In my case, any perception of richness would be incorrect…) They know you fix stuff yourself; you are not just some maintenance guy. If you are a bit behind schedule, they know you are busy and will typically wait a bit. If you use a maintenance guy and they have to wait for a repair, they just think you are too cheap to send one out.
I still have yet to connect with the missing screen tenant. That is a slightly more involved fix, I will have to make a screen frame and put it in. It will be a two trip process, one to get measurements, another one to install the screen. Plus, I have to actually make the screen. All easy tasks, but they take a bit of time. Maybe ~30 minutes to make a screen, plus the trips.
… And when I got back, my upstairs tenant in the duplex left a pot of beans on the stove and went out for the day. The started to smoke, the lower duplex tenant called the fire department. The fire department came and had to bust through the door. That would be a tenant’s responsibility to repair, and repair correctly.
Do you use a property manager? Have you ever wondered what they do?