17 Tips to Be a More Successful Property Manager (2021)

17 Tips to Be a More Successful Property Manager (2021)
December 17, 2020 Levi Olmstead

With 36 percent of all households renting in 2020, the emphasis on finding qualified property managers has never been higher.

Combine that with a need to find property managers with new, ever-evolving skillsets – from experience with software and technology, event planning, community engagement, and resident safety.  Property managers have a full set of responsibilities, all to ensure a multifamily property is running smoothly.

What Is a Property Manager?

Property managers are professionals that manage multifamily rental properties and ensure these properties are being operated as best as they can. Property managers are given guidance on their community’s goals —whether this is financial-based goals or on providing residents a community they feel at home living in.

For larger communities and multifamily properties, property managers can be giving looser instructions on how to manage properties, with as little as a basic mission statement to work from. While on the other hand, property managers with individual owners or independent landlords should expect to receive hands-on, verbal guidance with explicit directions on how to run and operate each individual property.

What Are the Main Responsibilities of Property Managers?

Property managers maintain the day-to-day operations of one or more multifamily rental properties. These responsibilities include:

  • Advertising vacant units
  • Lead generation marketing tactics for finding new residents
  • Screening prospective tenants
  • Understanding and managing lease terms
  • Setting and collecting rent
  • Cultivating community and relationships between residents
  • Handling inter-resident issues
  • Scheduling and tracking maintenance requests
  • Renewing leases
  • Creating and managing a yearly budget
  • Managing rental property finances and records

Types of Property Managers

Depending on the type of property you’re managing determines the type of tasks you’ll need to be proficient in to handle the job. There are three main types of property managers in 2021:

Commercial Property Managers

Commercial property managers maintain commercial real-estate buildings used for companies and business purposes. These property managers specialize in how commercial, industrial, office, and administrative spaces operate.

Multifamily Property Managers

Multifamily property managers are the traditional type of property managers, managing properties such as apartment complexes, high-rises, and condo buildings. These property manager specialists rely on interpersonal, customer service, and general people skills to build strong relationships with their residents – as well as de-escalate disputes and conflicts within the community. This is all while dealing with normal, day-to-day tasks all property managers are responsible for, making multifamily property managers the most daunting of all property manager specialties.

Single-Family Property Managers

Single-family property managers work for property investors who own multiple, unoccupied homes that are rented out to provide an additional stream of income for the investor. Examples of situations or properties that are managed by single-family property managers include military communities, college towns, and entertainment towns.

17 Tips to Succeed as a Property Manager in 2021

As a property manager, it is your job to keep things running smoothly. Property management is a dynamic industry, and those in the property management profession should keep up with current trends and best practices. Here are seventeen tips to be a successful property manager of any kind in 2021:

1. Understand the Basics of Property Management

There are four main components – finding tenants, lease terms, maintenance, lease renewal. 

To find quality tenants, automate the first step in your vetting process. Create a Google Form survey, add it to your listings, and decline any applicants that do not meet your minimum requirements. This will be even easier if you post your minimum criteria list where prospects will see it in your most high-performing multifamily marketing channels. 

Prospective tenants don’t always read the listing’s print material, but they always look at the pictures. As the second photo of your listing, use a photo of your minimum criteria. You can also go above-and-beyond and create contactless, 360-degree virtual tours of apartment listings.

Have a lawyer approve the terms of the lease, one that specializes in lease and rental contract laws in the state where your rentals are located. Be sure the lawyer knows the county and municipal laws as well. Then have him or her review the lease terms as often as lease laws change.

Make your maintenance simpler by using templates. There are templates available for work orders, maintenance logs, routine maintenance checks, and more. And acting on a tenant’s request in a timely manner will keep the issue from becoming bigger, more difficult, and more expensive to fix.

Give tenants options on how to sign their lease renewal. Some people are reassured by a face-to-face meeting where they sign a paper document; others would rather renew online. Having a conveniently located office and an online service like DocuSign handles both of these.

PROTIP: Use software to automate basic property management tasks.

For multifamily property managers, these job functions are simplified and automated through multifamily property management software. For single-home property managers and individual landlords, free property management software is the best way of organizing your main tasks and objectives.

2. Understand Your Property Management Agreements & Role

Property management agreements spell out the responsibilities of the property manager. Be sure you understand exactly what the property owner expects of you and what tasks the owner is responsible for. Depending on the situation, property, and ownership group, property managers may be tasked with additional responsibilities – or have these taken off their workload by working alongside leasing agents and community managers.


3. Communicate the Best You Can

Inform tenants of grounds and property maintenance schedules such as large-scale maintenance improvements including reroofing, window cleaning, elevator repair, or repaving the parking lot. Inform residents when you plan to come around for routine maintenance check-ups in their units. Be sure to send email updates and have team syncs with your entire building staff often to confirm that everything in your community is running smoothly.

4. Keep a Positive Attitude

You are the go-to person for leaky faucets and A/C units that don’t work. Urging delinquent tenants to pay the rent and settling disputes between tenants are delicate situations that cause you stress. You need to visit your mental happy place on a daily (or hourly) basis. A positive attitude is necessary to keep your sanity and your job.

5. Follow Property Management Trends

Interest rates, technology, and market trends change all the time. Factors like demographics, construction trends, housing laws, and even the overall economy can have an impact on your business. Keep up on the multifamily trends that impact your community and the company’s bottom line.

A few multifamily trends for property managers to investigate in 2021:

6. Adopt Property Management Software, Technology, & Amenities

Pen-and-paper systems are a thing of the past. Look into new proptech – including new software, services, and amenity providers –  to handle your bookkeeping, rent collections, move-in and move-outs, maintenance calls, and more. Streamlining the paperwork will make your job easier and will keep handy the information you need to pass on to your staff and the property owner.

7. Focus on Your Residents’ Needs

Keep open lines of communication with your residents. Connect with each one as you handle a renter’s issue, answer questions, and alert them of upcoming maintenance checks. Train your staff to be alert to the resident’s needs. Remember, every time you resolve a resident issue is an opportunity to showcase your commitment to giving them the best living experience renters can buy, as well as improving the chances of that resident renewing their lease.

8. Be Community-Orientated

A community-oriented property manager will hire a community manager. The community manager can engage the residents online and in-person, as well as handle some of the communal tasks such as trash removal and community pool upkeep. 

Community managers are tasked with keeping a pulse on the entire community’s engagement, satisfaction, and overall vibe. Community managers build individual relationships with residents throughout the community through social events such as holiday-themed events, food truck Fridays, private chefs, and other resident events.

9. Engage Residents

The community manager would be the go-to staff member to manage and improve resident engagement. They’re the best person to keep the community updated on building events and happenings, street festivals and events taking place near your residential community, and more. But not all properties have the luxury of a dedicated community manager, leaving these tasks up to the property manager.

To engage residents, property managers must contact and build relationships with all residents – while also fulfilling the duties of what a community manager would do. This engagement helps retain current residents and attracts new renters.

10. Set Short & Long-Term Goals

Ask yourself some questions and earnestly evaluate your performance. A few questions to consider for your community are:

  • Is my paperwork and reporting tasks streamlined and efficient?
  • Is there a way I could reduce tenant complaints?
  • How can I lower my new tenant acquisition cost?
  • How can I improve my lease renewal rates?
  • Is there a way to streamline my overall costs?

Use the answers to these and other similar questions to set goals for yourself and your staff.

11. Create a Playbook for Routine Property Tasks

Documentation and checklists help ensure that you do all property-related tasks that need to get done day-to-day.  From leasing, maintenance, and resident-based tasks – working off a checklist helps keep track of everything. It also makes it easy to explain to new staff exactly what is expected of them.

12. Coach Your Building Staff

Proper training and on-going coaching for your building staff go a long way to create an efficient, effective property management team. From the beginning, set clear goals and expectations for both the overall team and individual team members. 

As you hire each new team member, identify the strengths of each employee. Place each person in their optimal role. Hold sessions to develop soft skills, such as teamwork, adaptability, and work ethic. You can also encourage staff to continue their growth through additional higher education by incentivizing employees to obtain property management certificates, sign-up for higher management classes, and continue to pursue career development opportunities.

13. Improve Your Reporting

If you adopt property management technology and software, reports will be a breeze. Income from rentals, fees, and expenses like landscaping, utilities, taxes, and payroll will all be at your fingertips and printable in easy-to-read formats. These types of software will also automate your financial reporting. While automated, you should still be aware and knowledgeable of basic property management accounting principles.

14. Outsource Tedious Tasks

Not every task needs to be taken care of in-house. You may want to outsource tenant screening, handyman services, or freelance leasing agents. These tasks will always need to be completed for residential communities and come up again and again. However many of these roles are temporary,  seasonal, or have too light of a workload to justify having a person dedicated to that task on the full-time payroll.

15. Screen Tenants Thoroughly

Prescreen prospects before even scheduling a showing. Create a rental application with questions that touch on all your required metrics. Run a background check on each qualified applicant. When possible, verify the background check with their employer and previous landlord. If you’re using a property management software system, it should have a built-in screening feature. If not, there are many free or low-cost tenant screening services available for any use case – from multifamily property managers to individual, single-home landlords.

16. Encourage & Embrace Resident Reviews

When tenants leave reviews online, respond to the review. This shows that you are engaged with your residents and are quick to resolve issues inside your community. 

For positive reviews, pass the review to your marketing team and realtors to use in lead generation campaigns, on your website, and in listings. 

For negative reviews, be quick to respond with a well-thought-out, compassionate, and genuine response. This is an opportunity for you to win back a disgruntled resident and publicly showcase your community’s resident-relation and service skills to prospective tenants.


Above: Example of timely and well-responded to apartment review from the property manager at The Seneca Apartments in Chicago, IL

17. Ask for Resident Feedback

Asking for resident feedback can be organic to some of the processes you already have in place – is a core component of being a successful property manager. When you respond to a maintenance call, send an email asking if the issue was resolved to their satisfaction and ask the resident to leave feedback, making the response process as quick and simple as possible.

Feedback surveys help property managers get a pulse of their community. If you’re having a difficult time deciding where to spend the budget set aside for resident events and community amenities, ask your residents.  

Even when residents prepare to leave your community, you can use the unfortunate situation to improve. Ask residents who are moving out if they would submit a resident move-out survey.


Elizabeth Wheeler

Elizabeth is a freelance content writer and copywriter from Boca Raton, Florida. Her interests include brand voice and property management. You can follow her on LinkedIn here.

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