PM Q&A

Elite Property Manager - - Contents - David Traeger

David Traeger talks to EPM about his brand new PM agency, so­lu­tions for com­mu­ni­cat­ing with clients and the ad­van­tages of his back­ground as both landlord and tenant. Tell us about your­self and your agency. When did you start in prop­erty man­age­ment, and how many staff do you cur­rently have? I’m from Perth orig­i­nally and come from an IT sup­port back­ground. I’ve worked as a PM for fran­chised agen­cies in both Perth and Ade­laide, and started my own busi­ness in July 2015. It’s still early days so I just have an ad­min per­son so far, but I’m looking to hire again soon.

I be­gan prop­erty in­vest­ing prior to be­ing a prop­erty man­ager; it was my love of prop­erty that ini­tially drove me to­wards want­ing to be in the in­dus­try.

What makes your agency or team unique? Our fo­cus is on prop­erty man­age­ment only, with no sales or auction de­part­ment, so we can re­main 100 per cent fo­cused on what we’re try­ing to pro­vide.

We have an online web­based por­tal for own­ers to see fi­nan­cial sum­maries, pre­vi­ous state­ments and in­voices, in­spec­tion re­ports and so on, which an­swers com­mon ques­tions 24 hours a day. The ten­ants’ one al­lows them to log main­te­nance is­sues along with photos so we can rec­tify these quickly.

Our whole metro area cov­er­age al­lows clients to keep all their prop­er­ties un­der one man­age­ment and main­tain just one re­la­tion­ship. We also of­fer a com­mu­ni­ca­tion guar­an­tee.

As in­vestors our­selves, we can re­late bet­ter to land­lords when we’ve ex­pe­ri­enced some of the things that can go wrong with prop­erty. It also helps us to have a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of where the mar­ket is at and price rentals ac­cord­ingly, get­ting in­vestors op­ti­mal re­turns.

What are the key fea­tures in main­tain­ing healthy re­la­tion­ships with land­lords and/or ten­ants? How does your com­mu­ni­ca­tion guar­an­tee fit into this?

As an in­vestor (and once upon a time, a tenant) who has been on the other side of the PM-client re­la­tion­ship, I’ve felt the an­noy­ance of wait­ing days for a re­sponse to my in­quiries. I think be­ing a prop­erty in­vestor prior to be­ing a PM helped me as­cer­tain what the ex­pec­ta­tions re­ally are.

I al­ways meet the tenant in per­son when I take over a prop­erty from ei­ther a new pur­chaser or fol­low­ing a change in man­age­ment. This starts the re­la­tion­ship off on the right foot, which pays div­i­dends months down the line.

Our com­mu­ni­ca­tion guar­an­tee stip­u­lates that we will re­turn all phone calls and emails within four hours (dur­ing busi­ness hours) and this helps re­as­sure both in­vestors and ten­ants that we’re there for them and are on the ball. In most cases this has led to a re­duc­tion in triv­ial ques­tions, be­cause they trust we’re on top of things. How im­por­tant is tech­nol­ogy to you, and what ef­fec­tive tools are you us­ing at the mo­ment? It’s very im­por­tant for be­ing able to man­age your time ef­fi­ciently. Com­ing from an IT back­ground, I did a trial of sev­eral soft­ware apps or pro­grams when the busi­ness started and went with the ones that gave me the most value.

For ex­am­ple, I love us­ing Prop­er­tyMe; it im­ports bank state­ments, au­to­mat­i­cally rec­on­ciles the trust ac­count and sends all the ten­ants their re­ceipts. I use it for en­try/exit and rou­tine in­spec­tions, too. A client who also has prop­er­ties in other states said, “Ev­ery PM should send me in­spec­tions like this!”

I also use In­spec­tion Boss to take book­ings for home opens and check prospec­tive ten­ants into them. This al­lows for pro­fes­sional re­ports to in­vestors on how their prop­erty is do­ing in the mar­ket and also al­lows for easy fol­low-up with prospec­tive ten­ants to garner ap­pli­ca­tions.

Tell us about your flat fee struc­ture? This mostly stemmed from our own in­vest­ment prop­er­ties (we have 11) as we got tired of all the junk we were get­ting charged for. Quite a few have monthly ad­min fees, rou­tine in­spec­tion fees, end of year state­ment fees and so on. My phi­los­o­phy is that this is all part of what a prop­erty man­ager is ex­pected to pro­vide as a base­line.

We have a let­ting/re­new­ing fee and also a man­age­ment per­cent­age. A cou­ple of prospec­tive clients have

AS AN IN­VESTOR, I’VE FELT THE AN­NOY­ANCE OF WAIT­ING DAYS FOR A RE­SPONSE TO MY IN­QUIRIES. I THINK BE­ING A PROP­ERTY IN­VESTOR PRIOR TO BE­ING A PM HELPED ME AS­CER­TAIN WHAT THE EX­PEC­TA­TIONS RE­ALLY ARE.

at­tempted to ne­go­ti­ate on that, but I’ve de­clined.

Do you have a men­tor, or some­one who in­spires you? I have a few, but they prob­a­bly don’t know that they in­spire me. I think it’s good to draw on a range of ad­vice and views from dif­fer­ent ar­eas.

For ex­am­ple, there’s some­one I talk to reg­u­larly who owns a prop­erty man­age­ment-only agency in­ter­state, who has al­ready been through the first-year highs and lows that I go through and can help steer me through that.

On the other side of the coin, a friend who owns an un­re­lated, al­beit very suc­cess­ful, mort­gage broking com­pany has pro­vided lots of ad­vice and in­spi­ra­tion in my pur­suit of run­ning a suc­cess­ful busi­ness. What’s the best ad­vice you have been given? Give your clients some­thing worth rav­ing about and they’ll be your best form of ad­ver­tis­ing.

What are your most im­por­tant val­ues? Ac­count­abil­ity is num­ber one. Do­ing what you said you were go­ing to do and not hav­ing any ex­cuses.

How is the mar­ket in your area and what are your pre­dic­tions for the next 12 months?

We are lo­cated cen­trally and man­age the whole Ade­laide metro area, so some parts are do­ing bet­ter than oth­ers. We’re av­er­ag­ing about 11 days on mar­ket and have zero va­cancy right now, so the mar­ket seems to be fine if prop­er­ties are mar­keted and priced cor­rectly.

I’ve started see­ing a lot of in­ter­state in­vestors show­ing an in­ter­est in Ade­laide, per­haps as their cities have reached peaks. Over the next 12 months I pre­dict we’ll see a lot more buy prop­er­ties over here, which presents op­por­tu­ni­ties for a lot more man­age­ments.

What ad­vice would you give some­one start­ing out in prop­erty man­age­ment? Take notes in your sys­tem when­ever any­thing is said or done by a landlord or tenant; use cal­en­dars and to-do lists so that noth­ing ever gets for­got­ten. ■

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