Property management companies oversee rental properties, essentially taking over all the responsibilities, including advertising, accounting, leasing units, maintaining the property, communicating with tenants, and collecting rent, among other duties. 

These services are helpful because they have the experience and equipment to perform at a high level, ensuring everything runs efficiently while you relax and reap the benefits. However, handing over the reins means putting a lot of trust in a third-party agency, which could come back to haunt you. 

How do you know whether you can trust a property management company? 

Background Research

Your first order of business is to make sure their business is legitimate. There are a million and one ways for people to run scams, so if you have yet to hear of the rental property agency, take the time to do some preliminary research. 

Several resources are available to check a business’s credibility, including the Better Business Bureau. They may have helpful information and records of complaints against the company. 

It would be best to verify that the management company has the proper licensing and training, which you can do by checking with the chamber of commerce in their city of operation or perhaps the city clerk or a similar agency. Refrain from assuming that they have the license, even if they say that they do because it could lead to severe problems if this is untrue. 

However, even if you discover that the property management company is legitimate, that still does not mean they are trustworthy, just that they are legally and officially allowed to perform their services.

Reviews

Once you have narrowed down your potential PMCs to a handful of promising prospects, you should consult reviews from both their customers and employees. This method can indicate whether they have experience and know how to treat people properly, which is vital in customer service. 

Yelp is considered one of the top review sites. Still, there are plenty of others to choose from, including Google Business Profile, Facebook Business Reviews, Angi, Consumer Affairs, and the Better Business Bureau. 

You are looking for companies with a significant number of reviews, at least some of which are less than five stars. The more feedback you can get, the better idea you have of how that company does business. 

Keep in mind, however, that some businesses engage in nefarious practices to ensure positive reviews, including purchasing them. This behavior is why it’s crucial to find companies with a healthy mix of reviews, and if they are nearly entirely five stars or the next best thing, they may not be an honest evaluation. 

Here are some tips for reading reviews: 

  • People are twice as likely to leave a review if they are dissatisfied than satisfied. That means you should take negative reviews with a grain of salt; read them carefully to determine if they have a serious complaint. 
  • Sometimes competitors willing to purchase positive reviews also leave negative feedback for their competitors. 
  • Pay special attention to mixed reviews, as these are likely more honest representations of a company’s services. 
  • Read through as many reviews as possible, evaluating whether they seem legitimate. Look for patterns to make a list of pros and cons. 
  • Check the review dates because you want to get the most recent feedback possible, as they are likely a better glimpse at the current state of the business. 
  • Compare the reviews with the company’s competitors, so you have more data for comparison when making your decision. 

Website Presence 

We live in the digital age; if a company does not have a website, it could be a red flag. Even if there is one, if you cannot find a valid address or contact information for the property management company, this is a cause for concern. 

Most professional organizations want a website that is both intuitive and attractive, displaying a quality that represents their services positively. If the website is messy, has broken links, has outdated information, or is difficult to use, it may be a sign that the company is disorganized. 

You need a company that is both efficient and reliable. As the company’s online face, a poorly designed website likely represents the quality you can expect from the company as a business partner. 

Word of Mouth

As part of your research, one of the best ways to evaluate a company is by getting a recommendation straight from the horse’s mouth, which is to say, through their current customers. 

Do your due research and seek out others who use the service so that you can get a testimonial directly from someone with accurate and current experience with the property management company. They can tell you why they use the company and warn you of any potential pitfalls you may encounter when doing business with them. 

Even if you receive a glowing review, always try to get a second, third, or fourth opinion if possible. The more people you speak to that give a positive reference, the more you can trust that the company will do you right. 

Phone Calls and Face to Face Meetings

Whether you can access word-of-mouth reviews or not, you should make it a point to have a phone conversation with potential PMCs. This method will allow you to ask any questions, address any concerns, and get a feel for how they treat potential clients such as yourself. 

If this goes well, the next step is to prepare a face-to-face meeting, perhaps over lunch. Even if the company has glowing reviews and you discussed the company with several happy clients, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are right for you. 

You will be working directly with the company, so those you work with must have a personality that is a fit for your own. If you feel you will not enjoy working with the property manager or think they may not be the best choice for your property, this provides an opportunity to find that out in advance before signing a contract. 

The Bottom Line

Most properly licensed property management companies will have plenty of experience, meaning that you can find plenty of reviews and even speak to current or former clients to learn whether they are trustworthy. The companies can also be represented as hoa management if needed. 

Anytime you work with others, there is an inherent risk. Still, you can hedge your bets by researching and talking personally to your prospective PMCs to find one who sets your mind at ease and reassures you of a solid business relationship.