A property management Rolodex is of paramount importance in maintaining and building a Rolodex of reliable, accessible, high-quality, and reasonably priced vendors and cannot be overstated in the property management business.
As a property manager in Brooklyn and Queens, New York, we need an arsenal of plumbers, electricians, drywall experts, roofers, boiler techs, masonry subs and so on at our disposal. Building this roster of individuals takes time and patience. It’s a trial and error process. And, if you don’t know what questions to ask, what to look for, and what price is reasonable for the job, vendors will take advantage of you.
A few examples of these key themes:
- If you don’t know what questions to ask…. One of the first seemingly ‘major’ maintenance issues we dealt with as a property management company consisted of National Grid turning off the heat to an apartment unit due to improper ventilation in the boiler room. The first vendor we brought in to assess the scope of work at hand implored me to replace the boiler altogether and buy one of his company’s options. This entailed a five-digit expense and seemed altogether excessive. The next vendor we had over to assess the issue suggested we re-pipe certain sections of the boiler room to cure the issue. An expensive project indeed, and one that failed to resolve the ventilation issue whatsoever! That’s the name of the game – if you can’t trust and don’t have a relationship with a vendor or don’t know how to keep a new vendor honest, they are likely going to sell you the most expensive, and potentially unnecessary, work product.
- If you don’t know what to look for…. On my first construction project, our contractor installed nine recessed LED lights in a small living room of a three-bedroom apartment in Ridgewood, Queens. One would have sufficed given the square footage of the space. I quickly realized this was a clear ploy to charge more for labor and (very expensive) materials – lesson learned. A competent property manager must know how to look at the line items of a project’s scope of work (particularly important in construction) and be able to identify extraneous or off-base components.
- If you don’t know what price is reasonable for the job…. One quote is one quote is one quote. Unless you have deep firsthand experience resolving the vast array of issues a building can face, it’s nearly impossible to know how to analyze whether or not the price of a given job is reasonable. A property manager must have a baseline understanding of what certain issues should cost, so as to keep vendors honest and act as a fiduciary to the building’s ownership.
Hiring a property manager that has a Rolodex of trustworthy and competent vendors in place is of crucial importance not only to property management operations, upkeep and tenant satisfaction, but also to the owner’s bottom line.
Engaging the right vendor to overlay a roof, duplex a first floor to a basement, or renovate the common areas of an apartment building can drastically alter an owner’s profitability. I’ll explain why:
- If a property manager is enticed by a vendor’s well below market proposal, this could result in shoddy work product and/or work that fails to stand the test of time. This will ultimately cost more money and headaches.
- Tapping someone who has done this same type of job for you before, who has been proven competitive from a pricing standpoint and has demonstrated strong work quality, can mitigate the risks involved in repair and construction work budgets.
A number of tips for those evaluating vendors for a property management-related project:
- Collect multiple quotes/proposals. Make sure the scope of work is consistent across these quotes and evaluate them from a price perspective to weed out anyone who is a clear rip-off.
- Price (is likely) not the only factor to consider. If it’s a big job with high stakes, what may seem like the cheapest vendor may very well lead to re-work and poor quality. Exercise caution if someone comes in far below market.
- Evaluate the vendor’s communication and accessibility when going through the proposal process. Were they easy to reach? Could they explain the issue in plain terms? Were they on time to the walkthrough? Your experience with a vendor in the property management industry during the initial phases is telltale and will likely mimic how it will be working with this individual if you are to engage him/her. It may seem trivial or unimportant in the scheme of things, but communication and responsiveness are crucial when it comes to property management- and construction-related dealings.
At Boost Management, we’re always refining and sharpening our list of vendors. In an industry where multiple projects are ongoing simultaneously, it’s so important to have options and not be reliant on a single source. We often reach out to those in the industry for referrals if we encounter a new issue or need a back-up option. We encourage you to connect with us to discuss what has worked or not worked in your experience, or if you have any follow up questions or thoughts on this topic!