In addition to the Top 10 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Property Manager, we have provided an additional list of questions that you should be asking any property manager you are considering hiring. I think that you will easily understand why Marchant Property Management is clearly your best choice for Greenville property management.
General Property Management Questions
- How long has your company been in business?
This question will help you understand this property manager’s level of experience. You don’t want a property manager who has only been in business for a few years. They will still be struggling to figure out how to effectively run their business. Look for someone who has been in business for at least 10 years, at this point they will know what they’re doing and will have gone through several real estate cycles.
Marchant’s Answer: The owners of Marchant Property Management are lifelong residents of Greenville and our team has over 75 years of combined real estate experience. Our property management company was formed in 1995. Our Owner and President, Hunter Hughey, joined Marchant in 2005 and took over the management of our 25 properties. Through hard work and our dedication to our clients, we have been able to consistently grow our business each year. We have managed thousands of properties in the Greenville area over the past two plus decades.
- How many rental units do you manage?
Too few rental units and they are either inexperienced or have lost clients due to poor service. In addition, typically smaller companies do not have the necessary systems in place to effectively manage property. Too many rental units and you will get lost in the shuffle as most larger companies are often understaffed. Look for a property manager with 200 to 600 rental units.
Marchant’s Answer: As one of the largest property management companies in Greenville, we are currently managing more than 400 residential properties. We manage single family homes, condos, townhomes, duplexes, triplexes, and smaller apartment complexes. We are always looking to grow our portfolio with great owners and quality properties.
- How many staff members do you have and what are their job functions?
If it is only one or two people running the show, then you are likely to get poor service. If they employ 75 people you are likely to get lost in their sea of clients. Look for a company with enough employees to support the diverse responsibilities of a property management company, but make sure they haven’t become too large.
Marchant’s Answer: We have an excellent and friendly staff of five hard working and dedicated employees. We also use the services of virtual assistants to help with repetitive and mundane tasks, such as scanning and data entry. We are also proud to partner with local colleges and universities to offer internship positions to highly qualified and motivated students. We will continue to grow our staff as needed to keep up with the growth of our portfolio.
- Where are you located and what geographic area do you cover?
This will help you answer two important questions. One, do they understand the area with your rental property? Two, is their office close enough to your property to allow for ease and convenience for property showings, tenants paying rent, and vendors servicing your property.
Marchant’s Answer: Our office is conveniently located in downtown Greenville, which is the center of Greenville County and within a 30-minute drive to all our service areas. We currently serve the Greenville, Easley, Fountain Inn, Greer, Mauldin, Piedmont, Powdersville, Simpsonville, Taylors, Travelers Rest, Anderson, and Spartanburg areas of the upstate of South Carolina.
- What professional organizations do you belong to or participate in?
Do they belong to their local association for Realtors? Make sure they are actively involved in the property management community. This is typically a good sign of professionalism.
Marchant’s Answer: Our website contains an entire page of affiliations that we are active in. Our Broker in Charge, Seabrook Marchant, is a past President of both the Greater Greenville Association of Realtors and Greenville Multiple Listing Service. Seabrook also served as Secretary and Treasurer of The South Carolina Association of Realtors. We are an active member of a property management entrepreneurial group with over 1,000 members. We have daily communication with industry leaders across the country for sharing best practices and problem solving.
- How do you determine rent amount?
A property manager should be able to complete a comparable market analysis of all the other available listings near your property. They should use properties that just went off the market and properties that are currently on the market to determine the highest possible rent. They should also have the expertise and experience needed to factor in the unique aspects of your rental property, like an updated kitchen or a 3-car garage.
Marchant’s Answer: We have a paid subscription to several rental comparison sites such as Rentometer, RentRange, and Zillow. We also use MLS to compile data for active rental listings as well as previously rented properties. We use these reports along with our professional expertise and years of experience in the local market to give you an expert rental price recommendation. We will give you an expert recommendation on pricing that will allow us to rent your property for the highest amount in the least amount of time. Be leery of the property manager that promises you that the house will rent for a fortune because you will likely lose thousands waiting on someone to pay above market rates. We can often cover the cost of hiring a property management company by simply increasing your rents to market rates.
- Do your employees have specialized roles or do some of them fill multiple roles?
You should make sure that employees are not filling multiple roles. Why would you want someone managing your online rental listings when they were hired for their accounting abilities? You wouldn’t.
Marchant’s Answer: All our employees have specialized roles and only focus on the duties that are related to their respective jobs.
- What types of properties do you manage?
If they don’t typically manage your property type, don’t let them start now. The challenges will be different, and you really don’t want to take that risk.
Marchant’s Answer: We only manage residential properties including single-family homes, condos, town homes, duplexes, triplexes, and small apartment buildings. We do not manage Home Owners Associations or commercial property. We stick to what we are great at.
- Do I have to sell my property with you if I want to list it?
Some property managers will ask you to sign a contract that forces you to sell the property with them. Don’t fall for this.
Marchant’s Answer: Although Marchant Real Estate Company would love to help you sell your property, you are certainly not required to use this company. If you have an established relationship with another real estate agent, you are more than welcome to use them.
- Are you currently an active real estate investor in your market?
The company’s leadership should be investing in the real estate market themselves. Period. If they don’t invest in your market, then they lack the understanding they need to help you excel.
Marchant’s Answer: We have personally bought and managed over 50 properties in the Greenville area over the past 20 plus years. All of our property managers own multiple rental properties. We believe that it is critical to work with someone that is also knowledgeable about investing in the Greenville market. A lot of property managers will let a house sit vacant or spend an owner’s money on repairs without understanding the impact this could have on the owner. I have also owned 40+ properties that were managed by other property management companies in the past. So, I have seen all sides of the property management business over the past 20 years.
- What qualifications do your staff members have?
Most of a property management company’s staff should be extensively trained, and they should also have their property manager license or broker license.
Marchant’s Answer: All owners of Marchant Property Management have had a Broker's License for over 20 years. All our Property Managers are licensed. Although our support staff is not licensed, they are constantly being educated in all aspects of property management including Fair Housing.
- Can you explain the federal fair housing laws to me?
So, this is a bit of a “gotcha” question, but these laws are incredibly important, and your property manager should know them. If they can’t explain them then they clearly aren’t knowledgeable enough to be managing your property.
Marchant’s Answer: All our staff is extremely knowledgeable in Fair Housing and we are consistently attending classes and seminars to better understand the changes in the laws. There are currently seven protected classes which include race, color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status, and disability.
- What experience does your company owner have in managing rentals?
Some company owners have never even managed a property. If the company owner has never managed a rental, what is the chance that he or she runs a company that can effectively help you with your investment property?
Marchant’s Answer: Our Owner and President, Hunter Hughey, has been managing rental property since 1995. Hunter is very involved with the day to day operations.
- Could you provide a few references to me?
Any good property management firm will have references – a really good one will have references specifically for your property type.
Marchant’s Answer: We are always happy to provide references. Please also feel free to check out our testimonials and reviews.
- Do you work with out-of-state owners?
This is an especially important question if you are an out-of-state owner, but it still important if you are local. If you are an out-of-state owner, then you need to make sure that this property manager can accommodate your specific needs. If you’re local this will indicate that the company is skilled and experienced.
Marchant’s Answer: We work with over 100 out of state owners that trust us with their investments. With our technology and online software, we make it easy for our owners to stay informed. We are their boots on the ground.
- Is your company privately owned or is it part of a franchise?
A franchise will have different concerns and be less flexible than privately owned companies. They are also more frequently concerned about their bottom line and less concerned about service.
Marchant’s Answer: Marchant Property Management is independent and locally owned, which allows us the flexibility to work with any investor. We believe more in creating value to our clients than the bottom line.
- What type of insurance do you carry?
Your property management company should carry insurance that will help to keep you covered.
Marchant’s Answer: We are fully insured with liability, errors and omissions, and workers comp insurance.
Property Management Fees
- What are your Leasing Fees and Management Fees?
Don’t be fooled by companies that are promising you low monthly fees or low flat fee pricing. It is imperative that you factor in ALL fees associated with hiring a property management company. Don’t be nickeled and dimed by varies hidden fees that should be included in management.
Marchant’s Answer: We offer three different management plans for you to choose from, depending on the level of service that you need. All our fees are clearly listed in the Pricing section of our website and fully disclosed in our management agreement.
- Are there fees when the property is vacant?
This is a very important question to ask for two reasons. One, many companies will offer a “flat rate,” which sounds great until your property is empty…and they continue to charge you. Therefore, we charge a percentage of collected rents. This way, we don’t make money unless you make money. Two, if a company is taking money with the property empty, how motivated do you think they are to fill the vacancy?
Marchant’s Answer: We do not charge any fees while the property is vacant. We only make money when you make money.
- What miscellaneous fees could I be charged for the management of my property?
Again, some companies will try and get you to sign because they offer a low rate. As the saying goes, if it is too good to be true, it probably is. Once you’ve signed, a company that seemed inexpensive will now charge you lots of extra fees.
Marchant’s Answer: We do not charge any upfront fees and we do not mark up any maintenance. All maintenance is contracted out to a 3rd party vendor. We provide move in and move out inspections. The only other fee that we charge is $75 for routine inspection reports which are done by an independent 3rd party vendor.
- What are your pricing options?
Some companies will offer a flat rate and others will offer a rate based on the rent amount. Again, you’re best off looking for a percentage of collected rents. This motivates your property manager to fill vacancies because they don’t get paid if you don’t have a tenant. It also motivates them to fight for higher rent amounts because this helps their bottom line too. Flat rate companies will get the same pay no matter what, so why would they be motivated to get you a higher rent?
Marchant’s Answer: At Marchant, we offer 3 levels of pricing for our property management plans and all our pricing plans are based on a percentage of rents collected, which offers plenty of motivation for us to get the highest rent prices. We also offer a Leasing Only plan where we will find you a qualified tenant and then turn them over to you to manage. All our fees are fully disclosed in the pricing section of our website and in our management agreement.
Property Management Services
- Do you offer direct deposit for your owners?
Believe it or not, not all property managers are as up to date with technology as they should be. However, at the very least, your property manager should be able to direct deposit your proceeds into your account. This saves you time and effort, which is the whole reason you hired them.
Marchant’s Answer: We use our software and our local bank to direct deposit funds directly into your checking account every month. Direct deposits typically take 1-2 days to settle in your account.
- How do you collect rent from tenants?
If your property manager isn’t having your tenants pay online that is a red flag for two reasons. One, it could slow down the speed at which you can get paid. Two, it makes it easier for tenants to miss paying the rent. If payment is online, tenants can automate their payment and these two problems are avoided.
Marchant’s Answer: Not only do we offer online rent payments to our tenants, we highly recommend that they use this safe and effective way to pay rent. By making an online payment, there is never the excuse of the check got lost in the mail. Also, for safety and liability reasons, we do not accept any cash rent payments.
- Do you conduct property inspections and, if you do, what charge is associated with them?
I am sure that you have heard nightmare stories where tenants have completely trashed the property and caused thousands of dollars in damages. Don’t make this mistake with your tenants. Your property is at risk if your property manager doesn’t conduct inspections. This should require a small fee and it will be one of the best investments you can make. It ensures you catch problems before they spiral out of control.
Marchant’s Answer: We provide move in and move out inspections. We also highly recommend that you take advantage of an optional routine inspection to be conducted every 6 months while a tenant is living in the property. The inspections cost $75 and are performed by an independent 3rd party vendor and owners will receive a copy of the report along with any recommendations from your property manager. These detailed inspection reports typically contain between 50 – 200 color photos that document the condition of the property and point out any recommended
- What steps do you take to market properties?
Your property manager should be advertising properties through a variety of channels. If they are still just placing newspaper ads and hoping for the best, then you should steer clear.
Marchant’s Answer: We use powerful marketing tools to connect with local renters. We syndicate listings to all the top websites such as Zillow, Trulia, Hotpads, Realtor.com, and more to get the most exposure possible. We also list our properties on MLS, Craigslist, Facebook, and other social media sites. We offer professional photography, video tours, and our branded and highly visible For Rent signs. Most importantly, we have a call center that answers all our leasing calls 14 hours a day, every day which gives us an incredible advantage in leasing homes faster than anyone else.
- What kind of equipment do you use to photograph my property?
If your property manager is using a smart phone or older digital camera to snap a handful of pictures with poor lighting, you should probably look for a more professional property management company.
Marchant’s Answer: We offer professional photography by an experienced real estate photographer. In addition, we offer video tours for our listings. Most all renters start their search for rentals online. There is not a better way to show off the virtues of a home than through video.
- What are your hours and when are you available to answer leasing calls?
Most property management companies are typically open for around 8 hours a day and only from Monday to Friday. Wouldn’t it be nice to work with a company that is available to answer leasing calls two and a half more times than a normal property management company?
Marchant’s Answer: Our office is open from 9:00 – 5:00 Monday through Friday. We employ a call center to answer all our calls from 8:00am to 10:00pm seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. Can you imagine the advantage of working with a company that is literally available to answer leasing calls more than double the time of a standard property management company? This is exactly why we rent homes faster than any other company.
- Will you show my property to prospective tenants when it is convenient for them in order to rent my property faster?
Most property management companies are very limited and understaffed when it comes to showing properties. Most agents only schedule showings when it is convenient for them. Wouldn’t it be nice to work with a company that is available to show your property seven days a week?
Marchant’s Answer: We have partnered with Rently, which is an electronic lockbox system that allows prospects to view vacant homes safely and efficiently at their convenience, including weekends. Each prospect is vetted and required to upload a copy of their driver’s license and must enter their credit card information. Additionally, we have licensed real estate agents available to show our occupied properties throughout the week and weekend as well.
- Do you work with Home Owner’s Associations?
Understanding every HOA’s rules can be difficult and if a company hasn’t worked with an HOA before, or is unwilling to work with yours, then you need to be looking for a different property manager.
Marchant’s Answer: We have worked with countless HOA’s over the past 20 years. We understand that working with HOA’s has its own set of challenges and we are experienced in dealing with these types of issues.
Key Success Statistics
- What percentage of your rentals is usually vacant?
This is also known as vacancy rate and it should never be above 4 or 5 percent.
Marchant’s Answer: We currently have a vacancy rate of 2%. We have historically maintained a vacancy rate of 3% or less.
- What percentage of tenants renew their leases?
This is also known as lease renewal rate and a good property manager will have a lease renewal rate above the national average of 50 percent. By the way, if your property manager doesn’t know the answer to this question, you need to look elsewhere.
Marchant’s Answer: We have maintained a lease renewal rate of 69% over the last two years. However, we are currently in a real estate sales market that is on fire. Most of our tenants that have not renewed their lease are typically purchasing a home.
- What percentage of rents do you collect per month?
This number should be near 100 percent. If it isn’t, you need to question why this property manager would have so many tenants not paying their rent on time.
Marchant’s Answer: Our collection rate for 2017 was 99.01% and our collection rate for 2016 was 99.35%, which is pretty remarkable to say the least.
- How long are your properties typically vacant?
The average vacancy time after a property is ready should be about 3-5 weeks. Any longer than this suggests the property manager is struggling to find tenants, any shorter than this suggests that your asking rent amount is too low, and you might be leaving money on the table.
Marchant’s Answer: Our average number of days on market has hovered around the mid 30’s for the past four years. However, with the new services and technology that we have implemented, such as professional photography, video tours, and electronic lockboxes, our days on market has dropped significantly in 2018. Currently, the average days on market is 29 days.
- What percentage of tenants do you need to evict?
Any good property manager will have a low eviction rate. Otherwise they are failing to conduct an appropriate background check. However, beware if a property manager says they never have to evict tenants. Perhaps they aren’t tough enough on tenants who violate lease agreements.
Marchant’s Answer: With our diligent screening process, we have been able to maintain an eviction rate of less than 1% over the past five years. In fact, there have been less than 5 instances over the past 20 years of managing property where a full eviction of setting the tenant’s belongings on the street was required.
- How many property managers will I interact with (or, will I have an assigned property manager?)
This question will help you determine the type of interactions you will have on a regular basis. Having a single point of contact just makes it simple for an owner.
Marchant’s Answer: Your assigned Property Manager will be your single point of contact. When you have questions, you will be contacting the person that is the most knowledgeable regarding your particular property.
- How often will I get updates on my portfolio?
You should be able to get updates on your portfolio as often as you need them. We recognize that some owners want as little involvement as possible, which is perfectly fine. However, having access to important documents when you need it is critical.
Marchant’s Answer: With your designated owner portal, you will have access to all your account activity 24/7. Simply login to your portal for access to statements, reports, invoices, and all documents, such as a lease or management agreement.
- How do your owners and tenants contact you?
A good property manager should have an effective system for communicating with owners and tenants. What would happen if your rental had a flood and the tenant couldn’t contact the property management company? Owners keep a property management company alive and that’s how they should be treated. If you can’t easily contact someone about your rental property you need to move on.
Marchant’s Answer: We offer multiple ways for our owners and tenants to contact us including by phone, text, email or through their owner and tenant portal. In addition, we have a call center that answers all our calls 14 hours a day, every day. We also have a 24-hour emergency repair hotline that our tenants can use if necessary. Every owner will have the cell phone number for their assigned Property Manager.
- Can tenants contact the owner directly?
Sometimes tenants will ask to speak to an owner directly. This could be for any reason including what does this switch go for in the garage, they received some of the owner’s mail, or they wanted to see if the owner would sell the property.
Marchant’s Answer: We always recommend that our owners stay anonymous to our tenants. Besides, that’s what you are paying us for. We never give out owner information to tenants. We are always happy to do any coordination or communication between parties whenever necessary.
- How quick is your average response time to owners and tenants?
Unfortunately, the property management industry is not known for being responsive communicators. You can often tell quickly by simply calling a property management company and trying to speak to someone, or if you even get a return phone call. You and your tenants deserve better than a slow response.
Marchant’s Answer: As mentioned previously, we have a call center that answers our calls 98 hours a week. In the rare event that our owners or tenants are not able to reach the Property Manager on the phone, you can rest assured that the phone call will be returned very promptly. We typically respond to calls, texts, portal conversations, and emails immediately. We have gained countless clients over the years who have become fed up with not getting any response from their property manager.
- What steps do you take to ensure that I am getting quality tenants?
Every property manager should have a plan in place that strategically works to obtain the best tenants for you and your property. This should include marketing the calendar and the constable’s schedule.
Marchant’s Answer: Our policy is to work with tenants as much as possible to collect the rent and avoid any unnecessary turnover costs to our owners. However, if the tenant has not paid by the 20th of the month, then we will automatically file an eviction. A lot of owners and property managers mistakenly believe that a tenant is going to pay when they say they will and lose months of rental income waiting.
- Can prospective tenants conduct self-guided tours of the property?
Most agents force potential tenants to work around their schedules and if your home is not conveniently located to the agent, there may be delays in showing the property. Most prospects in today’s market have come to expect self-guided property tours as simply the industry standard. Take Airbnb for example. All Airbnb clients use coded lockboxes to access these short-term rentals.
Marchant’s Answer: At Marchant Property Management, we firmly believe that self-guided tours are in the best interest of the property owner. This allows for more tenants to tour the property, which reduces the length of vacancy. We have a system in place that protects the property by validating the prospects identity with a driver’s license and credit card and we have never had a problem with self-guided tours. That said, some property investors feel uncomfortable letting tenants tour a property and we always leave it up to owner to decide.
- What steps are taken to ensure that your website is easy to use for tenants?
Tenants will apply for rentals on their website and should be paying rent on the site as well. If a property manager isn’t taking steps to make the website easier to use for tenants, it could be hurting your business.
Marchant’s Answer: We completely redesigned our website from scratch in 2018. While a lot of companies will just select a templated website and just go with the standard stock verbiage, that is not the way that we have approached this. We have spent a year planning and countless hours researching best practices on how to make the site as informative as possible and as easy to use for our clients as possible. Our tenants will never be able to use the excuse that our website didn’t provide them with an easy to use platform to pay rent or request maintenance. We have a professional and mobile friendly website. Google says 61% of users are unlikely to return to a mobile site they had trouble accessing and 40% visit a competitor’s site instead.
- Do you require tenants to have renter’s insurance?
Lots of property managers don’t require renter’s insurance and this is a huge mistake. Make sure you find a property manager who does. This will cost you nothing, but it will protect you in case something goes wrong like a fire, flood, explosion or the tenant’s dog biting the neighbor kid.
Marchant’s Answer: We require all tenants to have a renter’s insurance policy. We explain how important it is not only to the owner, but also for protecting their valuables.
- Do you select my tenant, or do I get to approve them?
It should be the property management company’s job to find tenants, but you should get the final say in who is selected.
Marchant’s Answer: We do an extensive screening of all potential applicants. If there is ever a question as to whether an applicant is qualified, the owner will always have the final say in approving.
- Is there a maintenance reserve requirement?
This question will help you understand how much will be in the reserve and this should tell you how often you’ll be involved in decisions. If the property manager wants a $1000 reserve, they want too much freedom with your finances. However, if they only want $100 then they will be calling you often for approval. You hired them to manage, not to call you every time a faucet is leaking.
Marchant’s Answer: We do not require owners to have a maintenance reserve account with us. We pay for repairs out of the rental proceeds. All owners will have an authorization level of between $250 - $500, depending on your comfort level. Any repairs projected to cost over the authorization level will require owner approval and sometimes an additional quote or two.
- Who is responsible for yard maintenance?
Typically, this falls on the tenant, but you will want to check with any property management company you are considering hiring.
Marchant’s Answer: We require all our tenants to maintain the yard, except for when the HOA covers the landscaping. Also, if an owner would rather include lawn maintenance, we are certainly happy to coordinate this.
- What is your relationship with your maintenance vendors?
This will tell you if they have strong relationships with vendors who can offer them discounts or if they even use vendors at all.
Marchant’s Answer: We have been managing properties in the Greenville market for over 20 years. We have been lucky enough to partner with some great vendors and have built relationships that have lasted for decades. However, we are always researching the market to make sure that our vendors are keeping up to our high standard. In addition, we are able to pass along the discounted pricing to our owners based on trusted vendor relationships.
- How do you handle maintenance requests?
There should be a clear and effective way to handle maintenance requests. In addition, it is critical to keep owners informed on all maintenance activity, so they are not blindsided with high repair bills. Also, you will want to work with someone that is not using maintenance as a profit center for the company.
Marchant’s Answer: First, we always attempt to trouble shoot issues over the phone with tenants, which significantly reduces the amount of work orders and saves our owners money. Whenever we receive a maintenance request, it gets logged into our software system where we can assign a vendor and fully track the progress from start to finish. In addition, when a work order is created, our system automatically emails a copy of the work order to the owner and the owner has the option to approve the work order, reject the work order, or simply ignore and let us handle for them. We consistently follow up with both tenants and vendors to make sure that the repairs are addressed as timely as possible. Tenants also have access to our 24/7 emergency repair hotline.
- Do you mark-up maintenance and repairs?
You need to make sure that a prospective property management company doesn’t make a profit any time they do maintenance. You want to make sure that your property manager is not rewarded when you must come out of pocket for repairs.
Marchant’s Answer: We do not markup maintenance invoices. In fact, we typically save our owners approximately 40% on maintenance and repairs by using our trusted vendors.
- What kind of software do you use to handle maintenance requests?
If your property manager is coordinating maintenance from a napkin or pad and paper, you should look for someone that has a much more streamlined operation.
Marchant’s Answer: As an implementor of the most cutting edge software and best practices, we have partnered with a maintenance software system called Property Meld. Through Property Meld, we are able to automatically schedule a date and time for service calls online with tenants and vendors, typically within 4 minutes. We are able to communicate with tenants, vendors, and owners through their preferred method of contact including text, email, and in app notifications and all conversations are documented. The system offers instant follow up and also surveys tenants to make sure that they are satisfied with the repair process. The majority of non lease renewals are related to poor maintenance practices. With Property Meld, we have an entirely new way of coordinating and tracking maintenance that makes dropping the ball virtually impossible which leads to more satisfied tenants and more lease renewals.