Calendar icon March 21, 2023

Four Keys to Successfully Scaling A Property Management Company

Today we're looking at the best ways to successfully scale a property management company. And we're going to an industry expert with our questions: Patrick Freeze.

Patrick Freeze was once a professional poker player. Now he is the CEO of Bay Property Management, a Baltimore-based firm that has scaled to nearly 6,000 doors and is one of the largest PMCs on the east coast.

While his personal origin story is one of the most interesting in the PM industry, his company’s growth story and the tactics used to go from nothing to a heavily-scaled PMC are equally interesting.

Through a marketing-focused approach that was complimented by intentional and detailed process optimization, Freeze achieved an impressive amount of growth at Bay, and he joined us to explain exactly how he got there.

Four Keys to Successfully Scale Your PMC

Here are Freeze's top strategies.

Optimize Your Marketing for Efficient Growth

From day one, Bay Property Management has invested in its organic marketing efforts to help attract new business. Freeze himself became an expert in SEO early on and it’s the primary focus of his robust marketing team today.

“I started reading everything I could on online marketing, so SEO, pay per click, etc. Over that coming year, I became really skilled at doing all the marketing on my own,” says Freeze. “So if you were to type in property management companies, Baltimore property management companies, or any variation of those keywords, we could come up number one. And then we started getting phone calls 24/7.”


Bay grew rapidly as a result of its ability to generate web traffic and organic leads through SEO, and Freeze doubled the size of the business on a yearly basis for several years after the initial launch, eventually expanding into four different markets.

Freeze credits his and his team’s investment in low-funnel digital marketing tactics as the catalyst for his rapid business growth. The CEO estimates he gets between 120 and 140 new single-family leads a week, with almost all of them coming from online sources.

“We have 10 people in our marketing department that solely focus on that. Google is actually going through a big algorithm update right now, and you have to be on that. If you’re not on top of that, you’re not going to rank well in search. We spend a lot of time on that. Someone could probably argue the other side and say you should be more diversified, but at least that’s worked for us.”

Process Improvement Never Takes A Back Seat

One of the biggest pitfalls as a business grows is its process development and refinement. Scale requires processes, and enacting and optimizing these can often be a much bigger challenge than actually growing the client list.

A rapidly growing PMC has already optimized its process for finding new business. Defining the systems your company will depend on to be efficient is a new undertaking, something Freeze learned quickly as Bay grew to nearly 200 employees.


“When you’re managing 500 units, you know everyone at the company very well, and you can get away with not having systems, policies, procedures. When you have 190 people, you really have to have your systems down,” says the CEO.

Freeze notes that the challenges that come with a large company are not universal, and what you have to be prepared for at 50 employees is different from 150. It pays to have continuous improvement and always be optimizing. Process management is never something that’s done.

“So I think probably scaling from let's call it, you know, five employees to 15 to 50 To 100. You have to keep iterating. You have to continuously make improvements on what you're doing. So what worked for, let's call it 200 doors is not going to work for 1,000. So a good example, I guess when we started out. We had one person handling maintenance, we had one person handling accounting, we had one person as the property manager, right? And I would go out and get new business. Well, as the company continued to grow then we had two people on maintenance. And then we had two property managers. And as we were growing, we realize, wait a second, when a work order comes in, whose work order is that?”

Early on in the company’s growth, Freeze sought to define the exact responsibilities of all positions within the company in order to minimize overlap. Overlap in roles leads to inefficiencies that can be avoided with clear guidelines as to exactly what role is responsible for what upcoming tasks.

“We have a handbook for our property managers that’s probably 80 pages. We have a procedural guide for every single position,” says Freeze. “I don’t think anyone whom I’ve talked to that has scale has not had very, very defined policies, procedures, handbooks, because if you don’t, it’s going to be a total mess.”

Structure has helped create more traceable outcomes, which results in processes that are “more easily optimized and improved as the company continues to grow.

“We made a change when we had about 1000 or 1200 units from having maintenance coordinators and property managers to just having the property managers handle everything. It was a big switch for the company, but I think it was for the better because we know exactly when there’s a mistake that’s made. We can trace that and see exactly who was responsible for the problem instead of having four hands in the pie.”

Quality Employees Are The Backbone of Growth

“I don’t think there is anything more important than having good quality employees,” says Freeze. “You can get all the new business you want but if you don’t have good employees managing the new property, you’re going to lose it as quickly as you gained it.”

Bay did not grow to almost 200 employees without a developed process for finding good quality workers. While the hiring process has become much more role-specific now, Freeze credits a unique interview design that’s much more action-focused than response-focused as what has helped him pick the most suited people for property management.

“I had a list of 30 to 40 questions that had nothing to do with property management. I would ask questions like ‘who is the vice president?’ ‘What is 46 times 24?’ I used to have this brick wall in my office and I would ask how many bricks are on the wall. I would ask them to name something that’s complicated but you know really, really well, and take five minutes and explain it to me. And I would just keep going on and on for probably 30 minutes with these questions.”

Freeze never particularly cared if the candidates got the answers correct. He was much more interested in their process for getting to the answers and how they handled the abnormal interview.

“In property management, you’re constantly dealing with problems. You’re basically problem-solving when you’re a property manager, and if you can’t deal with complicated questions, you’re probably not going to be able to deal with complicated situations. So I would just start blasting off for 30 minutes all these random questions, and some people did great with it and we would hire them. We probably had 25% of all people who wouldn’t even finish the interview.”

Resiliency is a key trait for a property manager, and Bay’s interview process succeeded in testing for one of the harder traits to ID in an interview setting. Freeze’s process also includes a timed writing test designed to see if candidates can write clearly and quickly when applying for a company that’s very email heavy. The process is designed to test ability more so than experience, and it’s helped get the right people in place from the beginning, allowing Bay to offer a better property management service that is more marketable.

Compliance Is Key

Compliance is hard enough in the heavily regulated world of property management, but one of the biggest challenges as you expand into other markets is managing the different laws and ordinances in each individual market. Freeze believes that compliance is “far and away” the biggest challenge of scale.

“All of our leasing agents have to know different things in different jurisdictions that we’re in, because the requirements are different,” says Freeze. “We have attorneys review our stuff every single year, all of our lease documents, addendums, etc. Even with all that said, there is so much legislation that is passed every quarter that it can be tough to stay up on it.”

Managers at Bay’s regional offices are required to be diligent in remaining current with the nuances in local leasing laws and ordinances, which can change monthly.

“They really are changing that much, as crazy as that sounds. And then when COVID happened, it was a complete and utter nightmare. They were changing weekly, and the odds of getting hit with a big class-action lawsuit go up, and you can be sued for something that you don’t even know you’re doing wrong. So always make sure you are totally buttoned up and spending extra money on compliance. I can’t say that enough. You can’t spend too much on that.”

Advantages of Scaling a Property Management Business 

With these tools for scaling a PMC, you can increase the size and scope of your business in order to achieve higher levels of efficiency, profitability, and growth. Let’s look at what benefits you stand to gain from scaling your business.

Business growth

Scaling a business can help to grow your business by expanding the customer base, increasing sales volume, and improving operational efficiency.

Improved profitability

As a business grows, it can benefit from economies of scale, which can help to reduce costs and improve profitability.

Competitive advantage

Scaling a business can help to create a competitive advantage by allowing it to offer a wider range of products or services, enter new markets, and achieve greater brand recognition.

Improved access to capital

A larger and more successful business is often able to attract more investment and secure better financing terms, which can help to fuel further growth. In the case of property management, it can also drawn clients.

Attracting and retaining top talent

Scaling a business can help to create new opportunities for employees, increase job security, and improve overall job satisfaction, which can help to attract and retain top talent.

Increased innovation

As a business grows, it can invest more resources into research and development, which can help to drive innovation and create new products or services.

 

download rental inspection checklist template

 

Tools You Need to Scale Your Property Management Business  

The property management industry is an enormously tech-savvy group of people. In our network of property management companies, we’ve seen quick adoption of new tools and tech like AI, cloud-based systems, etc. 

Of course, the property management tools you choose will depend on the specific needs and goals of your PMC. Second Nature’s RBP aims to provide tools that are customizable across multiple property management levels, needs, and niches. With fully managed and integrated services that add value for residents and investors you can much more easily see the benefits of scale.

Here are some other tools and property management software we’ve seen most highly rated in our industry.

  1. Slack: A cloud-based platform that makes communicating with your team easy. You can get immediate responses from team members, and even vendors or clients you add to your channels.
  2. LeadSimple: Sales CRM and process automation
  3. RentCheck: Automating property inspections
  4. Process Street: No-code, simple process and workflow management
  5. Airtable: a low-code platform to build collaborative apps to visualize data, processes, etc.
  6. Zapier: A tool that allow syou to integrate all your applications and set up automated workflows between them.

These are just a few of the many property management tools available. It's important to evaluate the specific needs and goals of your business, and choose a tool that best fits those requirements.

How Second Nature Helps With Scaling  

Second Nature was built on the idea that we could help make property management easier for everyone involved – residents, investors, and especially property managers. To that end, we’ve built fully managed services that generate greater value for your PMC by delivering better resident experiences. 

Our team takes care of the details for you so that your team can focus on growth, reputation, and quality. Learn more about Second Nature’s industry-leading resident benefits package and how it can help you scale with greater ease.

Keep learning

SFR Property Management Problems and Solutions

In recent years, the single-family residence (SFR) rental market has seen significant growth as more property owners recognize the potential for steady income and long-term appreciation. With this rise in popularity comes a unique set of challenges for the rental property managers (PMs) who are tasked with overseeing these properties. Unlike multi-family units, managing single-family homes can present a range of issues that require tailored solutions. Scattered-site properties also present a logistical challenge, as they are by nature harder to service and manage. From finding quality residents to handling unexpected maintenance emergencies, a strategic and proactive approach is required to ensure a smooth and profitable rental experience. Note that even though we here at Second Nature prefer the term "resident" over "tenant" in order to foster the human element, the word "tenant" may still be used occasionally due to its long-standing legal and real estate context. What Are the Most Common Property Management Challenges? The most common problems faced by SFR property managers generally fall into three buckets: finding quality residents; maintenance and repairs; and time management and communication. Let's explore each. #1 Finding Quality Residents One of the most critical aspects of managing SFRs is resident placement. Indeed, inadequate resident screening processes can significantly impact resident retention as well as profitability. That’s because poor screening can lead to high turnover rates (including evictions), increased property wear and tear, and ultimately, financial strain. Additionally, attracting responsible residents who will treat the property with care and adhere to lease agreements can be particularly challenging in competitive rental markets. #2 Maintenance and Repairs Unexpected maintenance issues are a common hassle for SFR property managers. From plumbing leaks to HVAC failures, emergencies can arise without warning, leading to unplanned expenses and logistical challenges. Finding reliable and responsive contractors who are able to address repairs promptly adds yet another layer of complexity. The inability to swiftly manage these issues can result in resident dissatisfaction as well as potential property damage. #3 Time Management and Communication Managing multiple single-family homes requires excellent time management skills. Balancing the diverse needs of residents, coordinating with vendors, and ensuring regular property inspections can be overwhelming. That’s why it’s essential to establish clear and timely communication channels to maintain good resident relationships and efficient operations. However, juggling these responsibilities can lead to lapses in communication, resulting in time-consuming misunderstandings and unresolved issues. Solutions for a Smoother SFR Rental Experience While the challenges of managing SFR rentals are significant, there are effective strategies and tools available to streamline operations and enhance resident satisfaction. Here are some solutions to common property management business problems. Strategic Resident Screening Implementing a robust resident screening process is crucial for minimizing vacancy rates and securing responsible residents. To this end, utilizing professional screening services can help identify prospective tenants by thoroughly evaluating their rental history, credit scores, and background checks. Clear lease terms and expectations should be established from the outset to ensure residents understand the responsibilities and obligations that occupancy brings. Learn more: Tenant Screening Tips for PMs 10 Steps to Onboard New Tenants Proactive Maintenance Proactive maintenance is key to preventing costly emergencies and maintaining the property’s condition. Scheduling regular preventative maintenance inspections allows property managers to identify and address potential issues before they escalate. Building relationships with reputable and responsive repair professionals ensures that maintenance tasks and requests are handled promptly. Consider leveraging technology that allows residents to conduct their own regular inspections to provide early detection of problems and streamline the property maintenance process (learn more). Vendor and Supplier Selection Choosing the right property management service providers and vendors is crucial to successful property management. Establishing relationships with reliable and responsive contractors ensures that maintenance and repair issues are addressed promptly, reducing downtime and inconvenience for renters. It’s essential to vet vendors thoroughly, checking their credentials, references, and reviews to ensure they meet the necessary quality and reliability standards. Building a network of trusted professionals can lead to better service rates, priority scheduling, and consistent adherence to due dates as well as work quality standards. Additionally, negotiating long-term contracts with preferred vendors can offer cost savings and a more streamlined management process. By prioritizing quality vendor and supplier selection, property managers can enhance the overall efficiency of their operations and maintain high tenant satisfaction. Technology and Automation Incorporating technology and automation into property management can significantly enhance efficiency and communication. For instance, online portals for collecting rent payments and addressing maintenance requests simplify transactions and ensure transparency. They can also facilitate incentives for prompt rent payment, follow up on late payments, and generally optimize rent collection with an eye to optimizing cash flow. Property management software can also streamline vendor and tenant communication, track maintenance schedules, and provide detailed financial reporting. These tools not only save time but also build trust and improve resident satisfaction by ensuring quick and effective responses to their needs. Naturally, you will need to conduct a due diligence process of technology selection and provider assessment that addresses pricing, customer support, and support for the features that are mission-critical for your organization. Second Nature’s Outlook Effective property management is essential for maximizing the profitability and longevity of single-family home rentals. By addressing common challenges with strategic solutions, property managers can enhance resident satisfaction, reduce vacancy rates, and maintain the property’s value. Embracing technology and proactive management practices are critical components of any successful SFR business strategy. Property managers are encouraged to explore these solutions and adopt the approaches that best suit their specific needs. Learn more about property management company best practices, marketing, and more in our Second Nature Community.

Calendar icon June 7, 2024

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How to Craft a Notice to Tenant to Clean Property [with Template]

Ensuring that rental properties are well-maintained is crucial for property managers and landlords, not only to protect the value of their real estate investment but also to provide safe and pleasant living environments for residents. One important tool for maintaining property standards is a "Notice to Tenant to Clean Property" letter that communicates concerns about cleanliness and outlines necessary actions for residents. In today’s post we’ll cover essential elements you should consider around transparency and effectiveness, as well as a sample letter you can use to craft your own notice. A note on language: Here at Second Nature, we prefer to use the terms "resident" and “residency” rather than “tenant” and “tenancy,” in order to emphasize the human element of property management work. However, there may be instances where terms such as "tenant" are used for legal or industry-standard purposes within documents or communications. In these cases, please understand that our intent remains the same – to provide clear, accurate, and meaningful information to all people involved in the business relationship. What to Do When Your Tenant is a Hoarder? Hoarding can present significant challenges for property managers. It not only poses health and safety risks but can also lead to severe property damage. Here are steps to take when dealing with a hoarding situation: Understand the issue Hoarding is often a complex psychological condition that requires sensitivity and understanding. It’s important to approach the situation with empathy and awareness of the resident’s potential mental health needs. This understanding can guide your interactions and help you manage the situation more effectively. Conduct thorough inspections Regular property inspections are crucial for identifying hoarding behaviors early. These inspections should be conducted in accordance with the lease agreement and local laws. Document any findings with photographs and detailed notes to provide a clear record of the condition of the property. Communicate clearly and compassionately When addressing the issue with the resident, clear and compassionate communication is key. Explain the concerns and the potential consequences if the situation is not addressed. Emphasize that the goal is to ensure a safe and habitable living environment. Provide a formal notice If the hoarding issue violates the lease agreement, a formal "Notice to Clean Property" may be necessary (more on this below). Collaborate with professionals In severe cases, it may be beneficial to involve professionals who specialize in hoarding disorder. This can include social workers, mental health professionals, or professional organizers who can provide the resident with the necessary support to address their hoarding behavior. Follow legal procedures Ensure all actions taken are in compliance with local and state laws. This includes providing the correct amount of notice, following proper eviction procedures if necessary, and respecting the resident’s rights throughout the process. Document all actions Keep thorough records of all communications, inspections, and notices related to the hoarding issue. This documentation can be crucial if legal action becomes necessary and helps protect you as the property manager. By addressing hoarding with a combination of empathy, clear communication, and adherence to legal requirements, property managers can manage these challenging situations more effectively while maintaining the safety and integrity of their properties. Identifying When a "Notice to Clean Property" Letter is Necessary A "Notice to Clean Property" letter becomes necessary under various circumstances. It's essential to recognize these situations in order to maintain the property's value and condition, and to ensure compliance with lease agreements. Routine inspections Routine inspections are an integral part of property management, allowing managers to identify issues early and address them before they escalate. If an inspection reveals unsanitary conditions, excessive clutter, hoarding, or neglect of cleanliness, a formal notice is warranted. This proactive measure helps maintain the property and encourages residents to uphold their end of the lease agreement. Failing to address these issues promptly can lead to severe problems such as mold growth, pest infestations, plumbing issues due to neglected maintenance, and increased costs associated with turnover when a property is vacated. Complaints Neighbor complaints regarding cleanliness issues, such as uncollected trash, odors, or visible clutter, can indicate a need for intervention. Addressing these complaints promptly with a notice demonstrates that management is responsive to concerns and committed to maintaining a harmonious living environment. Ignoring such complaints can exacerbate the problem, leading to pest infestations that can create an unhealthy living environment for residents. Lease violations Most lease agreements include clauses that outline residents' responsibilities for maintaining the property in a clean and sanitary condition. When these clauses are violated, issuing a notice is necessary to enforce the lease terms and remind residents of their obligations. Failing to act on these violations can result in significant property damage, including plumbing issues from unaddressed leaks or blockages, mold growth from damp conditions, and ultimately, costly repairs and renovations needed to restore the property for the next resident. This can also lead to increased turnover costs, as the property may need extensive cleaning and repairs before it can be re-leased. The Importance of Clear Communication Open and effective communication is vital in property management, especially when addressing cleanliness issues. A clear, well-crafted notice helps prevent minor issues from becoming major problems and sets the stage for resolution. Proactive approach Early intervention through timely communication can prevent minor cleanliness issues from escalating into significant problems. Addressing concerns as soon as they are identified shows residents that management is diligent and proactive. Setting expectations A well-crafted notice clarifies expectations for resident maintenance responsibilities. By explicitly stating what is required, renters understand their obligations and the standards of occupancy they must meet. Documentation The notice serves as a documented record of the identified issue and the steps taken to address it. This documentation is crucial for protecting the property manager's interests if further action is needed, such as additional fees or eviction proceedings. Note that property managers can proactively address cleanliness and maintenance issues by clearly setting expectations with new tenants from the outset. This can be achieved by including a detailed cleanliness clause in the lease agreement, conducting a thorough walkthrough of the rental unit at move-in, and providing a welcome packet to ensure each tenant knows their responsibilities. During the initial walkthrough, managers should highlight specific cleaning requirements and standards, demonstrating proper care for different areas of the property. Regular communication, such as periodic reminders and tips for maintaining the property, can further reinforce these expectations and prevent issues from arising, ensuring a smooth and mutually respectful resident-PM relationship. Crafting a Compelling and Effective Notice Creating an effective "Notice to Clean Property" involves several key elements that ensure clarity and encourage compliance. Introduction Begin the written notice with a clear statement of its purpose as a formal notification regarding the property's cleanliness and upkeep condition. Include the property address and the resident's name(s) to avoid any confusion. Specific observations Detail the cleanliness issues observed during the inspection or reported by others. Use clear, descriptive language to ensure there is no ambiguity about the concerns. For example, instead of saying "the property is dirty," specify "dirty dishes are piling up, attracting roaches/pests; or “an abundance of waste materials is creating a health hazard/fire hazard." This also helps differentiate the cleanliness issue from normal wear and tear. Reference to lease agreement (optional) If applicable, cite relevant clauses in the rental agreement that outline the resident’s responsibility for maintaining the property in a clean and sanitary condition. This reference reinforces the legal basis for the notice and the resident's obligations – and helps ensure that you are respecting applicable tenant rights and state laws. Outline of expectations Clearly define the expected level of cleanliness and specific actions required to rectify the situation. A timeframe for follow-up is useful for helping the resident to address the issues, such as a 7-day notice period to clean. This approach gives residents a clear understanding of what needs to be done and by when. Consequences for non-compliance (optional) Briefly outline potential consequences for failure to address the cleanliness concerns within the designated timeframe. This might include increased inspections, withholding of security deposits, or legal action, including a potential order to vacate/eviction notice. Note that although it may well become necessary to instigate an eviction process, it’s important to maintain a professional tone and avoid excessive threats to encourage cooperation. Additional Considerations for Specific Situations Different scenarios may require tailored approaches when issuing a proper notice to clean the property. Health and safety hazards If the cleanliness issue poses a potential health or safety hazard, such as mildew/mold growth, pest infestations, or overflowing sewage, prioritize immediate action. In such cases, involving relevant authorities might be necessary to ensure the issue is resolved promptly and safely. Chronic offenders For residents with a history of neglecting cleanliness standards, consider outlining a stricter course of action. This might include increased inspections or even potential lease termination if the behavior continues. Clear documentation and a consistent approach are essential when dealing with chronic offenses. Delivery Methods and Maintaining Records Ensuring that the notice is delivered and documented correctly is crucial for effective property management. Delivery methods Consider the following methods for delivering the notice: Hand-delivery with a signed receipt: This method ensures the resident receives the notice and acknowledges its receipt. Certified mail with return receipt requested: This provides documented proof that the notice was sent and received. Other methods with documented proof of delivery: Any method that provides verifiable proof of delivery is acceptable. Maintaining records Retain copies of the notice, delivery confirmation, and any relevant communication for your records. This documentation is crucial if further action is necessary and serves as evidence that the issue was addressed appropriately. Free “Notice to Tenant to Clean Property” Template Providing a template can simplify the process for property managers. However, it's essential to note that legal advice is recommended to ensure compliance with local laws and regulations. ``` [Your Name] [Your Address] [City, State, ZIP Code] [Date] [Resident's Name] [Property Address] [City, State, ZIP Code] Re: Notice to Clean Property Dear [Resident's Name], This letter serves as a formal notification regarding the cleanliness condition of the property located at [Property Address]. During a recent inspection conducted on [Date], the following issues were observed: - [Detail the specific cleanliness issues] As per the lease agreement, Section [Lease Section], you are required to maintain the property in a clean and sanitary condition. To rectify the situation, please take the following actions by [Specify Deadline, e.g., 14 days from the date of this letter]: - [List the specific actions required] Failure to address these concerns within the specified timeframe may result in [potential consequences, such as additional fees, increased inspections, or eviction proceedings]. We appreciate your prompt attention to this matter. Please contact us at [Your Phone Number] if you have any questions or need further clarification. Sincerely, [Your Name] [Title] [Contact Information] ... Promoting a Culture of Responsibility Maintaining a clean and well-kept property is a shared responsibility between residents and property management. By promoting a culture of responsibility, property managers can create a positive living environment that benefits everyone involved. Encouraging residents to take pride in their living spaces and providing resources such as Second Nature’s Resident Benefits Package (RBP) can foster this culture. The RBP can include regular maintenance tips, access to cleaning services, or rewards for maintaining high standards of cleanliness. Ultimately, a collaborative approach leads to what we at Second Nature call a "triple win" — residents enjoy a pleasant living environment, owners maintain their investments, and PMs have an easier role to play in maintaining these thriving, beneficial relationships. Learn more about Second Nature’s RBP.

Calendar icon June 7, 2024

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