Calendar icon April 18, 2023

How to Structure a Property Management Company

The property management industry is full of entrepreneurs – self-reliant self-starters who got in the game as a side hustle and grew their property management company to be a full-time occupation. But, of course, with growth comes the need to hire a team. And the key to successful team-building? An optimized property management org chart. 

An organizational chart is a visual representation of a company's structure, showing the roles and relationships between different positions within the organization. Property management companies are no exception, and getting your property management company structure right from the beginning has a massive impact on the quality of experience of your investors, employees, and residents.

 

PM org chart exampleExample of a property management org chart with 500 rental units

 

In this article, we’re exploring the benefits of having a clear and concise property management company org chart with the help of Kelli Segretto, Founder of K Segretto Consulting. Kelli has helped with the launch of hundreds of property management companies and has tons of insight into how a PMC should be structured for success. 

Key Learning Objectives:

  • What does an ideal property management organizational chart look like?
  • How should you structure your property management company?
  • What’s the difference between an org chart for a PMC vs. a real estate agency?
  • How can you use your org chart to align employee roles?
  • Who should you hire first?
  • What’s the most important role in a property management company?
  • What are the most common mistakes made in structuring a PMC?

Meet the Expert: Kelli Segretto, Founder of K Segretto Consulting

Kelli is a sought-after speaker and consultant with over 20 years of experience in the property management industry. Kelli has expertise in single-family, multifamily, and LIHTC property management, having coached across all 50 states and six countries. She has helped launch hundreds of new property management businesses and has developed in-depth knowledge of the types of organizational structures that work best in property management.

 

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Example Property Management Org Chart 

We asked Segretto about the primary areas of responsibility – or key roles – that that are essential to a successful property management business. She outlined six key focus areas regardless of how you end up structuring the company:

  • Operations Management
  • Property Management
  • Leasing
  • Maintenance
  • Bookkeeping
  • Sales

According to Segretto: “Different structures will dictate the position titles and responsibilities within these roles, but these are the foundational pillars each property management business needs.”

To get started with the cascading structure of the org chart, Segretto explains that in a full property management company structure, you typically see three-deep leadership: owner/broker, manager, and coordinator, each with their own focus area from the list above. 

“Even if your business is small, it is important to have an organization chart to plan for your future growth,” Segretto says.

Here’s how it might break down in your PMC.

Tier 1: Owner/Broker

The Owner/Broker is the executive leadership or highest role and tier in the org chart.

“In most states, you cannot operate a property management company without a licensed broker,” Segretto says. “The requirements to obtain your principal broker license varies by state, but most require a combination of time as a real estate sales agent, experience points, and education.”

Of course, the owner of the PMC isn’t always the broker, depending on various circumstances or state laws. 

“A person with a broker’s license can sign on to be the broker of record or broker in charge for a property management business,” Segretto explains. “We see this when the business owner cannot yet meet the qualifications for their broker license, for example, in franchise property management companies and other organizations that are coming into property management from outside the industry.”

Anyone newer to the industry should take note, says Segretto, “This arrangement can be tricky in some states, like New Jersey where you must operate under the same roof as your broker, or Ohio where any brokerages active under a broker must have the same core company name. There are many state and local regulations you have to be aware of when opening a property management company.  My recommendation is always to reach out to your local department of real estate for guidance and information or work with a consultant that specializes in property management business startup.”

Tier 2: Management (Operations, Sales, Finance, Maintenance, and Leasing)

Reporting directly to the owner (who is usually also the broker) is a set of management roles. Depending on the size of your company, this may be one or many individuals, depending on the expertise and skills gaps of the owner. 

Your management level typically includes roles for Operations, Sales, Finance, Maintenance, and/or  Leasing. These individuals have a fairly high level of responsibility overseeing their area and any direct reports under them. 

Tier 3: Coordinators (Property Management, Maintenance, Leasing, and Bookkeeping)

Reporting to the management roles are employees at a coordinator level. You may hire coordinators that focus on property management, maintenance, leasing, and bookkeeping. These roles will fall under the purview of the manager above them.

Tier 4: Assistants

In large organizations, you may also see assistant roles that support the coordinator or management roles.

For each of these tiers of responsibility, Segretto says, “the titles and function will vary depending on the type of structure you are operating under, but the core organizational buckets remain the same. In a small property management business, it isn’t uncommon for the first roles to be 1099. This helps keep costs down for the property management company as long as they are not treating their 1099 partners like employees. For example, scheduling their time, requiring uniforms, etc. As a property  management business grows and stabilizes, most of the roles in the business become employees.”

(Segretto provides her clients with several org chart templates that walk through the different roles and responsibilities in each configuration.)

 

download rental inspection checklist template

 

Types of Property Management Company Structures 

“Each property management business is unique,” Segretto says. “Some businesses service savvy investor clients, some focus on small multifamily, some are only high-end luxury while others have found their niche in Class C rentals. This means that the best property management business structure can vary for your organization.”

Segretto explains that the ideal organizational structure for your business is the one that provides the best user experience for your clients, assigns ownership to the essential tasks, and keeps everyone on the same page. 

“Too often, I see businesses that have everyone trying to do everything, which ultimately creates chaos and confusion,” Segretto says. “Phone calls don’t get answered, emails get lost, and everyone expects someone else has ‘got it.’”

Instead of this chaotic approach, Segretto recommends choosing from three common property management company structures: Portfolio Management, Departmentalized, and Process Driven. 

“Determining which one is best for your office is dependent on your location, your staffing capabilities, your goals, and your budget,” Segretto says.

Here’s how they each work

Portfolio Management Structure

The portfolio management structure typically involves assigning a dedicated property manager to oversee a set of client accounts. That PM is responsible for all aspects of the portfolio, including property maintenance, resident relations, leasing and marketing, financial management, and other activities related to the management of the real estate assets.

The manager is typically supported by a team of administrative and support staff, including accounting and financial specialists, leasing agents, property managers, project management specialists, maintenance technicians, and other professionals who work together to ensure the successful management of the real estate assets.

Overall, a portfolio management structure gives clients a premium experience with one point of contact and allows for nimble decision-making. On the downside, portfolio management requires employees to have strong cross-skills, opens the PMC up to risk if that property manager leaves or goes on vacation, and makes it difficult to create operational consistency between portfolios. 

Departmentalized Structure

Department-style management organizes the PMC into separate functional categories, grouping employees and teams based on their roles and responsibilities. You might see departments such as accounting and finance, leasing and marketing, property maintenance, resident relations, and other functional areas. 

Each department is headed by a department manager who would oversee the day-to-day operations and staff within that department.

The benefit of a departmental structure is specialization over generalization. Employees are experts in their field and can focus on improving their area’s performance. The downside is that clients and residents may have multiple points of contact, and communication may get repetitive. No single person is keeping an eye on a specific property’s overall performance.

Process Driven or “Pod” Structure 

A pod-style management structure in PMCs is a relatively new management concept that organizes employees into small, cross-functional teams called "pods.” Each pod is responsible for managing a specific portfolio of properties or assets within the company and typically consists of a portfolio manager, a leasing agent, a maintenance technician, and an administrative staff member.

The pod-style management structure is designed to bring the benefits of the portfolio and departmentalized structures together – but can also suffer from their weaknesses. Pod-style management encourages collaboration and communication among team members and gives residents and clients an excellent customer experience. The structure also allows for greater flexibility and agility, as the pods can adapt quickly to changing market conditions and resident needs.

Pod-style management is ideal for a fast-paced, dynamic environment where rapid response times and a high level of customer service are essential. By working in small, self-managed teams, pod-style management can lead to greater efficiency, productivity, and innovation while also improving employee satisfaction and engagement.

The downside is that the pod structure can be expensive until you fully scale up. 

What is the difference between the structure of a PMC and a real estate agency?

We asked Segretto to explain how a PMC org chart differs from that of a real estate agency. 

Segretto explains: “I had a client that structured their business like a real estate office, and it worked really well for them when they were small. As they started to grow and scale the business, it became limiting. Real estate offices have a very simple structure. Typically you have an owner/broker, and in larger offices, back office services like marketing, bookkeeping, office assistants, and maybe a transaction department. These are support services made available to the sales agents. Sales agents are independent business owners, often with their own LLCs. They are not employees of the company.”

She also points out that some companies operate as both a real estate business and a property management company. “In these businesses, you may have a blend of the two org charts. You will still need all the same buckets as a property management business, but often those roles take on double duty to support the sales agents who still remain independent contractors.”

 

Happier residents

 

FAQ: How to Use Org Chart to Align Employee Roles and Make the Right Hires 

So, let’s say you have an idea of the property management company structure you want and the types of roles you need. How do you actually get started? How do you make your first hires or align your current employee roles with your planned ideal structure?

We asked Segretto some of the most frequently asked questions on this in the property management space. Here’s how she answered.

What should I focus on in the hiring process?

Segretto: Property management is an industry that can be trained, but human behavior is much harder to adjust. Pick the right personalities and drive for your team rather than the person with the most experience on paper. 

That doesn’t mean you should pick the person you get along with best or you think you could be friends with. It is important to identify the key personality traits that will be most beneficial in each role. Remember, your employees will be the face of your company. They will be the ones delivering on the promises you make each client. 

Make sure you have written job descriptions and a deep understanding of the role the person would fill. Setting proper expectations will also aid in finding the right person who will enjoy the work they are hired to do.

In the interview process, ask qualifying questions and provide scenarios to see how the individual problem solves. This industry is fast-paced, multifaceted, and complex. It isn’t for everyone.

Most of all, be patient. Start hiring before you need to so you don’t feel pressured to pick someone fast rather than ensuring you have the right person in the right seat. Take your time and avoid costly mistakes.

Who should I hire first?

Segretto: I have had the opportunity to help launch hundreds of brand-new property management businesses in my career, and one of the most common questions is, “Who should I hire first?” 

Initially, a property management company is typically run by a sole operator. The business owner wears all of the hats. It is beneficial for the owner to go through this phase of start-up as they learn all the ins and outs of the business and discover their strengths and weaknesses. 

I like to then take my clients through an exercise where we can discover the highest and best use of their skillset and time. From that exercise, you can then determine what role would be your ideal first hire. For many people, this is a business development manager to cover sales or a back office employee, like a bookkeeper.  

What are the key components of management structure in a PMC?

The key components of management structure are customer experience ownership, work specialization, organization, coordination between departments, and continuous training. 

Property management is a customer service business. The structure you create should focus on the components that will foster internal communication, collaboration, and a culture of learning.

What is the most important role in a property management company?

Segretto: This is a tricky question! It reminds me of the grade school phrase, “There is no ‘i’ in Team.” Property management is a team sport; there is no one role that is most important or featured in the line-up. 

Your team will only be as strong as your weakest link, which is why it’s so important to hire talented individuals with the right personality and drive for each role. Once you have your superstar lineup, it’s crucial that you treat them well, trust them, and listen to the valuable feedback and insights they have. It’s more about having the right person in each role than it is about one role being valued higher.

What are the most common mistakes you see in a PMC organization structure?

Segretto: The two most common issues I see in the property management structure are:

  • Too many points of contact for property owners and residents to keep track of. Keep it simple! Assign a point of contact to every relationship, and if that point of contact needs to shift, arrange a proper handoff. This business is built on trust, and as humans, we inherently don’t trust strangers.
  • Lack of communication between departments. This business is built on a foundation of excellent customer service. It’s critical that you have processes in place that keep everyone in the loop. Most processes require multiple team members' effort, and when communication breaks down, the card house collapses.

Final Thoughts

Segretto recommends hiring a consultant to help you develop your org chart for both today and your future growth plans. 

A good org chart should include “job descriptions, KPIs, and personality traits for each role within your chosen structure,” Segretto says. “A consultant can take you through a process to identify your core values, goals, and action plan, which will help set a solid foundation for your business.”

Learn more about property management structures, growth, marketing, and more in our Second Nature Community, or get in touch with Segretto via her website.

Keep learning

How to Optimize Operational Frequency with Processes and Software

Property management software is currently helping property managers establish efficient and reliable processes at a higher rate than ever before in the PM industry. With that development in the proptech industry has come the development of tech for self-managers that has changed the capacity of the accidental landlord. Thus, the demand for efficiency at scale has risen in order to separate the professional from the amateur, and the establishment of processes that allow such a thing has become a critical topic for professional property managers. Optimizing property management processes Carter Fleck of Triton Property Management, a growth-oriented firm out of northern Virginia that is approaching 300 units with larger goals for 2024, joins us to share his expertise on process definition. Fleck is the General Manager responsible for operations and strategic growth, and he has been developing effective processes to ensure efficiency at Scale at Triton, and in the process, he has garnered an understanding of how to do so. “A lot of failing,” says Fleck. “In the early days, we were getting a lot of good and bad feedback, but typically the bad feedback is what you adjust off of.” Fleck believes that assumptions are the enemy when it comes to defining procedures and sourcing software for your PMC. “The image that we use is if you're going to build a sidewalk before people even start walking on a field, it's kind of dumb. You have to see where people will walk first, and then you'll build a gravel path. So number one, you see where they walk, see where their intentions are in the grass, then you build a gravel path. And then eventually, once that walkway is established, that's where you build your processes and procedures.” The analogy is a visualization of the concept that you have to see how people operate before you can establish processes to make how they operate more efficient. Fleck encourages the negative experiences of process breakdown and cites them as the only way to really nail down what your processes should look like. “Over time, between the tenants giving feedback and owners giving feedback, we adjusted our processes. It's a mix between figuring out where the owners walk and where the tenants walk, and then building paths that align.” Fleck details an example of how Triton adjusted its process after an assumption it made got challenged: "We had an assumption that payment plans were helpful for residents," says Fleck. "And so the way we handled delinquency is we would reach out to them and would be like, ‘you need to pay this. Do you have a payment plan option?’ And they would always say yes. Our process was we'll put you on a payment plan, we'll invite you to a payment plan, you'll accept the payment plan, and then we'll monitor the payment plan. That in itself was a lot of work, but we thought it was doing well. But some of the owners that we had managed for mentioned that another property manager doesn't allow any payment plans. And if you're not fully paid up by the end of the month, then the eviction process starts if you’re over $500 due. So we're like 'alright, well, we'll serve you in that we'll change our processes.' And we did, and our delinquency percentage shrunk significantly. So, consistently, by the end of every month, we're around 5% APR. Whereas with payment plans we're like 5 to 10%.” Fleck obviously credits seeing the assumptions in motion as what prompted the need for process iteration, and he firmly believes that making too many of these assumptions is one of the biggest mistakes growing property management companies make. Like any business experiencing growth, process definition is critical to achieve efficiency at larger volumes. What Fleck is essentially advocating for is processes based on what you know, not what you think, and there is a big distinction. Managing property management software Fleck has installed both general and tech-based processes, and cites that understanding of how people interact with processes as the key in both areas. "They don't focus on user experience. That's really important. Number one, how the tenants like the tech, but specifically how the people who are using the tech are gonna adopt it. So when we were choosing a rent inspection software, we had so many people recommend one, software and I, we almost pulled the trigger on it. But then I was like, let's do a trial run on both these two. And we chose the other one because it was way better user experience for property managers. So user experience, both for us and for residents." Tech is a tool that is ultimately as good as its users, and if it's not used correctly or at all, its potential is wasted. An over-reliance on technology can actually go hand-in-hand with an under-reliance, as both often spring up from a lack of understanding of how to choose, implement, and manage it. In this vein, Fleck can't recall many property managers who operate with too much tech. As long as you're not purchasing redundant software and you've done and continue to do your due diligence, tech-based process can make your business more efficient. "I more often find myself having that conversation," says Fleck. "When I'm talking to property managers in my sub-market, who aren't connected with like a NARPM, who aren't connected with like a Crane group, or who aren't connected with a Second Nature, aren't connected to the tune of what the property management industry is doing and the cutting edge of it, I'm just like, 'you could save so much of your time and you could scale this so much more if you only even if you just had tenant Turner, or if you had LeadSimple.'" No matter what your story is a property manager, if growth is in the cards, so is process and technology refinement. Hopefully, Fleck's experience in these areas can help you stay efficient and organized as door counts grow.

Calendar icon April 19, 2024

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Why offer a tenant benefits package?

In the residential real estate sector, like everywhere else, residents and property investors alike are getting younger – and with this generational shift comes expectations for a certain level of convenience and support. To put it bluntly, today’s residents want their needs proactively anticipated. It’s something they're willing to pay (and stay) for. That’s where a tenant benefits package comes in. In this article, we’ll explore what a tenant benefit package is, how it improves the experience for both property managers and tenants, and crucial mistakes to avoid. Before we get into the details, we want to give a shoutout to our very own “Resident Benefits Package” – which is how we refer to the benefits comprised in the “tenant benefits package.” “Tenant” is not yet a legacy term, but we here at Second Nature are trying to evolve it. That’s because, in our experience, property managers work hard to make renters feel like they’re not just parties to a contract – they’re residents. On one hand, this is just humans being humans, but on the other hand, it also encourages them to invest in care for their new home and add value to the property. Ready to get started now? Build your Resident Benefits Package today. What is a tenant benefits package? A tenant benefits package is typically a bundle of services, conveniences, and provisions offered by a property manager on top of the basic lease agreement. They represent a triple-win situation for property managers, residents, and property owners, as they enhance the overall rental experience, generate additional income, and protect the real estate investment. It might include conveniences such as online monthly rent payment options, or portals for submitting maintenance requests and tracking their status. It could also include various financial perks, such as credit rating improvements that are contingent on on-time rental payments, or discounts on nearby services such as fitness centers. It might also include amenities ranging from move-in concierge or utility set-up services, to identity protection services, to HVAC filter delivery. The cost for resident benefits packages is typically included in the lease and added as a monthly fee, with the fee being dependent on the specific benefits. Indeed, the benefits contained in a tenant benefits package will vary depending on the property manager and the type of rental property. The overall goal is to provide tenants with an enhanced quality of life while simplifying the experience of renting. At Second Nature, we pioneered the only fully managed resident benefits package, in response to PMs who wanted to make their business stand out. Our RBP includes an array of services and supports for residents, from filter delivery to credit building to maintenance. Why should property managers offer a tenant benefits package? Beyond the triple-win considerations mentioned just above, there are compelling and concrete reasons why property managers should offer tenant benefit packages. We'll turn to these now. Ancillary revenue Some tenant benefit packages include optional services or add-ons that can generate additional revenue streams for the property manager. This might include things like renter insurance or HVAC filter delivery. Resident experience Tenant benefit packages deliver numerous savings and value to tenants, beyond the value they would get if they were obtaining the same benefits "à la carte." Additionally, by offering additional services and conveniences, benefit packages can make tenants feel valued and more satisfied with their living experience. For instance, maintenance hotline requests, tenant portals, and air filter replacements all make life easier. Add-on services like identity theft protection can offer a sense of security. And discounted renters insurance coverage, utility concierge services, or other perks can save tenants money. Decrease tenant turnover and vacancy rates In a competitive rental market, tenant benefit packages can be a major differentiator toward boosting retention rates and reducing vacancy rates. Properties that offer these packages can also attract a wider pool of qualified tenants, and potentially command higher rents. Note that certain benefits in the package, like online rent payments and maintenance requests, can automate tasks and free up the property manager's time. This allows them to focus on more value-added initiatives. How does the tenant benefits package improve the tenant experience? Tenant benefit packages can significantly improve tenant satisfaction in several ways, by making life easier, more convenient, and potentially more affordable. For instance, if an online portal (a baseline feature for most property management software) is included for rent payments and maintenance issues and requests, this eliminates the hassle of writing checks or waiting on hold to speak with someone about a clogged drain. In other words, tenants have the peace of mind of knowing they can manage their tenancy 24/7 from the comfort of their own devices. Some packages might include features like filter delivery services or regularly scheduled HVAC maintenance. This frees tenants from having to remember these tasks – and ensures their apartment is well-maintained. Certain packages might also offer "verified vendor" services – in other words, a vetted vendor network that can help provide a more secure feeling to residents when service providers are on-site. On the financial side of things, a benefits package might offer discounts with local suppliers for various goods and services, or on a renters insurance policy obtained through the property manager (with applicable waivers for residents who have their own insurance). This can save tenants money on a necessary expense. Some packages also help residents with their credit scores via credit reporting and credit building services, so they can transition from renting to home buying when the time is right. The idea is that the credit reporting program reports on-time rent payments automatically to all credit bureaus, helping residents build their credit simply by paying their rent on time. Some benefit packages include resident rewards programs that represent a powerful and positive incentive for on-time rent payments, including gift cards or cash. As far as living perks go, packages sometimes include added benefits such as access to fitness centers or community events. This provides tenants with additional spaces to relax, socialize, or stay healthy. Packages can include security deposit alternatives that serve to provide a means for residents to be financially liable for damages without having to pay a significant lump sum upfront, such as pure insurance, surety bonds, and ACH authorization programs. Ultimately, tenant benefit packages create a more professional and responsive image for the property management company, which helps tenants feel valued and allows them to experience a smoother, more stress-free rental experience. What are the mistakes to avoid when offering tenant benefits packages? Property management companies should take care to avoid certain pitfalls when implementing tenant benefit packages to ensure they are providing true value to tenants as well as delivering profitability to the PM company itself. For instance, it's important to ensure that the services you're offering are actually relevant to your target renters. For example, young professionals might appreciate discounts on gym memberships, while families might prefer pet-sitting services. You should also take care to clearly communicate what's included and not included in the package to new residents. Don't oversell the benefits – focus on how they genuinely improve the living experience. It's also very important to set realistic expectations for response times on standard maintenance requests, emergency maintenance requests, or virtual concierge services. Likewise, be clear on all available payment methods, as well as rent due dates, late fee structures, and any associated payment processing fees. If your package includes services from third-party vendors, ensure that these vendors are reputable and reliable. Research their customer service record and responsiveness to ensure a smooth partnership and a positive experience for tenants. Above all, regularly monitor the usage of different benefits within your benefits package. This can help you refine your offerings and ensure you're not spending where spending is not required. Looking for a Resident Benefits Package? If you’re looking for a “plug and play” resident benefits package, Second Nature’s RBP is the way to go. Designed to be easy to implement and simple to use, all the services it includes are managed by Second Nature – which means there’s no day-to-day upkeep required from the property manager: Second Nature keeps it running. It’s a simple way to grow your business and create great experiences that residents will pay and stay for. Learn more about our fully-managed Resident Benefits Package.

Calendar icon April 2, 2024

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