Calendar icon June 28, 2023

Property Management Fees: Opportunities for Growth

If you’re familiar with Second Nature, you know that supporting SFR property managers in building triple win experiences is our focus. So today, we’re taking on the thorny topic of property management fees within SFR property management companies. And we’re turning to one of the leading industry educators on the subject: Todd Ortscheid, owner of PM Assist. 

Here’s what we’ll cover in this article.

Key Learning Objectives:

  • How to structure your property management fees for growth
  • The benefits and challenges of charging property management fees
  • How you can use fees to add value for yourself, your clients, and your residents
  • How to introduce fees without turning clients off
  • Examples of property management fees you might not be employing (yet)

Meet the Expert: Todd Ortscheid

Todd spent 14 years as an airline pilot – an industry known for capitalizing on fee structures as a growth strategy. He took over his father’s property management company after the 2008 real estate crash and eventually tripled the company’s number of doors. As the co-owner of PM Assist, he offers training and counsel on finding new ways to increase company revenue, process automation, and profit per unit.

Todd is a true entrepreneur and creative thinker, with ideas that challenge the status quo and may even ruffle some feathers. But Todd’s strategies have proven to help grow property management companies, and we’re thrilled to share his insights.

Related: State of Resident Experience Study

 

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What Property Management Fees Are Standard?

You should be seeing income on anything you’re spending money on as well. Anything you want to do to create more value for residents or investors? You should charge a fee for that so your company can stay competitive and your employees can get paid. 

Here are a few examples to get you started.

Inspection & Maintenance Fees

How much time are you spending on periodic property inspections? How much money are you spending on maintenance costs? How valuable is your staff's time? 

Todd says, “You have to be charging for this. Don't just include maintenance requests and inspections as part of your monthly management fee.”

Marketing Fees

Todd says, “I'm sure a lot of you are probably in markets where Zillow started charging you to put your listings on their website. And I've heard a lot of property managers say it's just a cost we're absorbing. Don't do that. Pass on that cost. Call it a marketing fee or the Zillow fee or whatever you want to make sure you're making money on that. Never pay for your own property management costs – come up with some way to cover all of these costs that you have for your business.”

Insurance Risk Mitigation Fees

If your investor doesn’t have insurance, you are often the one who will suffer. 

Todd advises charging a fee if your investor doesn’t send a policy within 30 days. 

“Tell them, ‘This new fee will be charged as a mitigation fee for the additional risk we have.’ You will not believe how quickly people will send you their insurance policies if you do this. We only charged a nominal fee. But a flood of emails came in after I sent out that notice to owners. So this isn't about making more money. For the most part, it's about influencing behavior and ensuring you get the insurance policies you need.”

Account Creation Fees 

As a property manager, you can charge a set fee to investors to create an account with your company. This fee may or may not cover various other costs such as any related property inspection requirements or tenant communications. 

Recurring Management Fees

Recurring (typically monthly) property management fees are extremely common in the industry, and will be built into the initial contract signed between the investor and the property management company. The amount can be based on a flat fee structure, or tied to a percentage of the monthly rent collected.

Vendor Screening Fees

It’s a hassle to use vendors outside your usual network.

“If you have property owners who want to use their vendor instead of your preferred vendors, that creates more work for you.”

If you charge a flat fee, they’ll likely drop it, and you’ve saved yourself that extra work. If they want to keep their vendors and pay the fee, at least you’re getting paid for that extra work.”

Rent Protection Fees or Eviction Fee

A huge area of value for investors is protecting them from unwanted risk. Investors have to deal with concerns about evictions, lost rental income, and more. Property management companies can take on that risk for a fee. You can say you’ll cover missed rent if the investor pays a monthly fee. 

The win for PMCs is that the risk is often low, and you can often control it (controlling for on-time rent due by charging late rent fees, for example). You get the fee, and you will rarely have to take the hit on the month’s rent.

The win for investors is they don’t have to worry about it at all.

Contract resiliation fees

For investors that terminate the property management contract prematurely, you can charge an early termination fee, the amount of which will vary depending on the contract's terms. The fee may cover a month or more of management fees.

Resident Fees

Todd emphasizes that the real moneymaker is resident fees. Plus, charging fees for unwanted behaviors – like late rent, paper leases, failure to change HVAC filters, etc. – can help drive better behavior. 

Todd uses examples like

  • Security deposit processing fee
  • Leasing fee or a lease amendment fee
  • Paper lease setup fee
  • Lease renewal fee
  • Late fee
  • Special programs fee

“Of course, the resident benefit package is the big one. This is a way for you to provide additional services to your residents and make some money off of it.”

What Are the Factors that Influence Property Management Fees?

Ultimately, the fees you charge should reflect your operational reality, and can vary depending on a range of factors:

  • Property location: Properties located in areas with higher operational expenses may incur higher management fees compared to those in other regions.
  • Property condition: The condition of the property, and whether it is new or renovated, affects maintenance requirements and thus can influence management costs.
  • Property size: The size of the rental property directly influences the workload of the property manager, with larger properties typically incurring higher fees.

Scope of services: The range of services provided by the property management company significantly impacts the fees charged. Basic services like rent collection command lower fees, while comprehensive management services covering rent collection, vacancy filling, repairs, evictions, and financial record-keeping for taxes entail higher costs.

How Should Property Managers Structure Fees? 

Real estate investors often focus on determining what fair or typical property management pricing should be. A general rental property management fee includes collecting the month’s rent, following up on arrears, organizing property maintenance and repairs, and keeping abreast of legal requirements. 

That’s the baseline. But the growth is in what you do on top of that baseline. 

Todd breaks down pricing like this:

“Only 40% of your revenue should come from your property management fee. 60% of our revenue is not management-fee related. If most of your money comes from your management fee, you're doing it wrong. That's not going to last very long.”

And here’s the difference those added fees can make to your bottom line:

“According to recent numbers from Profit Coach, the average PM company gets about $170 a month in revenue. $170 per door per month. I just looked at the profit coach dashboard for my company, and over the last 12 months, we have averaged $320 per unit per month.”

The nugget in there is that the market should determine your base property management fee. But that often cheats PMCs, giving property managers extra work without fairly compensating them for the additional time, effort and cost. You can – and, according to Todd, you should – be charging for that extra work and extra value that you provide as a professional.

Note: Todd emphasizes that ALL fees should be communicated upfront during the onboarding process and lease agreement. Fees aren’t about tricky pricing or hidden markups. They’re about charging for value and driving behavior.

What Are the Benefits and Challenges of Charging Property Management Fees? 

Let’s look at some of the pros and cons of charging additional fees for your additional property management services. 

Benefit 1: More Revenue = Better Service

Todd points out that you can't really provide the level of service that you want if you don't have enough revenue coming in. 

“We've got to be able to provide fantastic service, and the only way you can do that is with revenue. You have to start looking at this as something that you have to do. Your clients and your residents are suffering if you don't.”

It’s a fantasy to think we can offer premium service without paying for the resources they cost us. 

Benefit 2: More Revenue = Happier Employees

Your team deserves to be paid for their work, especially if it’s extra work caused by a difficult resident or investor. Fees help reduce workload because they discourage behaviors that add to busy work. But more on that in the next section.

Todd says:

“Property management company owners talk to me all the time about how they can't afford to pay higher wages in the current market. The reason you can't take better care of your employees is that you're struggling to get by just on a basic management fee. Charging fees for what your services are worth is the only way you’re going to be able to provide competitive wages and benefits.”

Benefit 3: Charging for Service Drives Better Habits

According to Todd, fees drive behavior. Your investors and residents will respond to fees in a way they may not respond to anything else. 

For example, home warranties are a huge hassle for everyone. If you want to discourage investors from using a warranty company, simply charge a fee for anyone that does.

On the resident side, an example is late payment fees. If you communicate from the start that late payments will draw a fee – you’ll notice how payments come in on time much more often. 

Benefit 4: Greater Profits

This one speaks for itself. But here’s what Todd says:

“Never pay for your own cost of running your business. This isn't a charity. Every single expense in your company should be tied to some income you're going to make.”

 

download rental inspection checklist template

 

Challenge 1: Will Investors Be Turned Off by Fees?

In the long run, if you’re charging fees for premium services, you can provide a better outcome for investors. But how can you get them on board with this concept? 

Todd says it’s all in the language we use. 

“People don't understand that the management fee is really a rent collection fee. We shouldn't call it a management fee because it makes it sound like everything we do is included, which is of course, crazy. There's so much that can't be looped into that one thing. We should call it a rent collection fee because that's really what it is. You've got to get your mindset right on this stuff. Don't be afraid of it.”

Challenge 2: Regulations (AKA: Always Talk to Your Attorney First)

Regulations vary across regions, so rental property managers must be familiar with local laws. You may not be allowed to charge fees for certain types of services. But you can almost always categorize a service within an administrative fee. 

But discussing any fees and contracts with your attorney before implementing them in the real world is key. Oh, and you should charge for your legal fees!

How Do Fees Help Property Managers Add Value and Create a Positive Resident Experience?

The additional fees generated by delivering new and higher service levels are a reflection of a positive, resident-focused experience. 

In fact, such additional services are exactly what can set professionals apart from amateurs. Instead of letting increasing competition cut your legs from under you, Todd advises finding ways to generate value that the amateur property managers or real estate agents-turned-property-managers can’t compete with.

And, of course, charge for that value.

“I always tell people that I don't like to say no to clients or residents,” Todd says. “Instead, I like to say, ‘Sure, we're happy to do that. And this is how much that costs.’ You just want to be careful and ensure you’re actually doing things that the owners will find valuable.

Charging fees allows a property management company to offer premium services and benefits they couldn’t if they didn’t have that extra revenue. It’s a perspective shift, but Todd believes we need to start viewing fees as a generative, value-driving approach to property management. 

How Can I Use Fees to Generate Ancillary Income?

In the end, you might think of fees as a burden that will drive away investors, but the truth is the exact opposite. Fees help you drive more premium value for both your investors and your residents – and support your business and employees at the same time. 

At Second Nature, that’s what we call a Triple Win. We aim to help property management companies drive Triple Wins like this all the time. We do it through the value proposition of a Resident Benefits Package. An RBP offers value to investors by delivering a full-service resident experience. And, yes, that’s something property managers charge a fee for!

Since it’s fully managed by our team, you can basically plug it in and let it drive value for you, your investors, and your residents.

Fee FAQs

Q:  What is included in the property management fee?

Property management fees typically cover a range of services, which vary from company to company. Sample inclusions:

  • inspection & maintenance fees
  • marketing fees
  • insurance risk mitigation fees
  • account creation fees 
  • recurring management fees
  • vendor screening fees
  • rent protection fees or eviction fee
  • contract resiliation fees
  • security deposit processing fee
  • leasing fee or a lease amendment fee
  • paper lease setup fee
  • lease renewal fee
  • late fee
  • special programs fee

Q: What is the average property management fee?

The average property management fee varies according to region and state, as well as from company to company. In addition, these fees are largely dependent on the value, responsibilities, and services the property manager brings to the table. Generally, they amount to a fixed percentage of collected rent, as opposed to a flat fee.

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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