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10 Essential Questions to Ask Your Property Management Company

Buyer Sonja Bush May 7, 2024

In June Lake, where second homes and vacation rentals are prevalent, finding the right property management company is crucial for homeowners seeking peace of mind and profitability.  Whether you're entrusting your property for occasional monitoring or planning to delve into the Airbnb market, it's essential to vet potential managers thoroughly. Here are key questions to consider.

1.  What percentage is your management fee, and what services does it encompass?

Understanding the fee structure is vital. Some companies may offer seemingly low rates but tack on additional charges for various services (charge for shampoo, soap, etc). Conversely, higher upfront fees may cover comprehensive services like marketing, maintenance, and cleaning. Request a breakdown to ensure transparency.  Some companies offer different levels of service – understand the options.  It is important to find out who is responsible for securing the Town of Mammoth Lakes business permit required for all nightly rental owners.  Also, find out if there is a TOT (tourist occupancy tax) and if so, how is it collected and paid.

2.  What is the duration of the contract and what is required for start-up?

 Flexibility is crucial, given changing circumstances. While most contracts run annually, inquire about cancellation policies to gauge your options if adjustments are needed mid-term. Most companies work on annual contracts but include a 30-day cancellations clause.   Equally important are the start-up fees.  Who pays for professional photography?  Does the company provide electronic locks for easy guest access? 

3.  How can I manage my own stays?

 For owners who wish to utilize their property personally, inquire about booking procedures. An online portal for scheduling stays ensures convenience but may pose challenges during peak seasons. Since you own the property, you can visit whenever you want, but it can be tricky if it is already booked and you want to visit (especially during peak periods).  Additionally, understand the owner cleaning fee if the management company oversees cleaning duties.

4.  What are the minimum stocking requirements for my property?

Ensure your property meets guest expectations by complying with the management company's standards. Beyond a well-equipped kitchen, inquire about essential amenities like hairdryers, irons, and toiletries.  The property management company should be able to provide a list of required items.

5.  What liability insurance is necessary?

Rental properties require appropriate insurance coverage to mitigate risks. Understand the specific requirements of the management company regarding liability insurance to safeguard your investment effectively.  You basic homeowners policy is not enough as special policies are required when the property is used as a rental.

6.  What is your maintenance policy?

 Clarify the company's approach to maintenance, including their definition of normal wear and tear. Understanding their policy alleviates concerns about unexpected expenses and ensures timely property upkeep. Some will have policies that if it’s less than a certain amount, the company can repair it without seeking your permission. The goal in hiring a property management company is to reduce your stress and worry about the property, so the maintenance policy is important.

7.  How do you tap into the VRBO and Airbnb market?

 In today's vacation rental landscape, platforms like VRBO and Airbnb are invaluable. Ensure the management company has strategies to maximize visibility on these platforms, potentially expanding your rental opportunities.

8.  Are you a local, regional, or national operation?

Consider the advantages and drawbacks of the company's scale. While larger entities may offer extensive marketing reach, local firms often provide personalized service and on-the-ground expertise. Regardless of size, ensure they have a local presence for effective management. 

9.  What is the portfolio of your other properties?

 Assessing the company's portfolio provides insights into their expertise and clientele. Whether catering to luxury rentals or diverse accommodations, understanding their offerings helps align expectations.  Also helpful if the company manages other properties in your complex or neighborhood. This generally means quicker cleaning and options is guests need to be moved to another property.

10.  Are you available 24/7?

Emergencies can arise at any time, necessitating prompt resolution. Confirm that the management company offers round-the-clock support to address unforeseen issues promptly, allowing you to enjoy a hassle-free ownership experience. The Town of Mammoth Lakes requires a local 24/7 contact – do they have local “feet on the ground?”

There could be more questions to ask based on your specific needs.  Your REALTOR® should be able to provide a list of property management companies with a good reputation and experience in your specific complex/area.

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