Who do you trust to take care of your rental property?
Owning a single investment property will require routine maintenance and ongoing repairs. Owning an entire portfolio of rental properties means you’ll have vendors and contractors coming and going all the time.
Smart investors partner with the best professionals in the business.
When you work with qualified vendors, you can count on high-quality work, reliable end results, and affordable prices.
As professional property managers in South Jersey, we have some mutually beneficial relationships in place with an outstanding team of plumbers, electricians, HVAC technicians, landscapers, and other vendors. We give them plenty of work and they reward us for that loyalty with some of the lowest prices they can offer.
For the owners who work with us, that means less expensive maintenance and a well-maintained asset.
Landlords and self-managing rental property owners are often asking us about how to find good vendors. This isn’t always easy. Skilled and licensed workers are in high demand and they have more than enough work to keep them busy. Prices are going up on everything from materials to labor, so you want to find someone who can do good work without overcharging you.
To protect your property, keep your tenants happy, and make sure that all of your necessary repairs get made right away, you need to put together a list of preferred vendors and contractors. You need to negotiate competitive rates and you need to know you can rely on them if there’s an emergency or an unexpected complication at your property.
So, how do you find them?
Let’s talk through this question.
Benefits of Creating Vendor Relationships
Imagine your tenant calls just before midnight on a Saturday to report that a pipe has burst and there’s a major leak coming from behind a wall, and there’s an inch of standing water in the kitchen.
This is an emergency and you’ll need to respond to the problem right away.
Who will you call?
You’ll need a plumber, and you’ll also need a water remediation company to clean up and dry out the kitchen.
The first and most urgent order of business will be to shut off the water source and stop the leak. You don’t want further water damage to be caused.
If you don’t have a reliable plumber who knows you and knows your property, it may be difficult to find someone after hours who can respond to that sort of call.
You want to have those relationships in place before you need them. Don’t scroll through your phone looking for a random plumber to call when the house is already soaked and your tenants are packing up to leave. It’s better to call the plumber you already know. Having a team of go-to vendors in place will make these emergencies much easier to handle.
Establishing relationships begins with communication. Reach out to different professionals. Sign on for preventative services and annual preventative inspections. Communicate frequently and always pay their invoices on time. They’ll be there for you when you need help.
Selecting Vendors for Your South Jersey Rental Property
What makes a great vendor and what should you be looking for when you hire a plumber, a landscaper, a cleaner, a roofer, or someone else to provide these services at your property?
There’s a lot to consider when you’re measuring one company against the other. As property managers, here are the six things that we believe are non-negotiables when it comes to working with third-party vendors and contractors.
Vendors Should Be Licensed
Any of your heavy maintenance work that requires an area of specialization and expertise will require a licensed professional. No, you do not need a handyman who is fixing the jammed garbage disposal to have a license. No, you don’t need your cleaning crew to be licensed. But, when it comes to calling a plumber or an electrician or a company to manage a sewer line, you want to make sure the adequate training and education has been achieved.
Licensed vendors are safer for your property. They’re safer for your tenants. It’s easier to hold them accountable when they’ve qualified for a license that they presumably want to renew in the future.
Ask to see a copy of their license before you hire someone to work at your property. This should be an important criteria when you care about the condition of your investment and the safety of your tenants.
Vendors Should Be Insured
Perhaps even more important than licensure is insurance.
Accidents happen and they might happen at your property when one of your vendors is completing some work. This is why it’s so important to work with vendors who are fully insured. This will protect you and your property if there’s an accident or an injury. You won’t be liable for the costs that may be associated with whatever happens.
Imagine a vendor falling off a ladder and needing back surgery. Or an electrician who shocks himself to the point of missing work for a few weeks. You could be held responsible for the costs of medical bills and/or lost wages if there isn’t already insurance in place for the worker who is injured.
Ask for proof of worker’s compensation insurance before you agree to work with any vendor or contractor.
Vendors Must Be Available and Responsive
A good vendor is available and willing to do the work you need. Look for a team of professional partners who are willing to fit you into even a busy schedule.
This is where signing up for regular services can help you establish loyalty with a vendor network. You’ll need landscapers to visit the property every week or every two weeks in the summer, for example. Snow removal contracts will depend on your vendor being willing to plow, shovel, and treat surfaces every time there’s snow.
Plumbers and HVAC techs may be needed on an emergency basis, and you need to know they’ll be willing to respond when there’s a leak or a furnace breaks down on one of the coldest nights of the winter.
Vendors Need Good Communication Skills
Keeping in touch with your vendors and contractors while work is being performed will help you understand what’s happening, whether everything is going according to plan, and if there’s an adjustment that needs to be made in your approach to whatever problem is being addressed.
The best vendors are responsive. They’re available to their clients, and they’re willing to help you understand the repair process and the expected outcomes.
You’ll need to trust that your vendors are communicating well and with your tenants.
It’s easier than ever to research a company’s reputation. Go online and read reviews. Are people happy with their work or are there a long list of complaints and one-star reviews?
Check out their social media profiles before you hire a vendor. Take a look at their website. Are there testimonials? Raving reviews?
Because we work in the property management industry, we’re in a lot of networks that include contractors, brokers, real estate agents, lenders, and other service providers. We ask around before we start working with any new vendor.
You should do the same. Even if you’re managing on your own, you can reach out to a property management company in the South Jersey area and ask for some vendor referrals.
Reputation matters. It tells you what you can expect from the contractor or vendor you’re hiring.
Price Points Must Align With Your Budget
Maintenance and repair costs have always been part of your budget as a real estate investor. You know you have to prepare for preventative, routine, and emergency maintenance issues.
Lately, however, those prices have climbed to levels that you may not have anticipated.
Talk about pricing when you’re considering a new vendor partnership or contract. You have to know what kind of budget you’ll need to set for general projects, unexpected problems, and long-term, ongoing preventative care.
When you have a good relationship in place with a vendor, you can expect the best and most competitive pricing. Look for discounts, which may come when you agree to an ongoing service contract.
Always expect to spend more on maintenance than you had planned. Unless you’re working with a property manager, containing those costs can be impossible.
Where to Look for Vendors and Contractors?
We understand the importance of vendor relationships.
We know what to look for in a good vendor or contractor.
Where can you find these professionals?
You’ll see a lot of advertising. You’ll likely run into marketing online, in print, and even on billboards and benches. Most of these service providers drive around town in branded vehicles, letting you know who they are and what they do.
But, you don’t want to hire an HVAC contractor because their van happened to pass you at an intersection.
When you begin looking for vendors and contractors with whom to partner for your rental properties, you need to know they’re reliable, experienced, and willing to stand behind their work. You need to talk to people who have worked with them.
Hiring the right vendors is important. It contributes to the success of your investment property.
When you’re looking for vendors and contractors, start with referrals.
Word of Mouth Marketing
Whether you’re hiring a plumber or a landscaper, ask around for who people you trust have used and loved in the past. Hit up everyone in your network; fellow investors, colleagues, your neighbors, and the people you hang out with socially. Listen to their stories about the fantastic work that was done or the miserable experience they had with particular vendors.
It’s easy for companies to market and advertise themselves.
It’s very difficult, however, for them to create a great word of mouth campaign if their work isn’t stellar.
You can trust what you hear from people who have already worked with vendors and contractors.
According to the Nielsen Global Survey, 83% of 30,000 survey respondents claimed they trust the recommendations of friends and family.
Personal referrals and word of mouth connections are often the most credible source of advertising. The information you gather is coming from people you know and trust. These aren’t just fellow consumers, these are people you interact with every day.
Read Online Reviews
Once you get some referrals from your own personal and professional networks, follow up with your own online search. Read those reviews.
According to the Nielsen Global Survey, 66% of 30,000 survey respondents said they trust online reviews.
It doesn’t matter if those online reviews are good or bad. You trust them because they’re based on real experiences, not flashy marketing or well-planned advertisements.
The Power of Property Management Vendor Relationships
You can do your research. You can read those online reviews. You can talk to people and look for ideas about who to hire when you need work done at your rental property.
The best resource, however, is your local South Jersey property management company.
We work with more vendors and contractors than anyone else.
They’re part of our everyday lives. We send them to single-family homes and multi-family buildings. We ask them questions and we listen to their advice. We review their invoices and we pay their fees.
Property managers are well-connected when it comes to vendors and contractors.
Why not leverage this resource when you need your own vendors?
You can do this in one of two ways:
You Can Ask for Help
Can’t find a plumber to fix a leak?
Or an electrician to rewire an aging home? Frustrated with the cost of pest control, landscaping, and cleaning during your turnovers?
You can ask for help from a property manager. Most management companies will happily give you referrals. They’ll talk with you about what you need and what type of property you own and what your budget and scope of work are.
You’ll likely come away with a list of potential vendors, and a name you can drop when the vendor asks where you heard about them.
You Can Hire Help
You can ask a property manager for a referral. Or, you can work with a property manager and forget having to hire vendors and contractors altogether.
Many landlords and rental property owners quickly turn to the experience, tools, resources, and networks of property management companies because trying to find affordable vendors in this economic climate is frustrating and difficult.
Instead of asking for a referral, maybe ask about how a property manager handles maintenance. You might find that you have a better investment experience when your property is professionally managed.
Putting Together a Preferred Vendor List
Don’t think small.
When you’re looking for a plumber to help you fix a leak, you shouldn’t be thinking about that leak only.
There will be others.
So, you’re not looking for a quick fix. You’re looking for a relationship with a vendor you can trust and respect.
You’re putting together a preferred vendor list every time you ask someone to respond to a repair need at your rental home.
- Because preferred vendors improve efficiency and provide a high quality of work.
- Partnering with a consistent team of preferred vendors and contractors allows them to become familiar with your rental properties.
- You won’t have to wait as long for return phone calls, appointments, and emergency responses.
With a preferred network, you can expect improved quality and efficiency. That’s going to result in less stress and lower costs. You’ll have happier tenants, too, which means your retention rates will be stronger.
But wait, there’s more:
Preferred Vendors May Offer Discounted Rates!
Perhaps the best benefit of a preferred vendor list is that you can expect their best rates.
We’ve all noticed the rising maintenance costs. Protect your ROI by locking in some preferred rates with your vendors. They may be willing to offer discounts, especially if you sign up for a preventative maintenance and inspection plan or a similar service.
**Here’s What You Should Do Now**
This discussion about where and how to find vendors has likely reinforced a lot of information you already knew. No one sets out to hire workers who don’t deliver the best services. No one intends to pay more than they need to for maintenance.
But, if you’re not working with these professionals on a daily basis, it can be difficult to know who you’re working with and what you should be looking for when you hire someone.
Some quick action items to help you with your vendor search:
- Make sure they’re licensed and insured
- Check out online reputation and reviews
- Ask trusted people for referrals
- Set up a preferred list of vendors with whom you have a relationship
- Consider working with a property manager, who can keep your costs down and put you in touch with the best local workers.
Ready to talk about your own maintenance plans and vendor issues? Contact us at Realty Solutions.