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Do You Need Lease Only or Full Service Property Management?

The answer to that question is entirely dependent on you: your personality, your skills, your inclinations, your likes, your dislikes, and your time availability. While nobody can answer that question for you, here are some things to think about as you consider the right choice for you:

  1. What is your desired outcome, your big-picture goal?
  2. Are you an introvert, or an extrovert?
  3. Do you handle confrontation well?
  4. Are you a push-over, likely to be taken advantage of, or do you have an iron will?
  5. Are you meticulous and detail oriented, or do you take more of a relaxed approach to scheduling, follow-up, accounting, etc.?
  6. Are you fully versed in ALL fair housing laws and regulations (federal, state, and local)?
  7. If not, do you know how to handle yourself and win in court?
  8. Are you a “handy” person — good with a hammer and a plunger — or would you rather leave such things to others?
  9. Do you have an active family and social life, or do you have nothing but time on your hands?
  10. Is your life more valuable to you than your money, or do you value your money over your time?

There is a lot for you to consider. Sometimes landlords contact me regarding full-service property management services, and it turns out that lease-only services would suit them just fine. For others, it’s the opposite — their lifestyle and inclinations make it evident that full-service property management is the way they should go. Some property managers try to place every rental owner they meet into a one-size-fits-all box; I feel that a tiered service model is a better approach that leads to happier clients in the long-run.

What Exactly Is “Full Service” Property Management?

Full-service property management means that the entire leasing and day-to-day management of the rental are handled by a professional property manager, with the landlord having no interaction with the tenants or direct hands-on role regarding the property. This is ideal for the person who lives greater than a 45-minute drive from their property, or for the local owner who either simply has too much going on in their life to be on-call 24/7/365, or for those who have the time, but not the inclination to deal with advertising, screening, leasing, bookkeeping, collections, compliance, maintenance, and inspection issues.

As an owner who opts for full-service property management, you have two monthly responsibilities:

  1. Check your bank account to be sure that your property manager has directly deposited your funds.
  2. Check your monthly financial report (provided by your property manager) for details on all income and expenditures.

That’s it. A good property manager isn’t going to call you to tell you that they plunged the toilet. They will get it done, pay the bill, and report it to you on your statement. The expectation is that the reporting will be detailed and self-explanatory — you are always free to reach out with any questions. Other than your monthly financial updates and reports, the best property managers will leave you alone to live your life and will minimize contact unless something severe has occurred, which should rarely happen, if ever.

Lease Only Services

As the name implies, Lease-only or Leasing-only services means that a professional property management company handles every aspect of the leasing process — from initial advertising to final move-in walk-thru — and then turns the property over to the owner for day-to-day management, maintenance, collections, and eventual move-out. Services typically provided in a lease only scenario include:

  1. Preparation of all photos, videos, and advertising.
  2. Showing coordination.
  3. Tenant screening and background checks.
  4. Lease preparation and signing services.
  5. Security deposit collection and clearing.
  6. Move-in inspection.
  7. Tenant orientation walk-thru at move-in.
  8. Turnover of keys.
  9. Collection of first-month rent.

The typical scenario for our lease-only clients starts with them living reasonably close to their property, and they’re usually retired or semi-retired, handy with tools and like fixing things, and often, but not always, have personal experience self-managing.

If Not Full-Service, Why Not Do It All Yourself, Including Leasing?

That’s a logical question. For one reason, or another, the fact is that many self-managing landlords prefer to have a professional do the leasing for them. I can personally attest to this because many of them are our clients.

The bottom line is that a lot goes into the leasing process and you are forced to deal with a wide variety of personality types and temperaments — many landlords would rather have a professional third party handle the initial interactions and showings with prospective tenants. One thing many landlords fail to consider is that the leasing process is the most critical part of the tenancy life-cycle, in that it sets the tone for the tenancy into the future — having a professional handle the entire leasing process up front sets a professional tone that carries forward into the entire tenancy.

Many would-be tenants intentionally shy away from professional leasing agents, because they feel they can “get away with more” when dealing directly with property owners. Hiring a professional leasing agent can be your best filter against bad tenants, by turning potential bad actors away before they ever get into your property.  Again, only you can decide if leasing is something that you are willing and able to handle effectively.

Also, remember that the leasing company’s fee includes all advertising costs. They advertise rentals for a living, and they don’t get paid until they place a tenant, so you can be sure that your property will be publicized widely and on the very best sites for attracting good tenants.

Another consideration is your time. Do you want to be on call for showings and are you flexible enough to drop what you are doing to show your rental? Many rental owners don’t mind the slower pace (hopefully) of monthly management but prefer to leave the more frenetic pace of leasing to the pros. And of course, the security issue of having to meet with strangers must be considered.

In Conclusion

Residential rental owners have three options concerning property management and leasing: Self-Management (including leasing), Full-Service Property Management, or Lease Only Services. Deciding on which services are right for you is a simple matter of honestly evaluating your skills, inclinations, and available time.

About The Author

John Michailidis, JD, is the broker/owner of Real Property Management of Sarasota & Manatee, a Sarasota, FL based residential property management company providing both Full-service and Lease-Only services to local area landlords.  If you own residential investment real estate anywhere in Manatee or Sarasota counties, do feel free to reach out to our team at 941-216-0005, or through our website.

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