TO HIRE AN APARTMENT MANAGER
© Copyright 2000-2011 Landlord.com
By Bob Cain
2000 Cain Publications, Inc.,
used by permission
On the wall in the
conference room at American Property Management in Portland is a quotation
from Lee Iacocca, "We have one ambition, to be the best. What
else is there?"
Gary Miller, CPM, is American
Property Management's Vice President of Residential Property. He
supervises some 3,000 units and 40 managers. As you will see in the
interview, American Property Management and Gary Miller have worked out a
system that goes a long way toward ensuring they are the best. Their
system for hiring apartment managers and tenant relations is designed to
build their business through professionalism.
If you are about to hire, or already
use an onsite manager, think about how you can use the system that
American Property Management uses to help you get more profit-making work
out of your managers.
Rental Property Reporter: How do you go
about hiring a manager?
Gary Miller: I give people as
much information as I can in the ad I run in the paper, so they don't
waste their time and I don't waste my time, by having people come in who
are looking for another area, or another compensation level. Then we
ask people to either apply in person or send a resume.
So the next step is to go through the
resumes and cover letters to determine which applicants to call in.
And it's interesting what type of things will be red flags. I got a
resume yesterday that was torn, all the way through, and scotch taped.
And it had been copied, it looked like about a thousand times.
Once I have the resumes, I make stacks, and
I'll say "good, bad and ugly," "one, two,
three," or "positive and negative." Then I start
categorizing the people. If I see someone who can't spell, the
assumption is that they're not detail oriented, and they're not precise in
what they do. Especially in a cover letter. Or if they have
poor grammar, it's just an indication that maybe this person isn't the
best qualified applicant.
We don't require people to have
previous experience. In fact, a lot of times I prefer that people
don't have previous experience, because they don't come to us with any
preconceived ideas as to how apartments should be managed.
All of our apartment managers have to
go in for a pre-employment drug test. And they all have to go
through a criminal background check. Those are two good checks that
employers should do for on-site managers. The other option is a
bond. But in our case they're not handling money, so it's not
something we even worry about.
Rental Property Reporter: What
are your managers' duties?
Gary Miller: Our managers' job
title is Rental Representative.
Rental Property Reporter: So they
meet the public.
Gary Miller: Right. They do
not perform any maintenance. Period. They do not collect any
rent. Period. They do not do any bookkeeping. They do
not do any banking or taking money to the bank and making deposits.
And those are probably 60% of other on-site managers' jobs. So, when
we look for people, we don't necessarily look for people who have good
maintenance skills, or bookkeeping skills. That's important to a lot
of other property managers, because they need someone to do that.
But in our case, all the rents are mailed here to this office. They
don't have to do any maintenance, they just report the items that have to
Rental Property Reporter: So then
it becomes extremely important that they are presentable and have a
professional image. That people say "this looks like it's a
really well-run place."
Gary Miller: When people come in for
the interview, the biggest factor in their ability to get the job is their
communication skills. Is their ability to talk, to communicate, and
how they come across. You can pretty much pick just by having a
conversation with someone how they're going to relate to the people.
Rental Property Reporter: Pretty
much what they're supposed to do is good public relations.
Gary Miller: They keep the common
areas clean. And they report. They do checklists and report
problems to our service department. They put out fires, like all
other apartment managers do, they clean out the recycling bins, and tag
cars and respond to complaints and all those other traditional things.
Rental Property Reporter: How
long do you expect to keep a manager when you hire them?
Gary Miller: I'd say about three
years. We have managers who have been with us close to 20. We
have pretty good longevity with managers. I'd say at least half of
them have been here over five years.
Rental Property Reporter: Do you
think that's fairly standard in the industry? About three, or are
they in and out?
Gary Miller: No, because of
burnout. Owners want a lot of duties not paid for on an hourly
wage. A lot of times the job description includes things like
landscaping, painting, cleaning, maintenance, bookkeeping. So here's a
manager who's got a fixed salary, and they've got all these things to do.
I find that people get burned out, a lot of times by an owner or manager
who may be trying to have them do too much. Have this manager run
the whole show, pay the bills, hire the vendors, go to court, the whole
nine yards. There should be an employment agreement that outlines
all of the job responsibilities, outlines what the compensation is, and
the agreement should be signed by both parties.
We do all the evictions from this
office and go to court.
Rental Property Reporter: Do you send
managers to special training?
Gary Miller: We do send them to
the Landlord Training Program.
Rental Property Reporter: The one
run by the Police Department?
Gary Miller: Yes. And
then all of our new managers have a fairly extensive in-house training
program that they go through. We have guest speakers who come to a
meeting every two months, and will speak on topics such as recycling,
marketing and sales, and things like that. We have a gentleman
who goes out and tours the properties with them and shows them where all
the emergency shutoffs are, how to turn in work orders, how to do
checklists. Another man spends several hours with them, showing them
how to screen applicants, and fill out the forms.
Part of our compensation consists of a
bonus for collection of rent, a bonus for low vacancy. The bonuses
are an outstanding motivation and it should be part of any compensation
package. I mean our managers are all motivated to rent apartments,
because they get paid for it. That incentive is a critical part of
the whole deal.
Rental Property Reporter: With a
bonus are the managers careful who they rent to?
Gary Miller: They don't approve
the applications. All the rental agreements are brought to this
office. There's a verification form that's filled out, and the
manager has to call and verify all the information and make a
recommendation about whether the application is approved or rejected.
Then we run credit checks, look everything over, and make sure that
everyone is following our guidelines. And we may then require a
last-month's rent, a higher security deposit, or we might just approve it
or reject it.
We rent on a first-come, first-served
basis. We don't take applications. We take an application,
process it, and go to the next person.
Rental Property Reporter: What
would be your ideal manager?
Gary Miller: The people that seem
to work out best in our structure, are the people who would also excel in
a sales or a customer service position. It's actually a combination
of someone who is highly motivated, highly detail oriented, also is good
at customer service.
We're in a
service business. So many landlords treat their tenants like they're
a pain, like they're stupid tenants. But, you know, it's a business
relationship, and, they're not your friends, they're not the people you
associate with, but they're your customers. Just like any other
business. You want to make sure that they're happy, that you are providing
the service that they bargained for. They're the reason we're here.
Robert Cain is a
nationally-recognized speaker and writer on property management and real
estate issues. For a free sample copy of the Rental Property Reporter call
800-654-5456 or visit their web site at
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