What should you pay for your property management?

There is an age old saying that “you get what you pay for”, meaning that if something seems too cheap for all the elements you should get in return, it probably is. This applies with property management. Managing agents, like any other business, have costs to cover to recruit and train the best staff; to purchase technology for communication with contractors and clients; for premises and materials; and to ensure they’re abiding by all of the necessary rules and regulations. Scrimp on these and you, as a client, could live to regret it.

That being said, there is no set fee for property management as the cost to manage a development depends on the facilities and features within it; the number of apartments; the level of maintenance and support required; and location. What is key however is that you, as the client, understand how much you are paying for your building management services and have full transparency from start to finish.

What are you paying for?

Typically, your service charge will cover the cost of general maintenance and repairs as well as improvement to the building and the grounds. This includes cleaning, gardening, guttering, painting, roof works and more. The service charge may also cover buildings insurance, electricity, and heating of the communal area. If the property requires security or porters, these would be covered under the service charge too.

For full details of our charges and to discuss how we might cost for your development, please contact us here.

The sinking fund

Your managing agent will also look to accrue a sinking fund or reserve to cover larger pieces of repair or maintenance work required for the development. This is important as it means large and essential repair work can happen quickly without the leaseholders needing to find thousands of pounds at short notice.

This element can often be the reason why so many leaseholders feel their managing agent appears too costly – the service charge is going up and they are not seeing a return.  However, if your managing agent is being transparent with you, and displaying this sinking fund and all expenditure on quarterly or half yearly statements then it should be clear where every penny is going and what exactly has been spent vs what is left over.

The service you do not see

The other element that your money is spent on – and this is perhaps one of the biggest reasons not to “go cheap” – is communication. You need a managing agent who is available 24/7 – not just during typical office hours as that is when you are at work. And if you need to contact them because something is wrong, an automated message will not do. You need a quick response from a human being who you can trust will deal with the situation effectively and quickly.

But it is not just about flagging issues, it is also about having someone available to attend board meetings, make site visits and not be overwhelmed by the other properties they must manage. They need to be able to dedicate their time and headspace to ensuring your property is getting the care and attention to thrive now and long in the future.

If you are reading this because you are looking for a new managing agent, cost will undoubtedly be one of your biggest factors in making your decision. If you can take anything away from this article, it is that you are not looking for the lowest figure; you are looking for the best price for what you will get in return.

Be aware that many managing agents will provide you with a cost that looks reasonable but strips out a lot of their services, that they will simply add back on further down the line. This means that elements that come as part of the package for some managing agents such as sourcing supplier quotes or making site visits, will be charged as an extra by another. This could make them a far more expensive option in the long run.

How can you tell a “good price”?

When considering several managing agents, ask them what is covered in the price i.e.  do they take commission on supplier services, what could possibly be charged on top of the price they’ve quoted you, how much communication and face-to-face time have they allowed for in that price and if more is required, will they absorb that in the price or charge more? It is also worthwhile asking if you can see an annual statement from another client to get a sense of possible extras.

The more information they can provide in response to these questions, the more likely they are speaking from experience rather than blagging to get your business. What you do not want is for an agency to take your business by overpromising only to fail to keep up on their promises further down the line and presenting you with hefty price increases. How can you forecast the cost of keeping your property if you do not have transparency from the beginning?

Finally, experience.

Another element you are paying for is experience.  New kids on the block will be basing predicted costs for your property on guesswork and quotes they have hastily gathered from untested suppliers. Experienced managing agents on the other hand are highly likely to have managed properties that match your development both in size and complexity and will be able to predict the required sinking fund with impressive accuracy.

Experience on the face of it costs more but if you choose a partner who does not know what they are doing, poor decisions may mean new work will have to be redone at vast expense a year later. Not only that, but experienced managing agents will have established relationships with the best contractors which means you receive the highest standard of work and at “mates rates” prices because it’s likely they have a contract in place to deliver on a number of properties; not just your development.

With 15 years of experience serving properties across the UK, we are immensely proud of the value we bring our clients and would love the opportunity to show you what high quality property management is. After all, we are the managing agent you’ll stick with.

How the lockdown is changing us for the better

The pandemic has widened the divides between rich and poor, white collar and blue collar workers, rural dwellers and urban ones, and more. It has also introduced new disparities; one of which being wealth of time. Those now fulfilling their full time roles at home but with kids in tow to teach are facing 20 hour days to get everything done; while approximately 2.2 million employed people now on furlough have an abundance of free time on their hands to garden, take up yoga or bake banana bread if they wish.

For us here at Town & City Management Ltd, it’s still very much business as usual and every one of us is keeping busy each day serving clients, even if it’s done from the comfort of our own homes. We have found, however, that the lockdown and the way we responded to it has given us back several hours each and every day. Thanks to modern technology, we’re able to meet with clients and residents virtually, saving us significant travel time. What’s more, the trusted suppliers still operating on each of our sites to fulfil essential maintenance and repair services during lockdown have also been able to carry out site checks on our behalf, giving us peace of mind that everything is as it should be.

What have we done with this new time we’ve gained? Well, we’ve been fortunate enough to be able to reinvest it back into ourselves. From taking up new sporting pursuits to maintain a positive attitude and a sharp mind for work, to gaining new qualifications or doing online training, we’ve been making the most of this time. Here’s what we’ve been doing.

 

Increasing our knowledge and expertise

If you follow our LinkedIn page, you’ll have seen a few weeks ago that one of our apprentices, Lewis Poole, completed his AAT Advanced Diploma in Accounting with a Merit. But he’s not the only member of the TCML team taking on new qualifications.

Matthew Harris, one of our Regional Property Managers, has been continuing with his business administration course studies throughout lockdown and is also poised to start another one – a new Build to Rent course provided by the IRPM – very soon.

David Holland, another TCML Property Manager, has completed his CIH and IRPM qualifications since we have been in lockdown and to his delight and ours, passed them with distinction. After working towards these for 18 months, it is an incredible achievement. But he’s not stopping there: he’s already signed up for CIH Level 4.

Not only that, but both he and Matthew have also been taking full advantage of the weekly updates and webinars provided by ARMA, the IRPM and surveyor firms such as Earl Kendrick and FlixFlow, among others. Commenting on the training, David said, “It has really increased my knowledge and the perfect time to get crucial information from industry experts. I am very lucky to work for an employer who has such a heavy focus on training and personal development.”

 

Finding more efficient ways of working for the long term

It would be hard to find someone who hasn’t done a Zoom video call over the last six weeks. And with residents meetings, team catch ups, quiz nights and even a video call with an elderly grandparent, the TCML team have become experts in the software.

It seems to be the general consensus that this technology will greatly improve how the majority of businesses operate, increasing levels of productivity significantly. With the team having spent considerable periods of time travelling to resident meetings and then evenings driving back down the motorway afterwards pre-lockdown, it may be that there will be an increase in the use of video calls for TCML on a permanent basis.

Getting to grips with virtual meetings may have involved a steep learning curve for property manager Gemma Woodford, but she’s now really enjoying them. She said, “I hope future meetings can be set up in this manner to make it easier for those leaseholders who can’t always attend meetings.”

Another effect of the lockdown has been a decrease in the volume of emails received by team members, giving us more time to plan, organise, catch up on non-urgent items and increase client care.

 

Keeping fit

For Sarah Jones, one of our property managers and a keen swimmer, the lockdown prevented her from keeping fit in the way she wanted and she was forced to find an alternative form of exercise quickly. Used to training up to five times a week in the pool, Sarah knew that a significant drop in physical activity would affect her wellbeing and focus at work. “Swimming in the morning certainly helped to set me up for the day, and was around an hour of each day of just ‘me time’, where I got the opportunity to think of nothing else but the next competition that I was training for and the water around me.  Fortunately, in the run up to the lockdown, one of our Contractors loaned me a road bike to train for  a Triathlon and I  have been alternating cycling with running on a daily basis to manage stress, keep focused, fit and  sane,” she told us.

David Holland is also quite an athlete and was due to run the London Marathon last month. He has found the ability to continue to run and get fresh air during the lockdown invaluable. He said, “I hope it will motivate others to keep up their fitness once this is all over.  It takes something as simple as a short walk to make a difference to one’s mental health.”

 

On the job compassion practice

We’ve always put our clients first but with the lockdown dramatically affecting people’s behaviour, patience and mental health, a recent webinar on how to manage clients in times of stress has been really helpful. Sarah Jones explained, “it was explained to us that many people will be going through the five stages of grief and looking back at it now, many of our Lessees have followed this cycle. It has certainly been hard at times to try and deal with your own ups and downs in relation to Covid-19, whilst also trying to appease and placate others and we’ve acquired a great deal of knowledge and experience in handling these situations both effectively and empathetically.” 

The role of a property manager encompasses many different professions, part surveyor, part lawyer, accountant and mediator and we’re gaining a lot of experience in all of them during lockdown.

What new skills or habits are you forming during lockdown?

Caring for your property during the Covid-19 pandemic

In our last blog post, we shared with you the actions we’re taking to ensure all of our clients’ properties continue to receive our care at this difficult time. But there’s plenty that you can do too, whether you live in the property or are letting it out to others.

Every day the UK gets one step closer to conquering this virus and when normal life resumes, we want to ensure that your property is in the best possible condition. Here’s how you can help us to do that.

Maintain good neighbourly relations and support others

While it’s vital that everyone follows the Government’s instructions on social distancing and staying at home, there are many ways that we are all still in contact with friends and family, through the phone, video conferencing and chat tools.

If you can extend this form of contact to neighbours, please do so. Connecting with neighbours or other residents/owners on your development is beneficial both in the short term and the long.

Supporting with grocery visits, identifying who might need extra help, or understanding if there are property issues common to a number of households is incredibly valuable. You could even find it a boost to your mental health to see some familiar faces on the weekly Clap for our Carers.

A WhatsApp group for all residents to check in on each other is a great way to get things started and could make life a little easier for everyone.

Ensure an open channel of communication between every resident and us

We remain open as usual at this time offering as many of our services as is safe to do so (see here for the latest update). However, as we are unable to make site visits as frequently as usual, we are more reliant on residents to report any issues or needs. If you let out your property, please ensure that we have contact details for your tenant so we can contact them and offer our assistance.  The sooner we can be made aware of an issue the more quickly we can resolve it, ensuring a speedier and potentially cheaper resolution. It also means we can coordinate the visits of our contractors to ensure their visits are as safe and as brief as possible.

We are also keeping a log of self-isolation cases and would appreciate you or your resident alerting us if symptoms arise.

In addition to this, by being in touch with all residents we are well placed to share information gathered by other residents which may be beneficial to the development as a whole such as local restaurants offering takeaways, supermarket deliveries or other valuable insight.

Support your local community

A property’s value is somewhat dependent on its location and an abundance of successful independent businesses in the local area can be a big plus. The pandemic will unfortunately force the closure of many small businesses which is why we must all do what we can to support local businesses (safely) during this time to ensure they survive.

As mentioned above, we’re happy to share details of local businesses offering help and services during the pandemic.

DIY with care (and think before you act) 

Bank holidays are a popular time to do some home improvement and with more time indoors than we’re used to, you might be tempted to go to extremes. Our advice is to plan any home improvements carefully and know your creative and DIY limits. You do not want to exacerbate an issue or start a job only to find that the tool shop is shut. 

What a lot of rubbish

The refuse collection services may be continuing but with clear outs in full swing across the country and all Waste & Recycling Centres closed, you may have more rubbish or unusual items to get rid of. Please be considerate of others when disposing of your rubbish in communal areas, ensuring they’re double bagged and exits are not blocked.  Please tell your tenants to do this if you’re not a resident of your property.

Work together within COVID-19 Government Guidelines

The Government may be calling them Guidelines but they are being enforced by police nationwide so they must be taken seriously. Be considerate and only leave your household for essential outings, respect social distancing with members of the public, including other residents in your building.

Stay at home, support the NHS and save lives.  Thank you from all of us at Town & City.