First of all let me make it clear that there are other significant causes of apartment investment failures such as making a bad deal, investing in a declining market area, having too much debt, and incurring lawsuits, but the number one cause is, by far, poor property management. Now this goes for apartments being managed by its owners or by professional management companies.
Here are four of seven of the most common mistakes that poor property managers make. I will include the other three next week. Here’s some good advice to being successful in the apartment business: don’t make these same mistakes!
Mistake #1: Have none or very little property management skills. You can see here I used the word “skills” and not “experience”. I know a few property managers who have years of experience but lack the skills to manage their property most profitably. The skills I am referring to can be obtained through supervised training and education. Poor skills lead to poor choices which lead to poor results. And failure is the inevitable outcome.
Mistake#2: Lack of market knowledge. Not knowing levels of rents for the area and vacancy rates will guarantee subpar results for your apartment investment. Not having an aggressive marketing plan or not targeting your ideal tenant profile is a very common mistake. You can’t just hang a sign outside and expect to have your 50-unit apartment building at 100% occupancy with a waiting list – it’s not going to happen. Know your market and its demographics like the back of your hand.
Mistake #3: Not watching the flow of money like a hawk. Human nature says to the property manager, “money is available and I can surely spend it, so I will”. Poor cash control is a property killer. It’s like giving your ten year-old his college education savings in advance and asking him to make sure he takes care of it. Human nature will take over and he will look for opportunities to spend it unwisely and/or foolishly. Know the cash position of the property on at least a weekly basis. Make an effort to understand monthly financial reports of the property. How can you make sound business decisions concerning the direction of the property if you don’t know how much money is in the bank or is due to come in?
Mistake #4: Now knowing the ins and outs of the property, literally. If you don’t know the strengths and weaknesses of your property, how do you then go against your competition? You should easily know the rents and square footage's of your one and two bedrooms, what makes them appealing, what amenities (pools, laundry, club house, internet, etc.) are on the premises, highlights of the surrounding area, and so on. You should also have a grasp of the property’s incoming rent amounts on a monthly basis and a deeper grasp of its operating expenses. The more you know, the better the decisions that can be made.