July 12, 2019
I work with a lot of people buying second homes or vacation homes in Mammoth Lakes. The question I get most often is “how do I find a good property management company?”
Whether you’re looking for someone to keep an eye on your home when you’re away or planning to rent your property to vacationers, finding a trustworthy and reputable property manager is a must. I always recommend setting up a meeting with potential property managers and asking these questions.
Figuring out which property management company is “worth it” is a complicated process since they all do things a bit differently. Some will advertise a low fee but may “nickel and dime you” as things come up, so it can add up and be more expensive than a company with a higher fee up front. A company with a higher fee may include marketing, maintenance work, cleaning, and more. Be sure to ask what other charges you’ll face as an owner. Most property management companies will have pricing documentation you can read through to learn more.
Your situation might change over time, so it’s good to know how long you’re locked in for. You might decide you want to manage the property yourself if you live in Mammoth Lakes, or you might want to move to a different company. Most property management companies work on annual contracts but include 30-day cancellation clauses. Be sure to ask about their cancellation policy if you need to leave the company before your contract is up.
Many property management companies in Mammoth Lakes will have some sort of online portal you can log into to book your own stay. This keeps everything orderly for you and the property manager. Since it’s your property, you can visit whenever you want, but it can be tricky if it’s already booked when you decide you want to come to Mammoth Lakes — especially during busy holiday times.
If the property management company will be handling all of the cleaning, figure out what the owner cleaning fee will be when you stay there. To make sure they maintain a specific cleaning standard, companies won’t usually allow you to clean the property on your own after using it.
All property management companies have some requirements about what you have to have in your rental property. Visitors to Mammoth Lakes might book a condo or a home instead of a hotel room because of the kitchen and common area spaces, so having everything guests need is key. Your property management company will likely require a fully-stocked kitchen, but they may also require you have things like a hairdryer, an iron and ironing board, a flashlight and trash bags. Request a list from the companies you talk to.
If you plan to rent your home to vacationers, you’ll need liability insurance. Your property management company will likely require proof of this as well, but it’s a good idea to ask them for their specific requirements. While you may have homeowners insurance already, this usually leaves coverage gaps when the property is used by vacationers. I recommend Mammoth Insurance to help you navigate your insurance needs for your vacation rental property.
Property management companies all vary in what they consider “normal wear and tear.” If you’re not careful, excessive maintenance expenses can fall to you. Ask the property management company up front what their maintenance policy is. Some will have policies that if it’s less than a certain amount, the company can repair it without seeking your permission. The goal in hiring a property management company is to reduce your stress and worry about the property, so the maintenance policy is important.
Especially in the Mammoth Lakes vacation rental market, VRBO and Airbnb are huge traffic drivers. Many vacationers prefer to search these sites than those of local companies. Most property management companies in Mammoth Lakes have strategies to capture this market — they might even list their properties on these forums. Be sure to ask how they’re addressing this.
There are pros and cons to the size of the property management company you choose. National and regional companies likely have larger mailing lists and more robust marketing programs. Local companies may give you easier access to the owner or manager of the company if issues arise. As long as the company has multiple other properties in Mammoth Lakes, they should know the local area and have the tools to deal with whatever comes up. Whether they’re local or national, make sure they have a local contact for you and for guests.
While Airbnb and VRBO capture a lot of the market, some vacationers are looking for a certain style of vacation rental. Some property management companies focus on luxury rentals, while others don’t have many requirements and offer all ranges of rental quality. Always ask what other properties the company manages. You can usually learn a lot about their other properties by searching their online listings.
Hiring a property management company should give you peace of mind. If you’re still on the hook to deal with emergencies, you might feel like you’re wasting your money. If you want to be fully hands-off with your vacation rental property, ask the company if they handle everything 24/7.
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