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Questions to Ask a Prospective San Francisco Property Manager - Article Banner

Deciding to work with a professional property manager when you’re renting out a San Francisco property is smart. You know this. With good property management, you can protect your asset, earn more from it, and spend less maintaining it. You can count on resources and tools and leverage knowledge and experience. 

How do you know which management company to choose

San Francisco property managers are easy to find, but you want to make sure you’re spending the necessary time to research and interview the property managers who will make a difference in the leasing, management, and maintenance of your investment property. Whether you’re renting out a single unit or an entire portfolio, you need a partner who understands your investment goals and your properties. Don’t settle for a company who sees its main function as simply collecting rent. 

As San Francisco property managers ourselves, we recommend that you gather referrals from friends and colleagues. Talk to people who use property management and ask what they like and don’t like about the company they’re using. Conduct some research online. Read reviews. Study websites. Follow social media accounts. 

Once you’ve narrowed your options to a handful of property management companies that you could imagine yourself working with, schedule some interviews. Prepare for those interviews by thinking about the questions you want to ask. 

Those questions are important. 

You need to know how a management company will respond to late rent, unqualified tenants, maintenance emergencies, and disputes. 

There are a lot of questions to ask, and we recommend you start with those you have listed below. These questions to ask a prospective San Francisco property management company should lead to solid answers and instructive conversations. Based on what you hear, you’ll know which management company is right for you. 

What Type of Experience do you Have in the San Francisco Market?

Any good management company will include how long they’ve been in business in their marketing materials and on their website. You likely already know that they have 10 or 20 or even 30 years of experience. Maybe they’ve been in business for longer than you’ve been alive. 

Great. What really matters, though, is the type of experience they have. If you invest only in single-family homes, there’s no point in pursuing a company that manages high-rise buildings in the middle of the city. If you’re looking for a property management partner to work with your long term leases, a team that’s especially good at vacation rentals won’t be much help. 

Ask questions about experience type, and don’t be too impressed with the length of their experience. You’ll also want to know where their experience has rested. San Francisco is a diverse rental market. Talk about the neighborhoods where they’ve managed properties. Are they only willing to work within the city of San Francisco or do they manage homes in the general region?

How Will You Protect my San Francisco Rental Property?

You should expect your property manager to have maintenance policies in place that will protect the condition and value of your property. Find out what those processes are. You’ll want to know:

  • How vendors are chosen and whether they’re licensed and insured. 
  • What’s included in move-in and move-out inspections.
  • How tenants are held accountable to caring for the property. 
  • What the procedure is for emergency and routine repairs. 
  • When it’s decided to replace something rather than repair it.
  • How preventative maintenance is handled.
  • Whether a maintenance reserve is needed.
  • How repair requests are documented.

Ask if repairs are made without approval or if you’ll be contacted every time work needs to be done. Discuss maintenance walk-through inspections and whether they’re conducted during the lease term. 

By prioritizing maintenance, a property manager will not only protect your property, they’ll provide excellent customer service to your residents. This is an important part of property management. 

Ask about the Leasing Process – How are Tenants Chosen?

There’s a lot of ground to cover when you begin to discuss the leasing process. It’s important that you work with a company that can lease your property quickly, to the best tenants, and in the fastest amount of time. Vacancies that drag on become expensive. You also want to know what you can expect in terms of your rental value and your tenant quality. Some of the questions you’ll want to ask around leasing include:

  • How long will it take to rent my home? 
  • What kind of data do you use to settle on a rental price?
  • Will you recommend improvements or upgrades to increase my rental value?
  • What will a listing include? 
  • Where will you advertise my home? 
  • How is the showing process managed? Do you provide the technology for self-showings or is an agent present while a prospective tenant sees the home? 
  • What does your rental application look like?
  • What kind of criteria do you use while screening tenants?

You’ll want to ask about what happens once a tenant is approved. Does the property manager collect a security deposit and conduct a thorough move-in inspection before the tenant takes possession of the home? 

What Can You Tell Me About the San Francisco Rent Board and Rent Control?

Statewide rent control has arrived in California. Before those laws took effect, San Francisco already had rent control in place. The amount you can increase your rent from year to year depends on the limits set by the Rent Board. You’ll need to make sure your property manager understands how the Rent Board works and whether your property is subject to or exempt from the local rent control laws and the statewide laws. 

Your property manager should be able to talk to you about how the current rent control laws impact your property and how they make decisions about rental increases from year to year. 

Ask about Other California Rental Laws 

It’s not just rent control that requires careful attention and expertise from your property management partner. California is notoriously tenant-friendly, and there are a lot of laws protecting your resident. You need to work with a management company that understands them completely. Talk to any prospective property manager about:

  • Security deposits in San Francisco and what the law allows and restricts when it comes to collecting, holding, and returning security deposits. Ask if the property manager has ever had to defend a security deposit deduction in court. What happened?
  • Fair housing laws. It should not surprise you that California’s fair housing laws are actually stricter than the federal Fair Housing Act. What can your prospective property manager tell you about compliance with fair housing? 
  • Just cause evictions. Evictions have never been easy in San Francisco, so you’ll need to know that your property manager understands the process. Will you be restricted in how and why you evict a tenant?
  • Section 8 applicants. You can no longer designate your rental property as not available to Section 8 tenants. Fair housing laws require that you consider any source of income, and a housing voucher can be considered income for purposes of screening and qualification. 

Your property manager will need to know the difference between a service animal and a pet. They’ll need to know how much interest to pay on a security deposit and what kind of notice is required before they enter a property. Talk about all of this and ask any questions you have about the laws and how they impact your property. 

Talk about Property Management Processes

A good property manager will have a process in place for everything. Consistently following those processes will ensure your property is managed effectively and efficiently. Ask about rent collection and lease enforcement. How do they manage accounting and financial statements? What kind of communication can you expect? 

Ask about past mistakes they’ve learned from. How have they improved these processes based on their experience? This will show you whether they’re constantly reviewing their operating procedures. 

Ask about Technology Investments

Technology InvestmentsThe technology that’s available today allows us to lease, manage, and maintain rental properties in San Francisco with maximum efficiency. You’ll want to work with a company that invests in technology and uses automation to make things easier and faster. There’s no replacement for personal relationships, and those are very important in property management. However, automated maintenance requests, online rent collection, and digital leasing documents can have a positive impact on your property and how it operates. You don’t want to be stuck with a property management company that refuses to modernize. 

These are just a few good starter questions to ask a prospective property manager. You’ll also want to talk about the specific needs of your property. Pay attention to how a prospective property manager handles the interview. They should be listening more than talking. If they dive right into a hard sales pitch, think about whether they’re really hearing what you need from them. 

We would love to talk with you about our own services and how they might match the needs of your investment properties in San Francisco. Please don’t hesitate to contact us at Sharevest Property Management.