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property management
due diligence
hiring process
best fit
different times
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rental property
Property Management 101: The Property Inspection Process
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One of the most important aspects of property management is the inspection report. Many methods exist to complete the process including outlines, multi-page reports, online semi-automated reports, and checklists. Generally, the inspection report consists of two parts: a written portion and a collection of photograghs. Attention to detail and the documentation of the findings are of utmost importance as well as the timeliness and scope of the report.

Different inspection techniques are required at different times during the property management period and several are outlined below. Points of emphasis change as the purpose and intent of the site-visit shifts over time. The most important common trait is the need to document everything. The following inspections provide an introductory guide to that end.

Initial Inspections

During the hiring process, many prospective landlords conduct interviews with several property managers to ask questions, guage personalities, and determine what they feel will be the best fit before making their final decision regarding who will manage their rental property. As the owner conducts their process of due diligence, it provides a unique opportunity for the property manager to view the property, see first hand the general condition of the neighborhood, and observe the attitude of the owner regarding things such as cleanliness, repairs, receipt of funds, and the overall timeliness & attentiveness towards property management issues.

TIP: The last thing you want as a property manager is to be "hired" by an owner who you don't really want to work with! This is an opportunity to "just say no" before trouble begins and simply walk away. For example, if an owner is clearly not going to hand over the property in "move in ready condition", this is the time to excuse yourself and move on.

Sometimes turning down business is the right thing to do!

Move In/Move Out Inspections

The Move In and Move Out inspections are exactly what the names imply: an inspection performed either before the tenant takes possession & moves in, or after the tenant moves out & surrenders possession to the property manager. The scope of these inspections is to document the condition of the property in both a written and photographic format before and after the tenant has occupied the premises. The diligent property manager goes room by room, item by item, from floor to ceiling, both indoors and out, and inspects, tests, photograghs, and documents the condition of the unit. The inspection results are then available for comparison after the tenant has vacated and can be used to determine if any damages have occurred during the occupancy period. If damages have occurred, the owner then has the ability and means to make a claim against the tenant or the security deposit.

TIP: The last thing you want as a property manager is to misplace the inspection report or make serious errors in this process. A very detailed and exhaustive report is the cornerstone to not only performing successful property inspections but also to having a successful career as a property manager.

If you are in this for the long-term, document, document, & document!

Interim Inspections

After the tenant has resided in the unit for approximately six months, it is a good idea to perform a simple walk through of the premises. The scope of this inspection is to examine the flooring, the walls, the major appliances, and determine the necessity of making any repairs or filing any maintenance requests.

TIP: The last thing you want as a property manager is to surprise your tenant. The surprise may be all yours if you show up unexpectedly! Give your tenant a heads up and schedule an appointment in advance and state what the visit is all about. Knowing and understanding the fundamentals of professional property management is very important, but employing excellent people skills and extending common courtesy is an invaluable tool in your quest to be a successful property manager!

You may be shocked at what you see!

Drive By Inspections

The Drive By is an optional inspection that occurs as much by chance (you happen to be nearby) as it occurs by design (the property is cited for weeds). This involves driving by the property, taking notes, and taking photos. At times it is necessary to post notices requiring the tenant to remedy a situation or a problem within a given time-frame and follow up with a re-inspection to make sure the problem is remedied.

TIP: The last thing you want as a property manager is to make repeated trips to and from properties. Gas is expensive and one good way to avoid an extra trip is to take along a packet of blank forms that may be needed if you spot a problem and need to post a notice. You can fill them out and post or serve the notices right away, avoiding another roundtrip, and saving both gas and time.

In the long run, you'll be glad you did!

During the property inspection process, the use of a written report or checklist is a helpful guide. While you are onsite, it is easy to get lost in this process without a set format to follow. By studying the basics of property management and receiving as much training as possible, many pitfalls can be avoided. My preferred method at present is to use a checklist or a report format that leads you from room to room (living room to dining room to kitchen, etc.) and from item to item (floors to ceiling to walls, etc.). Matching the sequence of the photos to the report is also extremely helpful and can be easily done by following the same outline used for the written report. The corresponding numbers of the pictures can be written onto the inspection at a later time when you are back in the office.

In other words, follow the checklist!

This is one in a series of articles on property management for landlords, tenants, and managers.

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