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The American Association of Apartment Owners lists six mistake property owners make that cost them money.(1) Five of them are directly related to repairs and maintenance, which can be addressed by hiring a property management company. Hiring a management firm to represent your commercial interests can be a time-saving move, and as we all know, time is money. And, when it comes to money, management agencies have a flexible fee schedule to meet their clients’ needs. An owner’s primary goal before signing with someone to manage commercial property is to find out what all those fees actually buy.

The enigmatic “property management” fee

Property managers keep your property leased with paying tenants, and that’s what makes property ownership either profitable or unsustainable. The management fee can be a percentage of monthly gross rent or a flat fee. It pays for the property manager’s time spent showing and advertising units, administering lease agreements, screening applicants and resolving tenant issues. This fee pays for the public face of your property and keeps it full and profitable. It is the bulk of what you will pay a manager.

Administrative management

This duty may require a separate fee that covers administrative work such as managing dispute resolution with tenants, sending out statements and providing reports to the property owner. If this fee is separate from the management fee, it pays for extra time spent on issues specific to your property. It will cover postage for tenant statements and office costs for administrative services as a whole. You could also consider part of this a supply fee, which pays for paper, printer ink, time spent stuffing envelopes, and any other office supply or mundane task associated with property management.

Collection fees

This looks pretty self-explanatory, but it doesn’t just deal with past-due collections. This service encompasses collection of all rents, fees, revenues and delinquencies.

Maintenance fees

These are special costs tailored specifically to your property’s upkeep. While management takes care of the leasing aspect of your bottom line, regular maintenance can greatly reduce the risk of serious investment losses due to deferred maintenance and property damage. Maintenance fees cover interior and exterior repairs, minor improvements and cleaning.

Other unspecified fees

Property management companies all differ in what they include in their basic management fee schedule and what is considered “extra.” Ask for a complete fee schedule before you sign with a management company, and avoid any surprises by asking plenty of questions and getting details in writing.

(1) “6 Common Property Management Mistakes,” http://www.american-apartment-owners-association.org/blog/2011/03/07/6-common-property-management-mistakes/

Cost-Benefit Analysis: The Structure of Property Management Fees