Property managers just starting out – and those operating with a limited staff – often feel like they can’t afford to go on vacation. It isn’t the money – it’s worrying that some catastrophe will show up just as you board the plane or drive beyond the city limit sign.
You’re glad that business is booming, but you aren’t sure you’d really be able to relax. So what can you do to make sure your much deserved vacation goes off without a hitch? Embrace the Boy Scout motto – be prepared. Here’s how.
Make a plan – check it twice
Start early. While you’re looking for discount flights and off-peak pricing or destination hotels, think about the best time to get away. Whether you’re thinking about relaxing on a private beach in the tropics or heading off for a week hiking the wilderness back country, plan your trip around the slow season for your business. It wouldn’t make sense to schedule your respite during the same week you normally do annual HVAC inspections or renegotiate vendor contracts.
You’ll also want to coordinate your time away with other supervisors so you have confidence that your leadership team is available to cover any unexpected crises.
Train your team
Enable your team to handle any problems that they encounter. Put together a quick reference manual that covers every possible scenario you can think of from busted water pipes to natural disasters.
Make sure your training manual is comprehensive. Here are a few essentials, but you’ll probably have more items based on your unique rental homes and contracts.
- Your complete itinerary with dates, addresses and venues for emergency contact.
- Copies of homeowner and tenant agreements.
- Equipment manuals and warranty information.
- Names, addresses, business hours and contact information for suppliers and vendors.
- Emergency preparedness plan.
- Insurance agent information – for property, auto, health, etc.
- Security codes and alarm instructions.
- Tenant lease agreements.
- Leasing policy and marketing material.
It’s also a good idea to discuss extra compensation, which could be in the form of bonus pay or comp time, depending on your budget and the added workload.
The key to success is giving your team the knowledge and tools they need to keep everything running smoothly while you’re gone. Less stress for them and fewer problems for you to tackle when you return.
Share your plans with everyone
This is a good time to put your digital property management tools to work for you. Notify property owners and tenants that you’ll be away from the office and provide information about who to contact if problems arise. Over communicating is far superior to a quick note. Provide all stakeholders with the first and last name of the person you’re leaving in charge. Don’t forget to include contact phone numbers and email addresses. Confirm your after-hours policy and standard office hours.
Controlling the budget is important, even when you aren’t around to approve every ticket. If you normally approve all purchase orders and charges, contact vendors, suppliers and contractors about your plans. Although you want to aim for an uninterrupted vacation, you might set spending limits and instruct your employees to call you if a situation requires increased funding.
Keep the lines of communication open. Change your company voice mail message. Activate email auto-response and set your incoming business email to forward to your stand-in.
Finally, enjoy your vacation
Single-family property management can be challenging. Each homeowner has his own goals and income strategies. You may have a standard contract for tenants, or you may have a dozen different rental agreements. With advanced planning, a well-designed training strategy and excellent communication, you can get away and refuel your body and your spirit – without worrying that your business is falling apart in your absence.