Opinion: How do you know when you've got a terrible property managing agent and what do you need to do about it?

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"Do you know how I change my managing agent?" "No idea, mate, I'm just here to sort your windows"

It’s fewer than 100 days until Christmas so now’s the time to ask Santa to bring you better estate managers for 2019.

The process of changing agents tends to take at least three months, which is a long time to put up with under-performance but if you start now, you and your neighbours could start the New Year with new management running your apartments. So how do you know if your current managing agent is actually doing a good job?

The red flags are easier to spot than you think. There are obvious indicators, such as lack of communication and site visits, essential works not carried out, accounts being sent out late and lack of transparency.

But there are other areas you may not think about which separate the professional firms from the wannabes. Being proactive in communication, building a plan for future capital expenditure and establishing a reserve fund, periodically re-tendering maintenance contracts to ensure best value, providing out-of-hours support and having a team of experienced and supported staff are key to successful management.

For some reason though, people seem to put up with poor performance, thinking changing agents is difficult. However, it’s easier than you think and could actually increase the value of your property in the long run.

The first thing you should do is put your existing agents on notice; don’t wait until you have made a decision, as you can always withdraw the notice if you feel the existing agent is your best option.

Advise the other homeowners to keep paying their service charges even though they may be disappointed with the current agents. A new agent will need funds to pay for improvements, so withholding service charges due to poor performance won’t help.

When looking at alternatives, be explicit on what you expect from your agent and never select on the level of their fee alone. The saying ‘you get what you pay for’ is never truer than in this industry and low fees tend to mean hidden costs or your estate being managed by inexperienced and overworked staff.

Excellent service and great communication should be a given. In this world of instant feedback and going the extra mile, many agents haven’t adapted to changes in the way this is delivered and their processes are still very manual, require a lot of human intervention and are often seen as rigid.

Having spent my career working for some of the biggest names in the industry, I feel our industry has lost sight of who the customer is and what they need from us. It’s all about the experience now.

We recognise the key to this lies with people and how we interact them. Your agent should be three things – dedicated, meticulous and smart.

By combining experts alongside technology such as portals, AI messaging platforms and value-added services, we can provide an experience that enhances customers’ lives anddoesn’t stop at their front door.

With what’s achievable today (a smart range of services, dedicated teams of experts that provide an exceptionally high standard of service and bespoke customer focused management), 2019 could be the year you start to spend more time living in your home, rather than managing it.

Visit podmanagement.co.uk