Rick’s Tips: Multifamily/Apartment Management

Apartment complex exterior on a spring day


Friendless (smart folks) shouldn’t do so, either! I feel that using an independent third party is the only way. “Managing the Manager” is the unsexy, often overlooked way to maximize profits from operating multifamily assets. One of the long-time challenges of Multifamily Property Management is that Property Management companies are almost always paid on Gross Income. It takes considerably more time, effort and tenaciousness to keep a property rented a full market.  For half the work… Being $50 or more a month below the market pays the management company darn near as much. Admittedly $50 is not a huge sum…around what you would pay for a nice lunch at the Chart House, or Salty’s Restaurant. But on your 25-unit multifamily asset that would reduce Monthly Cash Flow by $1,250.  Per month. But much worse…it would reduce the value at time of sale by $300,000! Staying on top of the Property Manager is a must for optimizing profits.


There are two entities to vet here…1)The Property Management Company and, 2)The On-site Property Manager.  The Property Management Company decision will ensure that you have selected the resource that will be responsible for one of the most valuable assets you own. They will control all revenues from the asset, as well as paying the expenses and providing timely, accurate performance reports.

  • Is there a training manual for Asset Managers, Site Managers, Leasing Specialists, Maintenance?
  • At what number of units, what conditions do they recommend on site Managers?
    • On-site Maintenance?
    • Practices are changing as far as the number of units at which on-site management is required/recommended.
      • Some Portland, OR management companies now have up to 50 units without an on-site Manager.
      • Some states (CA for example) require on-site management for as few as 20 units.
  • What software does the company use to track operations?
    • Can tenants pay their rent through the app?
    • Can tenants make maintenance requests through the app?
  • Do they use cash or accrual basis in their accounting system?
  • How do they market vacant apartments?
    • How effectively do they use Craigslist?
    • Do they support subscribing to apartment leasing aids like Rents.com, Apartments.com, etc.
  • Ask them to estimate what the cost of being $50 below market is for a 50-unit property in this market? (Both from a cash flow and potential sale price viewpoint.)
  • What is their recommended credit/criminal history research process?
  • How do they charge for coordinating vendors?
  • Do they recommend concessions?
  • Do they have a formal client retention program?


Selecting the property on-site Property Manager is important, too.  I remember being on the Acquisition Team for a $45,000,000 multifamily asset in Las Vegas.  The Seller recommended keeping the existing on-site person. The Buyer asked how much are they getting paid?  I think the answer was something like $35,000/year.  The Buyer said: I may keep her…but I can’t have someone in charge of a $45M apartment getting $3k a month. The Manager was kept, along with a new incentive program that would reward good profits handsomely.  Not all properties have enough units to warrant an on-site Manager.  I think CA has the lowest threshold…16 units.  In Oregon I’m not aware of any state required level at which on-site Management is required, other than good sense. Some of the items a good on-site Property Manager will know over time:

  • Which apartments will comfortably fit a queen bed and nightstand and which wall is best for that?
  • What nearby properties are the closest competition—and what their rents are?
  • Where is the nearest ATM from the apartment? Restaurant, Dry Cleaners, Grocery Store?
  • What Elementary, Middle, and High Schools do residents of the apartments go to—and how are they rated?
    • Are their private schools nearby?
  • Does the Manager know the current rules/laws/regulations that apply to rent raises, Section 8 Tenants, evictions, etc.


Its much easier for a 3rd party manager to raise rents than it is for the owner to tell his tenants the same thing.  Managers tend to come across as “doing their job” whereas an owner raising the rent the same amount may appear as a “greedy slumlord”.


If you need a recommendation for your property management resource, contact us at (503)-577-1034, or: sales@rosecitycre.comYour bottom line will thank you!

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