Choosing a Florida Property Management Company

Here we have brought together some some thoughts and ideas gained from talking to subscribers and our own experience through the years to consider when selecting a Property Managment Company.
Owning a home overseas is a dream come true for a lucky few, but how does one take care of that investment when 4,600 miles separate one from the day-to-day business of running a Florida villa.

That is where a Property Management company comes in. In Florida, perhaps more than any other state or country, there are hundreds of property management companies of all sizes. In order to choose the right company, one must first decide what is needed of your property manager.

Do you want a company that will take complete care, handling all bills, taxes, maintenance, cleaning, rentals, marketing etc? Or will you want to be a bit more involved.

At a very basic level, there are what are generally known as caretaker companies, that will mow the lawns, clean the pools, clean the house between rentals, maintain air conditioning systems and be a point of contact for your guests whilst they are in residence.  You will then be responsible for paying all bills, licensing, filing and paying tourist taxes, obtaining rentals and collecting monies, security deposits etc. This can be quite a challenge and time consuming, but can also be quite rewarding.

At the next level are companies that take complete care of your property as above, but will also handle some bills, licenses, sales taxes and collection of monies and/or security deposits.

Both of the above style of company are often smaller "mom and pop" type enterprises, where a couple look after a small number of homes with some help from cleaning and maintenance staff. If you want to be fairly involved with the running of your house, finding one of these companies as they are starting out can be quite useful, as you should then get several years of fairly personal service. Some companies are happy to stay at this size, others continue to grow, taking on more staff and the personal service may become lost.

As companies increase in size, they often become more "Professional", with costs to match. These larger companies may have contracts with tour operators and be able to place rentals into your house, as well as the full maintenance of your property as described above. The company, reducing the burden of involvement for the homeowner, will handle all bills, taxes, licences etc. This style of management will better suit owners who are only in residence for annual vacations and wish their investment to be fairly self-running.

At the top end of the scale, are large companies, who handle all aspects of the property as if it were part of their own portfolio. They will fully maintain the property, market and obtain rentals and handle all running costs. The owner will receive any profits that are made. This style of management will suit owners who are looking for investment opportunities rather than a place for a regular vacation.
With these larger companies, it is important to note, that some will ask you to pay for the privilege of staying in your own house, or deduct a percentage from rentals placed in the house by yourself, family or friends for instance.

Trust is the most important part of your relationship with your management company, if you want to be informed of decisions affecting your house then choose a company that will provide a personal service with a regular point of contact. If you just want everything taken care of without being bothered about each and every problem then select a company accordingly.

Do not rush the decision making process when choosing a management company and if your choice requires a contract, make sure you know how to get out of it if things go wrong. Try to build up a level of rapport with a company before hiring them, as communication really is key here. Ask for recommendations, and pay attention to gut feelings, good or bad. Find out the scale of charges, if you have to pay for "pillow fluffing" after period of absence from the house, make sure those pillows are fluffed! Be as sure as you can of what you are getting into. If the company has a contract with a tour operator, will you have 40 plus weeks of guests banging suitcases into the walls? Is that acceptable use to you, are you prepared for breakages and damage to your house, or would you be better, seeking fewer higher end guests who may treat your house with a little more respect?

There are many questions to ask your self, but time spent now doing just that may help to avoid the stress and trauma of realisation 6 months down the line that you have made the wrong choice, and can do nothing about it for another 6 months.

A cautionary word of warning, companies that offer guaranteed rental schemes are receiving bulk rentals from tour operators and the rates are normally 50% less than rates achievable by producing your own rentals.