Online reviews can be a double edged sword in the industry
Online reviews on popular sites such as Google, Facebook, and Yelp help shoppers, diners, and guests determine if they would like to denizen a place of business. A business with high ratings and lots of stars will probably warrant a deeper look for you. On the other hand you will most likely pass up a place with unfavorable reviews. This system works out very well for restaurants, bars, stores, campgrounds, etc. But what about property management companies?
This is where things get sticky. As a property management company we are lucky to have such positive reviews from our Owner clients, tenants, and colleagues. Due to the nature of the business, however, property management companies are exposed to negative online reviews.
Our own company has experienced retribution in the form of online reviews from tenants that have been upset about us enforcing a no smoking policy, not allowing pets in a particular property, increasing the rental rate, requiring the tenants to remove beds/chairs/sofas/etc from front porches and sidewalks, and holding back security deposits.
Just today we received two 1-Star reviews from two applicants that were not selected to move forward with a lease because they did not meet our minimum screening criteria. They provided no context or explanation...just one star. As a small business that cares about our services, our stakeholders, and our standing in the community, these kinds of reviews are hard to receive when we are actually doing our job.
How do you evaluate a management company then?
There are several things to keep in mind when you are looking for a property management company:
Look for patterns in online reviews. If there is a consistent theme that a company doesn't treat it's tenants with respect or are diligent in their customer service to their clients then these patterns will emerge. If, however, there appears to be one off negative reviews here and there, look into it more to see if this could be a tenant seeking retribution for a grievance.
- Interview the company. Take the time to come up with a list of interview questions in order to get a better sense of each company. Ask about fee structures, management philosophy, units per property manager ratio, communication, advertising vacancies, contracts, leases, maintenance, and billing.
- Client Referrals. Ask the company to supply you with the names and contact details of other clients in the immediate vicinity of your property. Call the client to vet out whether or not they would recommend the company.
Last thing that is important to mention, if you are an Owner client somewhere, or are leaving a management company, leave a review for others, both positive or negative. Far too often people will only leave negative reviews for a company and will not actually leave a positive review. This tends to skew a company's online presence and other potential clients that solely base their decision by online reviews could miss out.