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Choosing the right professional property management company for your development vs self-management

When you buy a managed property, you pay for the communal areas of that property to be looked after, ensuring your home is well-maintained, safe and always in the best possible condition.   

Communal areas are often managed by a professional property management company, like FirstPort, who is appointed by the freeholder/landlord or developer. A property management company can also be appointed by a Resident Management Company (RMC) or a Right to Manage (RTM) company, which is a group of residents, who have taken on the legal responsibilities of managing their development.  

When an RMC or RTM is in place at a development, there are several property management options, and a decision needs to be made by residents as to whether they manage the development independently (self-management) or appoint a property management company to act on their behalf. For larger developments, a property management company is often necessary, and finding the right property manager to work collaboratively with is key. 

Mike Dowland, Operations Director for FirstPort, looks at what needs to be taken into consideration when considering your options. 

Professional property management vs self-management

property manager inspecting a property

Residents that choose to manage their developments independently – typically when they are smaller in size – do so for a number of reasons. Often, it’s about having full control over every aspect of a development, including finances, and working with neighbours to sort out issues without influence from those that don’t have the same vested interest in the outcome.  

However, whether going it alone, or making an informed choice of which property manager to choose, residents must consider the current environment when making these decisions.  

Leveraging property management expertise for optimal results

With ever increasing legislation, around fire safety in particular, the role of an RMC/RTM Director has changed over the years. It’s no longer as simple as deciding on landscape contracts or signing off the year-end accounts.

Directors suddenly find themselves with fire door and communal door checks that are compulsory, and if potential building safety issues are identified on their building, they’ve got to deal with that too. They have found themselves in the position of being the principle  accountable person, responsible for the safety of all residents.

There’s often wide-eyed disbelief from RMC Directors that this is happening, and they are overwhelmed by the level of responsibility asked of them in a voluntary role.

Some RMC or RTM Directors want to be involved with this level of detail. Perhaps knowing these decisions centre around their own safety, as well as their neighbours, means they choose to be in the driving seat. However, unless the development is under 100 properties and does not include any building above six stories (18m), then there is an increasingly strong case that it is not a choice, but a necessity, to engage a professional managing agent.

The benefits of appointing a professional property management company means that they can guide residents through the ever-changing regulatory and financial  landscape. Larger Property Management companies have been preparing for this for years and building their teams and expertise to be able to support.

At FirstPort, we have teams within our business dedicated to fire legislation and building safety legal compliance, as well as the business-as-usual health and safety requirements that come with looking after people’s homes.

We find our expertise and knowledge in these areas provides relief and confidence amongst the RMCs/RTMs we work with that critical things won’t slip through the net and we can tackle head-on and promptly the challenges this complex environment presents.

Efficient time management and stress reduction

Everyone likes to feel in control, especially of something as important as your home.  Many residents who manage their developments independently do it for this very reason and get huge reward in doing so.

However, with full control, comes a full workload and could quite easily become unmanageable for residents who have their own jobs and lives. Many RMC/RTM Directors have to ask themselves, at what point is 10 hours a week too much for an unpaid role? Am I using my time efficiently, and is the stress too much?

The benefit of appointing a professional property management company is that they can share the load.

At FirstPort, we support our developments 24 hours a day, seven days a week for timely maintenance responses and support in crisis situations  – such a major flooding or a serious fire – taking away the stress and time pressures and allowing RMC/RTM Directors time to manage more efficiently and calmly.

Cost effectiveness of property management services

A big driver for managing a development independently is ensuring value for money and making sure all decisions are cost effective.

Whether appointing a professional management company or doing it independently, we all have to grapple with the current climate, which has seen costs for materials and labour soar and, in turn, service charge budgets increase.

We know that this has put enormous strain on residents’ monthly finances, and there’s some difficult and unpalatable decisions to make when managing a development’s budget – even more so when you’re making those decisions in relation to your own home and your neighbours’.

A professional property manager will always look at the bigger picture and the benefits versus risk of a ‘quick fix.’

We always advise RMCs and RTMs that value has to be proportionate. If you set your reserve fund too high, you’re potentially impacting saleability, however too low and you end up with tattier buildings that fall quickly into disrepair.

At FirstPort, we carefully analyse costs and benefits when looking at the service charge. Due to our scale, we have access to an extensive network of national contractors giving us buying power that ensures best value, particularly when it comes to utility costs, which have soared in recent years.

Collaboration to achieve long-term goals

Deciding on self-management or choosing a property manager that’s right for your development feels rather black and white.

The ultimate aim is to create a partnership based on residents and the property manager working in collaboration.

A professional property management company can be employed to  get on with the day-to- day running of a development but with an RMC/RTM company there  to oversee and ultimately make the final decisions.

Of course, every development is different and will have property-specific needs, but in increasingly complex and pressured environments, RMCs/RTMs have to consider where they should focus their attention to add value. In partnership with a property management company, finding the right focus ensures proportionate and sustainable outcomes for residents.

Setting your developments up for success

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