Follow-Up: Seattle Area Property Management Companies

The reader who wrote in a couple months ago with the question about finding the best property management firm in the Seattle area wrote back with detailed notes from their selection process and who they ended up going with in the end.

The following is taken directly from their follow-up email.


Here are my notes from choosing a property management firm.

Notes from before conducting interviews:

  • Windermere Property Management
    • Terrible reviews online
    • Bad review by Seattle Bubble reader
  • Acer NW
    • Mentioned by Seattle Bubble reader as very bad
  • Apple Property Management
    • Recommended by Seattle Bubble reader
    • Found some concerning reviews online.
  • Larissa at North Pacific Properties
    • Recommended by Seattle Bubble reader
    • No response to my email inquiry
  • Dave Poletti & Associates
    • Found by internet search
    • Discounted fee structure (8% vs industry standard 10%)
    • Extra liability insurance requirements
    • Good reviews online
    • Charges for advertising during vacancies, which strikes me as a very bad incentive structure. (It makes vacancies less painful for them)
    • Not invited for in-person interview due to the above concern
  • Real Property Associates
    • Found by searching for rental properties to see who manages them
    • Impressively large portfolio on website
    • Excellent reviews from property owners
    • Terrible reviews from tenants
    • Somewhat disorganized in early emails, but very friendly and persistent
    • Invited for in-person interview
  • Sterling Johnston Associates
    • Recommended by personal friend
    • Mixed reviews from property owners
    • Invited for in-person interview on account of friend’s recommendation
  • Brink Property Management
    • Found by searching for rental properties to see who manages them
    • Excellent reviews from property owners
    • Mixed reviews from tenants
    • Higher fees (extra 3% of year’s rent collected at lease renewals), but this gives them an incentive to keep tenants in place
    • Invited for in-person interview

Notes from in-person interviews of Real Property Associates, Sterling Johnston Associates, and Brink Property Management:

  • Representatives who came to our house:
    • RPA: Mike and Kathy
    • SJA: Millie
    • Brink: Marcia
    • All representatives were good, but Mike and Kathy made the best overall impression
  • Rent estimates for our house:
    • RPA: $1,495, and drop from there as needed
    • SJA: $1,350 to $1,450
    • Brink: $1,350 to $1,400, maybe start at $1,450
  • Screening of tenants:
    • All utilize 3rd party services to perform background checks, rental histories, etc.
    • RPA: “70% intuition”, some allowances for black marks on history.
    • SJA: Some allowances for black marks
    • Brink: Very strict. Follows recommendation of 3rd party with no allowances
  • Walkthoughs:
    • RPA: Only one walkthrough(!) at 12 months after new tenant moves in. More by request.
    • SJA: Every six months
    • Brink: Every six months. More than that costs $50 each.
  • Number of properties managed:
    • RPA: ~1,000
    • SJA: ~500
    • Brink: ~800
  • Additional notes:
    • RPA: Possibly the least picky about tenants
    • SJA: “We don’t nickel-and-dime you with fees.”
    • Brink: Lots of additional fees noted. Of high concern was the 10% fee on repairs, which is NOT a good incentive to keep repair costs down
    • All had similar requirements to keep ~$300 on hand for minor repairs
    • All took half of first month’s rent
    • All had similar policies in regards to cleaning deposits, pet deposits, security deposits, etc, with some minor variations

We ended up choosing Real Property Associates. We eliminated Brink based on our concerns with the fee structure. Real Property Associates and Sterling Johnston Associates both made a very good impression in person, and that made the choice between them difficult. Finally, we did another survey of the online reviews and chose Real Property Associates based on their excellent reviews from property owners.

Note that our house has been zoned for 4-5 story apartments with shops on the bottom. We are within spitting distance of the Mountlake Terrace park-and-ride, so we are highly motivated to hold onto the land for when a developer comes along someday. Obviously we still want to keep the house in good shape, but the next owner will probably bulldoze it.

  

About The Tim

Tim Ellis is the founder of Seattle Bubble. His background in engineering and computer / internet technology, a fondness of data-based analysis of problems, and an addiction to spreadsheets all influence his perspective on the Seattle-area real estate market.

15 comments:

  1. 1
    uwp says:

    These are some helpful notes.
    Thanks for the follow-up with the reader.

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  2. 2

    Interesting Take at End

    “The new owner will probably want to bulldoze it”….I own land like that too, its right on a major intersection [perfect for a new strip mall] and on top of the hill [no water drainage issues].

    Sometimes our attachments to old remodeled [then remodeled again, etc,etc] 1920 Seattle architecture become pointless, when just the land could be used for something far more profitable.

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  3. 3
    Phil Mattern says:

    I’ve used WPI Real Estate Services for my Seattle single family house rental for nearly 3 years and have been very pleased with them.

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 0

  4. 4
    David B. says:

    Personally, I’d never select the services of a PM company that had consistently terrible reviews from either landlords or tenants. That would knock RPA out of consideration for me.

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  5. 5
    ray pepper says:

    I would not use a property management company EVER unless I had an extensive portfolio and travelled the world 11 months out of the year! They do squat! All you need is half a brain and Landlord Solutions when you get gummed up!

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  6. 6
    Erik says:

    RE: ray pepper @ 5
    I agree. These services are for people that are scared to rent a place for themselves. I do a way better job finding tenants than these services do.

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 0

  7. 7

    Tim, thanks for this nice free advertising. Our managers didn’t know they were getting “secret shopped” but we’re happy that your reader chose Real Property Associates!

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 0

  8. 9
    Sorin says:

    RE: ChrisM @ 8 – Have you never rented before? I as a tenant would never have put up with a nosy landlord who wanted to inspect the property on a monthly basis.

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  9. 11
    Justin says:

    The smaller the property management company the more personal the approach. Locally owned / family owned businesses always get a +1 from me, assuming they pass other criteria. I prefer Brooks Property and Storage for my property management needs in Bellingham.

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  10. 12
    MEENA says:

    This is a great & informative article. I’m curious, how was your experience after hiring the PM for a year? I hired NPP and am ready for someone else. Any feedback would be immensely appreciated.

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  11. 13
    J.R. says:

    RE: MEENA @ 12

    @Meena: Tim pointed out your comment to me. I’m the original author of this piece.

    I don’t have any complaints about RPA. They’ve handled everything, and 99.9% of the time I don’t have to think about this house at all (which was my goal). My last interaction with them was a couple months ago, when they asked if I wanted to renew the lease for the current renters (who are great), and of course I did.

    I would definitely recommend RPA to anybody looking for a property management company.

    Thanks.

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  12. 14
    MEENA says:

    Thank you so much for your feedback JR. I’ve gone through 3 PMs and am really looking forward to someone reliable. I will contact RPA.

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  13. 15
    Erik says:

    RE: MEENA @ 14
    Successful people I know use to tell me to rent my property myself because rental agencies don’t care about you. I didn’t follow that advice once and I got screwed. Rental agencies do not care about you or your property. The only experience I had, I regretted it. You did it 3 times and it never worked. Many people I trust have told me to rent a property myself. From my experience and talking to well qualified people, I can easily conclude that you should rent it yourself. You can be lazy now and take the easy way out now or you can pay later after your property is trashed and your tenants don’t pay. I would pay now.

    If you get a rental agency to get your tenants and they turn out good, I would call that an outlier or lucky. You have a much better chance of success if you manage it yourself. Atleast find the renters yourself.

    Ray Pepper is a guy that knows a lot about real estate. He is one of the most qualified people on here. He has about 10 rentals at all times and he has been very successful in real estate and made a lot of money at it. See what he has to say in his comment above.

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