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.

5.00 avg. rating (85% score) - 1 vote

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. Tim also hosts the weekly improv comedy sci-fi podcast Dispatches from the Multiverse.