November 3, 2014 by Dymphna 7 Comments

Maintaining houses and relationships

Business team at work
There’s a surprising amount of people-work in this gig.

Most people come into thinking it’s all about market analysis, or trust structures, or DA processes. Even interior or landscape design. They think that these are the most important – and also the most difficult things.

And pretty much everyone underestimates how important people skills are.

Very few people truly go it alone. Most people set some sort of team up to get all the work that needs to get done, done. Accountants, lawyers, brokers, builders, property managers, real-estate agents…

They’re all relationships that need to be managed.

Even if it’s just a hubby and wife team, there’s still an advanced degree of communication that’s required. Even more so really. Stopping professional conflicts bleeding into your personal life takes a bit of skill and practice.

“No I haven’t finished the feasibility study, but when was the last time you took out the bins?”

For many though, the communication skills they develop working together actually support their marriage in the long run.

(Ultimate Real Estate’s Marriage Guidance Services? There’s an idea in that. Pop that in the book for later.)

And in the same way that people underestimate how important people-skills are, they underestimate how difficult it is just to keep a strong business relationship going.

Statistics show that HR management has over the years become a ‘feminised’ profession. Partly I think it was an easy way out for large firms to meet their equal opportunity targets, and managing people was seen as a ‘soft skill’, unlike hard skills like engineering and hitting rocks with things.

And there is a perception that women, on average, are better able to deal with the complexity of human emotions – people’s professional ambitions and insecurities.

And I guess it is true of the students that have come through my courses, that women tend to take more quickly to the people side of things.

(Another reason why husband and wife teams can be so formidable.)

But I think all this over-mystifies the art of good working relationships.

It’s not magic.

It’s like anything in life. If you put energy into it, it grows and prospers. If you ignore it, it degrades and disintegrates.


Maybe think of it like house maintenance. If you ignore one of your rental properties, bit by bit things will start to break and fall into disrepair. If you put energy into it, you can keep everything in tip-top condition.

We’ve got to take the same attitude with the maintenance of our relationships.

Take property managers for example. This is one of the most important relationships we have. These guys have the most direct contact with our investments. They’re the cowherds to our cash-cows – keeping them in good pasture and safe from danger.

I know some people prefer to manage their own properties. I can understand that. But at some point (hopefully), it’s going to stop being worth your while. Either the amount you earn on an hourly rate will increase to a level where it’s more economical to employ someone else to do it, or you’ll simply have so many properties, it won’t be physically possible to do it all yourself.

Either way, I figure this is what we’ve got our sights on, so why not get a property manager in from the get-go. If nothing else, it’s just good practice for when you do have a large portfolio to manage.

Anyway, I know, that compared to most property investors, I have a lot of contact with my property managers.

I like to get in their face.

Not in a bad way of course. I just like to stay on their radar. I like to know I’m a priority.

I actually draw up an “Owners Instructions to Rental Managing Agent” form (which you can download from the website and use as a template.) I use this to lay out what I expect from my property managers in terms of inspections, reports and maintenance.

For example, if some repairs are required and they’re under a certain dollar amount, then I authorise them just to go ahead and do it. I don’t want to be notified about every blown lightbulb or busted stove-top element. Just fix it.

I also make my expectations about rent reviews and how I want to be payed crystal clear.

Now none of this is that extra-ordinary. It’s all part and parcel of the owner/property manager relationship.

But having it spelt out in this way – actually having it written down – let’s them know I’m serious. And it sets me apart from probably 90% of property investors who don’t do this. It keeps my property managers on their toes.

But on top of this, I also like to just tune in through the year. Call them up for a quick chat, send them a card at Christmas, that kind of thing.

Partly this is because good managers make good tenants. If they’re taking an active interest in my property, then I’m going to get the most out of it.

But you also never know where your next deal is coming from. If my property managers have a sense for what I’m looking for, I can often get an inside running on properties for sale before they hit the market.

The more strong connections you have, the more open doors you have for that next great deal.

Again, none of this is rocket surgery. It’s just about putting in a bit of time and energy into your networks.

Even if you don’t rate your own “people skills”, even a little bit of energy here can go a long way.