How to Select a Great Vendor for Property Management
We’ve all been there. The HVAC tech doesn’t show up for a job. The new handyman takes a shortcut and the problem returns a week later. The contractor sends a bill for 50% more than you expected. For owners and property managers alike, finding, managing, and retaining third-party maintenance vendors is a big challenge. Indeed, 61% of rental owners cite maintenance as their top pain point1.
Paramount to reducing these problems is selecting a great vendor. As author Jim Collins says, “People are not your most important asset. The right people are.” Finding these folks is easier said than done, but we’ve got some tips and best practices drawn from our own experiences and those of our colleagues.
1. Start with Indeed over Craigslist and Yelp.
Our default is usually to search for techs through Craigslist and Yelp because they are established, friction-less, and free. Instead, try spending just dollars a day with an Indeed post. Indeed is not just for full-time employees; it’s how Darwin has identified some of its top vendors. Importantly, you can require resumes (not possible through Craigslist), and you know that the candidates you identify are actually looking for work (not always true through Yelp).
2. Search for vendors when you don’t need them.
The best time to build your vendor network is when you don’t actually need to. Too often, we settle for whomever is immediately available because we’re understaffed or in a pinch. By adopting a process and mindset of near-continuous recruiting, you can remove time pressures and build a deep bench.
3a. Call references. Always.
Beware the Yelp star rating or assuming quality from years-in-business. It sounds obvious, but make sure to always call a reference before dispatching a new tech. This can be an owner or resident, and even better if you’re able to do it blind.
3b. Develop a consistent question list for references.
Nearly all given references will be positive, so don’t just ask general questions. We always complete a 1–10 scorecard on four key dimensions: quality, reliability, price, and professionalism. This allows for consistency and ranking across candidates.
4. Meet in person before dispatching.
Invite the vendor over to your office to meet in person before sending out for a job, even if only for 15 minutes. There’s still nothing that can replace a face-to-face, and meeting attendance demonstrates commitment and seriousness.
5. Do a background check.
You just never know. We recommend using Checkr for fast and cheap background checks across all the relevant categories.
6. Start with a low-risk or test job.
We’ll often test a prospective new vendor with a first job at our own residence or office. You can always learn more about someone by watching them do the actual work, and these internal calls can give you a unique front-row seat.
As always, if you have questions about what we’re doing at Darwin Homes, please visit us at www.darwinhomes.com.
That’s all for now. We hope this helps ease the pain a little bit, and wish you good luck out there!