Does self managing your block really save money?

Nobody likes to spend money unnecessarily, especially when times are tough and every penny counts. It is in such times that we look to downsize, cut out unnecessary expenditure and generally seek more cost-effective ways to achieve the same results. However, in some areas this can prove to be a false economy and one of those areas is in paying for the services of a professional property manager.

For some, self-managing a property might seem an appealing way to try to reduce service charge costs, for others this route might be because they have had a bad experience in the past and simply do not want to jump from the frying pan, into the fire with another managing agent. However, certain matters or complications can and do arise when managing residential blocks and without doubt the best way forward is for an RTM is to appoint a professional property management company. Of course I am going to say that, I am one, but let me explain.

Not only does the managing agent deal with the day-to-day affairs but also potential ‘political’ problems within a building – something it is often better off dealing with one-step removed and without any emotional attachment.

A good managing agent does not only understand the way a building works, but will give advice on what is necessary to sustain and add to the investment value of the development. This will include general pro-active management whereby problems are dealt with before residents are even aware of them, such as dealing with security issues, ensuring parking arrangements are effective, being ‘ahead of the game’ (for example smooth transition with the digital switch-over), planned preventative maintenance to keep on-going running costs at a minimum (reducing the risk of nasty surprises). Nor should residents underestimate the importance of having someone around who is up-to-date with and understands the impact of government legislation and can disseminate the information in an efficient and easily understandable way so all residents derive maximum benefit. A good example of this is the ‘Green Deal’ introduced by the Coalition Government to save leaseholders money while helping the environment.

In addition to the ‘technical stuff’ outlined above, a managing agent should also help lead the way in sustaining healthy relations between leaseholders and, in some cases, even help build a sense of community spirit. Facilitating good two-way communication is vital and technological innovation has played a key part in bringing people together with some agents now investing heavily in custom-made websites, text messaging updates, live forums and smart phone apps, all aimed at bringing leaseholders together and keeping them in touch with what’s going on at their property.

Last, but probably one of the most important elements for an RTM which cannot be overlooked, is understanding the impact of ever-changing legislation. Recent reforms mean leaseholders who continue to self-manage must be fully aware of how the changes in law not only affect their building but, if not correctly managed, can have a significant affect on the RTM company from a legal point of view. For example being fully health and safety compliant, having proper fire safety provisions and complying with the latest Asbestos Regulations to name but a few. Failure to comply with these regulations or to instruct a suitably qualified assessor to regularly assess or review these requirements may not only lead to a hefty fine but it is not unheard of for prison sentences to be given to those responsible for the upkeep of a building.

Doing all of the above is nothing new; it is what any good professional managing agent should do. Why can we do it better than anyone else? Well, we are experts in property matters, we undertake training, adhere to codes of practice and have to maintain high professional standards. So, use a managing agent, do your homework (ensure they have professional qualifications), tender the work, obtain references and select a company with whom you feel most comfortable working. We can help reduce costs and we do add value.

Managing property well doesn’t just mean keeping it in a good state of repair and adding monetary value, it means improving the living environment too. Now I am not saying that a managing agent can change the world but, if the events of the last few weeks have taught us anything it is that a sense of belonging, care and involvement engenders a sense of community and if that happens in one building, in one area . . .