The taxi is waiting. The drapes are drawn and the door double-locked, but a pang of anxiety persists. After all, you're leaving your special dream dwelling by the bay to fly north, while the pounding surf continues to spray the patio doors, and the balcony plants bake in the Vallarta sun. The telephone and electric bills keep turning up regularly, and you agonize that, somewhere, a pipe will leak, creating a small lake before you return.
Whether your condo is your private home or a comfortable property purchased to produce rental income, it's a major investment. And taking care of this asset from afar can be challenging. Worse, it may demand more time and effort than you would like to give it. After all, when you’re not in Vallarta, you still have a life –probably even busier than the one here. So, instead of leaving the extra set of keys with a neighbor or la muchacha, think about relying on a professional property manager to keep your home in perfect shape, ready to be enjoyed by you, your guests or rental clients.
As with most things in life, you'll want to know how much all this responsible care will cost. And, as is often the case, the answer is "it depends". The size of your "unit", usually based on the number of bedrooms, and the services you contract are usually the determining factors. A basic package for people not renting to others would probably include the following:
- Paying utilities, maid, pool maintenance and gardener, if applicable
- Providing personnel, such as maids and gardeners
- Paying property tax
- Paying any association dues
- Ensuring everything is working before your arrival
- Inspecting property once per week and reporting to you any required maintenance
- Making monthly inspections and accounting reports
And, naturally, for a fee, everything from restocking your bar and picking you up at the airport to feeding your pet parakeet in your absence is available.
Even more help from a manager is necessary if you'll be renting out your abode. In some cases, the company may market your property and handle rentals. If the company also manages your home, its rental commission may be reduced, and it will take care of all details. Otherwise, if you rent the property yourself or through an unrelated real estate agency, your property manager should simply charge a fee for greeting your guests and making sure their stay is something they would like to repeat. The manager will also need to inspect the property after the tenant leaves and report any damages or problems.
"Professional" is sometimes a relative term here in Mexico. With the explosion of building around the bay, the number of property management firms has proliferated. Note that there is no licensing prerequisite or training requirement for property managers in Mexico. Moreover, these services are available from a number of sources: your condominium organization, real estate agencies, the lady up the street and management companies of all sizes. Thus, you'll need to give up some beach time on an early visit and devote it to investigating who will best handle your home.
Start by asking friends and neighbors for recommendations, but make sure you're the one who is comfortable handing over your keys. Do you want a large organization, with a wide network and many employees, or a smaller concern, where you're always dealing with the same people? Remember that your manager will be the primary contact for any tenant or guest in Vallarta.
Some points you may want to consider follow:
- Is the staff fully bilingual?
- Is there a 24-hour emergency contact for you and guests? What are office hours?
- How and where do guests check in?
- What is the minimum amount to be held in your personal fund?
- What type of comprehensive monthly operating statement you will receive? Is there flexibility in the types of reports that can be provided?
- Will the company negotiate rental agreements, collect rent and track tenant deposits? Will the company keep a rental calendar for you?
- Does the company provide construction management, if required?
- If you care, what types of technology are used? Is there is an online system to review accounts at any time?
- How many homes do they manage? What is the size of the staff?
- Does the firm specialize in a particular type of property (condos, large homes, long- or short-term rentals)?
In your interview, try a hypothetical situation. Ask how the manager would handle a three-week renter who shows up with a dog despite your "No Pets" policy. Inquire about "key control" policies in the office; you don't want anyone using your place for a party!
Make sure the company understands that the most important thing for both you and your renters is making sure everyone has a great, stress-free time. If there are special requests or someone needs help scheduling an area tour, the manager should have the ability to respond. And to get the best from your property manager, remember to be a good client!
Don't make unreasonable demands, and try to avoid last minute changes. You're not the only client!