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Are All Property Managers Lazy Cheaters?

Are All Property Managers Lazy Cheaters?

As a property manager, I often face the challenge of proving my value to my clients. A common perception is that property managers are lazy and/or dishonest with the owners about finances. They assume that we just collect rent automatically, once in a while pay some bills, and cheat whenever we get a chance to do so.

But that's not true. At least, it’s not true for all the property managers. When I run into a situation where I can easily “cheat” the owners without them knowing about it, I look at it as an opportunity to correct some of the negative perceptions about the property management business in general. Here’s one story to prove it.

The Electric Oven Saga

One of my clients owns a rental property that needed a new electric oven. The old one was starting to fall apart. So, I decided to buy a new one from Home Depot and have it delivered and installed. I thought it would be a straightforward process, but it turned out to be a small nightmare.

  1. The first oven that arrived was damaged. It was heavily dented. The delivery people took it back and arranged for a replacement.
  2. The second oven that came was also damaged. The bottom drawer didn’t properly open and close. The small mercy is that I just had to arrange for a repair person to come to repair it, and it did not need another full-blown replacement. 
  3. For the trouble, Home Depot refunded me the cost of the power cord and the haul-away service for the old oven. This was the 1st opportunity where I could have “cheated” the owner and just kept the refund money. The owner will never find out. But of course, I refunded the money to the owner. See the actual ledger below.

But of course, the story doesn't end there.

The Unexpected Refund

A few days later, when I was reconciling the bank accounts, I noticed something is off. It turned out that Home Depot refunded not only the cost of the power cable and the haul-away cost, but it had refunded me the entire cost of the oven. It was a mistake on their part, and I could have easily kept the money and not told anyone. The 2nd opportunity to cheat. The owner will never find out that this has happened, and Home Depot doesn’t seem to know about the mistake.

So, what did I do? I called Home Depot and told them about the error. They were thankful for my honesty, but I was told that there was nothing they could do over the phone, and I had to go to a store and pay for the oven. I agreed and drove to the nearest store on a Saturday. I had to talk to five different people before I could find someone who could help me. I explained the situation and Home Depot was finally able to figure out how to “purchase” an oven without actually sending an oven. 

For the trouble I went through, Home Depot offered a $50 discount, and that was the 3rd opportunity for me to cheat. After all, I am the one who went through the trouble, so I should keep the $50, correct?  To be honest, I am certain that the owner will not care if I keep the $50. After all, the owner already got an $85.31 discount due to the initial trouble of dealing with the damaged oven. Receiving a discount will create a small bookkeeping chaos as it won’t match the initial cost of the oven. But I took the offer and credited $50 to the owner. 

I do not doubt that some property managers may have not gone as far as I did. Maybe I’m honest to a fault. So, why did I do all this? Why did I go through all the trouble of dealing with buying, installing, returning, repairing, bookkeeping, driving, calling, dealing with credit and refund (and more bookkeeping)? Because I do not just want to do things right, but I want to do the right thing. I wanted to prove to my clients, the owners, and the “doubters” that some property managers are honest and hard-working, but more than anything else, I want to prove to myself that I’m not a cheater, even if no one is looking at me, and even if I will NEVER get caught. That is my standard. My minimum standard that is.

And I think I did. The owner was very grateful and appreciative of my efforts. They said they were lucky to have me as their property manager. They said they would recommend me to their friends and family.

But the best reward for me was knowing that I had done a good job by doing things right and doing the right thing. That I had fulfilled my duty and responsibility as a licensed professional real estate broker. That I had lived up to my values and principles.