How to vet a managing agent

I was recently asked by a previous client of ours whether we could recommend a good managing agent and I have to admit, I struggled. A managing agent is a professional company appointed by the residents or a freeholder to manage the building. They are usually put in place in larger blocks and their role is to oversee functions, such as collecting the annual service charges and arranging maintenance work in the building. They can have a big impact on a building both in terms of how well it is presented, as well as how the finances are managed.

If you’re buying into a building with a managing agent, you can get a good sense of how efficient they are based on how quickly they respond to solicitor enquiries during the purchase. Some managing agents will respond very quickly to requests for service charge history and details of planned works for the building, others, however, need to be chased to get any action.

We have seen some real horror situations over the years where the managing agent has gone bust, they’ve misappropriated service charge funds, or they’ve even used extortionate insurance companies or tradesmen for works in the block, just because they’ve been paid a big introduction commission.

If you’re considering appointing a managing agent or changing one, the first step is to find approved management companies who are members of the Association of Residential Managing Agents (ARMA) or the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). It’s also advisable to choose companies which are based fairly close to your building and then ask them to tender. Good managing agents will usually ask to visit the building before they tender to get a better understanding of its size and condition. Be wary of any management company who simply submits a price without asking many questions.

At any pitch, make sure you direct questions to the proposed property manager, who is likely to be your point of contact, and don’t let their boss do all the talking. Last but not least, remember that you often get what you pay for, so don’t let price alone be the determining factor.

If you have a question you’d like Jo to answer please email or tweet her @joeccles.