Large vs Small – The Property Management Conundrum

The property management conundrum. We recently wrote about the interest we have received in our block management services and something that we are increasingly finding ourselves having to answer when meeting potential clients is the big vs small property management debate.

With Sarah Fisher, the founder of MIH, coming in at a titchy 5 ft 1, we can honestly say that we at MIH did believe in the old adage that the best things come in small packages. However, when Shauna joined we quickly found ourselves having to rethink this. At 6 ft 1 and a ¼ (and don’t forget the quarter) we consider her the best client accountant we have come across and we are in seriously in awe at the depth of her experience and knowledge.

With this in mind we have put our heads together to try and find an answer to this conundrum of what is better; a small or large property management company, which seems to fox not just us but everyone in general and will do our best to try and provide our most non-biased answer!

From the ripe old age of 21

For Sarah, her career has been primarily based in small to medium firms with her first role in property management being in an office, much the same size as MIH. At the ripe old age of 21 she found herself part of a management team of 3, managing a portfolio of approximately 40 blocks comprising of around 1500 units. Admittedly, property management in those days was much easier or at least it seemed to be with the focus being primarily on poor cleaning or the issues with installing Satellite TV.

In addition, having started prior to the Section 20 processes that we now know and love, requesting money with only 30 days’ notice didn’t seem to be met with such antagonism. This may have been because comparatively the sums demanded were not so large, nevertheless the collection of these funds was definitely not met with such rancour or with the suggestion that the managing agent was simply trying to carry out work in order to make additional fees.

Smaller offices and knowing everything

Working in a smaller office meant that she was involved in anything and everything and therefore had a really good grounding in property management from the start. It also meant that much like MIH, we worked as a team on property management and therefore knew everything that was going on at a property and could stand in when someone was away. An additional bonus was that rather than having to go through several departments to get a response on a simple query, these could be responded to straight away due to our intimate knowledge of your property.

A larger office experience

In contrast, Shauna’s first job in getting a taste of Block Management was in a National Company who were at the time the largest residential landlord within the UK – a stark comparison against the smaller managing agent. Working in an office of 75, and in an accounts team of 15 was quite a daunting experience for a 20-year-old.

Although there was vast experience in the office, this did not always filter down to the accounts administration assistant, and rather than being able to speak to someone directly about her work, Shauna often had to use her own initiative.

For Shauna, this meant that she learnt more but she isn’t so sure that this approach would work for others and believes that there is a real risk that some essential accountancy training could be missed. It also meant that she was not as exposed to block managers and what they actually did and therefore was effectively accounting for something that she had no idea about.

Getting into the nitty gritty

This quickly changed when Shauna started working as part of a team of four and rather than missing the anonymity of a larger firm, she was able to really get into the nitty gritty of property management and aside from learning so much more about lease frameworks and charging structures, actually found herself enjoying her job due to her deeper understanding of what she was actually doing.

So what’s best?

It is safe to say that there in our combined experience, we both feel that working in a smaller company provides a better level of training for property management as you are involved with everything and your knowledge expands to beyond just accountancy or property management.

Smaller firms also tend to encourage more loyalty in the team, as one individual not performing lets the whole team down and there is less staff turnover because of this.

Finally, a smaller company can provide quicker response times as everyone is involved and they don’t have to go through the “red tape” of speaking to another department who may not even be located in the same country let alone town.

Of course, in larger firms you do have the security of knowing that they will always have a property manager who can take over, should your property manager be indisposed. They will also have more in-house departments such as IT or Conveyancing, however we are not sure that this adds to the overall experience the client receives from the company as these departments are unlikely to know as much about you as a small company whose staff speak all the time. We guess our (un)biased vote – is still the best things come in small packages with one exception- Shauna!

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