Luxury Vail Valley homes that are seemingly unoccupied and dormant for most of the year are anything but — it takes a team of professionals to provide the level of upkeep required in such an extreme alpine environment.
With so many second homes in the valley, first-time buyers are often surprised when they realize they can’t just leave their homes for extended periods of time, said Mike Connolly, of property management firm Triumph Mountain Properties. Without proper supervision and maintenance, homes can face everything from small inconveniences when owners return to devastating consequences while they’re away.
“You wouldn’t put a few million dollars into an investment portfolio and then not pay attention to it,” Connolly said. “You’ve invested here — your home should be appropriately taken care of.”
When looking for a property management firm in the valley, it’s important to factor in whether the company’s portfolio includes similar homes, word-of-mouth recommendations and what other services the property managers might offer. Here are 3 things to look out for when hiring a property management company for your home.
1. A firm specializing solely in property management
Companies that also offer other services might not provide the same level of service as a firm focused solely on managing luxury properties. Connolly said that owners should want their property managers’ undivided attention.
“You don’t want someone managing your property as a secondary line of business, where the focus for some companies might be on selling real estate because those payoffs are bigger,” he said.
True property management firms develop specific inspection protocols unique to each property and provide full-time, year-round focus, he said. And, it’s important to make sure the firm you hire has other properties similar to yours in their portfolio, Connolly said.
“There is a different level of care and expertise that goes into a $5 million to $10 million property versus a $750,000 condo, for example,” he added.
As for people who trust a friend, neighbor or other acquaintance to look after their homes, Connolly has this advice: be careful.
“Those people aren’t necessarily property managers, therefore they are not going to look at a property and think about it in terms of maintenance and upkeep the same way we are,” he said. “Also, they often have multiple occupations, which means your property is often not their priority.”
2. Top-notch maintenance inspections
New homeowners in the Vail Valley quickly learn that maintaining a home in a high alpine environment is a big undertaking.
“This place can be pretty brutal to anything that sits outside for long periods of time,” Connolly said. “We’re always looking to help owners understand what the ongoing costs to properly maintain this asset are.”
The weather provides a beating to wood exteriors, for example, so periodic refinishing is necessary. Thorough property managers also test snowmelt systems every year to make sure they’re ready for winter, ensure heat tape is working so that no ice dams can build up, and they run appliances, flush toilets and check to make sure temperatures are maintaining their set points, among countless other things.
“We commit to inspect properties once every 7 to 10 days,” Connolly said. “If there are not routine, scheduled maintenance to systems in a house, then we don’t have an opportunity to catch something before it goes wrong.”
Another seemingly minor thing that can really drive homeowners crazy is arriving home to discover the cable TV or internet isn’t working. A good property manager will be testing those connections regularly so everything works when the client arrives, Connolly said.
3. Personalized, concierge-type services
Maintenance is one very important part of property management, but homeowners should also be able to come home to comfort and conveniences after an extended time away.
“You should seek a relationship-driven company that’s looking not to just manage that physical asset, but also provide some personal service to the owners,” he said.
Property managers should be a local, personal service, and do things such as deliver your vehicle to you at the Vail Valley Jet Center, do your grocery shopping or make your dinner reservations.
“They should work with you as an owner to know what you expect your house to look like when you get here,” Connolly said. “There are two components (to property management): Maintain the property, and what we can do for you as an owner to make you happy. … When owners are coming to town, we want them to arrive at their house and instantly be able to relax and enjoy it, and not feel like there are things they have to do.”
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