How to Create a Compelling Property Management Incentive Program

As an apartment syndicator, your most important team member is their property management company. The property management companies main responsibilities are to manage the day-to-day operations and implement your business plan.

However, what if – due to market conditions or lack of skill on the part of the property management company – the your net operating income projections aren’t being met? Occupancy is low. Collections are struggling. Rental premiums aren’t being met.

One strategy to turn operations around, or to avoid operational challenges all together, is to create a property management incentives program.

Why Create an Incentive Program?

An incentive program creates an alignment of interest between you and the property management company. The better they perform, the more money you, and your investors, and they make.

What is an Incentive Program?

An incentive program is an agreement between you and the property management company in which the property management company is given an objective, and if they complete the objective, they are rewarded.

Two Types of Incentive Programs

Incentive programs fall into one of two categories. 

  • Type 1: Incentive programs that begin at acquisition and end at sale. 
  • Type 2: One-off incentive programs that end after a fixed amount of time.

Examples of Type 1 Incentive Programs

The most obvious and common is a program in which the objective is to effectively manage the property and the reward is a property management fee equal to a percentage of the collected income. Plus, they aren’t fired.

Other objectives are investing their own money in the deal, acting as a loan guarantor, or bringing on their own investors. The reward for all three is more equity or cash flow.

You can also create type 1 incentive programs for key performance indicators, or KPIs. For example, the objective is to grow total revenue by a certain % each year. Or maintaining or exceeding a specified occupancy rate. 

Just make sure the objective results in alignment of interest. For example, a bad objective is to grow the occupancy by a certain percentage each year, because there is a maximum occupancy rate. Once they achieve high-90’s, it will become impossible for them to achieve their objective without first sabotaging occupancy so that they can then increase occupancy again to receive a reward.

Examples of Type 2 Incentive Programs

Type 2 incentive programs are used when you want to target a specific KPI that is underperforming. For example, if occupancy drops below 90%, you can create an incentive program. The objective is to achieve a specified occupancy rate within a specific time frame (i.e., achieve 95% occupancy within two months). 

Once the desired objective is achieved, they receive a reward and the incentive program expires.

Type 1 vs. Type 2 Incentive Programs

Both incentive programs can be beneficial.

The type 1 incentive programs create alignment of interest from the start. Whereas the type 2 incentive programs can be used during the business plan to improve a specific lagging KPI. 

However, you need to be careful and mindful when creating incentive programs. For example, if you set an occupancy-based type 1 incentive program (i.e., maintain 95% occupancy), the management company can accomplish this goal by offering unnecessary concessions to increase occupancy. Or for a “number of new leases”-based incentive program, the management company can let in unqualified renters to inflate the number of new leases.

Therefore, type 2 incentive programs are the ideal option for KPI-based objectives. If a KPI is lagging, target it with an incentive program. Whereas the type 1 incentive programs are ideal for non-KPI-based objectives, like effectively managing the property, investing in the deal, etc.

Other Best Practices

The objective of the incentive program needs to be realistic and attainable. For example, an objective to raise occupancy from 85% to 100% in two weeks is too unrealistic. A good strategy to ensure that the incentive program is practical is to plan a brainstorming session with key members of the property management team and discuss objectives and rewards.

Also, be creative with the rewards. They can be financial based, like a gift card or bonus. However, other reward ideas are dinners with you or someone in your company, an extra paid vacation day, a free education or training course, a special trophy or plaque, etc. 

Lastly, the best incentive programs do not punish property management companies for failing to achieve the objective. If they miss the mark on an incentive program, don’t reduce their management fee. However, this doesn’t mean that you NEVER punish (i.e., fire) a property management company

Overall, incentive programs are a great way to create extra alignment of interests with your property management team and can help you target specific KPIs that are lagging behind.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog post are provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as an offer to buy or sell any securities or to make or consider any investment or course of action.

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Joe Fairless