Property management is a relatively new field, and locally there is an impressive caliber of services. Local professionals in property management willingly share advice on receiving the best services. By Ann Zimmerman
Property management is a profession that is key to the function of a resort community. In Sun Valley, residents are known for their discernment, and this holds true for their expectations of property managers. Property management wasn’t a profession that was on any business graduate’s job radar 20–30 years ago, but it is a profession born out of need, and these needs demand a wide spectrum of skills, experience, education, and abilities. The services that professional firms offer vary by the focus and expectations of clients. We checked in with four of the area’s top property management firms to familiarize readers with the services that are being extended to property owners and visitors, and to listen to some of professional advice they offer to those seeking services in their field.
care for a home like one’s own
Kim Schaeffer, owner of Key Keepers and a long-time local resident, started as a property manager with her first client in 1995. “I provide personalized services to manage privately owned homes when the owners are away,” she explains, noting that she doesn’t handle rentals or manage condominium units. Kim Schaeffer made a shift from surgical nursing to become a property manager. “It shouldn’t seem like that much of a change. Both fields rely on procedures, checklists, care, communication, and professional responsibility.” She has a limited clientele, and bases the number of properties she accepts for management on her available time. “My services are highly personalized, and I take on properties only when I am confident I can provide my standards of service.”
What services does Kim Schaeffer provide through Key Keepers? She keeps in close communication with her clients through email, and checks on their homes regularly at a frequency with which they are comfortable. That ranges from a minimum of once a week to as often as three times a week. She prepares homes for arrival. This entails cleaning, detailing the car, organizing transportation, arranging fresh flowers, and shopping for groceries. On the latter she adds, “Some clients send me a list, but by now I just know what they like and whether they prefer organic and things like that.” In addition, she assists with home organization. She stages parties, engages repairs, schedules dentists and doctor’s appointments, registers cars, picks up dry cleaning and runs other errands. She is a personal shopper as well as a concierge. “I pick up tickets, make dinner reservations, and handle other arrangements to make their vacation wonderful.”
She attributes her success to relationships with local repair and service people. Her long-time associations with her staff give her the ability to accomplish repairs quickly and to provide a high level of housekeeping. “We clean the units prior to arrival and at departure, and clean every other day while people are in their homes. Additionally, I oversee a deep cleaning both spring and fall. I have worked with some of the housekeeping staff for over ten years, and we value our mutual loyalties.”
When asked for advice to people seeking out a property manager, Kim shares these insights. “I advise to ask for a contract fee based on the size of the home and the desired special services. Definitely, I would ask for references, and seek a firm whose references include someone they know. One wouldn’t necessarily think of this, but I suggest seeking someone who is personable and presents themselves well in dress and demeanor. A property manager’s role is to represent the clients and to greet and take care of their guests. Along the same line, I would seek out a property manager coming from a similar background as does the client. She should be able to recognize fine furnishings and know how to care for them.”as did the quality of improvements, and owners did not want the wear and tear nor lack of availability for their own use. In addition, owners spend extended periods in their unit, and this makes them unavailable for rental. The rental pattern is also different. In the 1970s, all units were fully rented for winter by Labor Day. Now, properties rent on average 60 days before arrival.”
think like owners
My Sun Valley Home, owned by Jeff and Kim Jones, offers personal property management services on a larger scale with a staff of four professional managers to supplement their own efforts. Similar to Key Keepers, My Sun Valley home does not offer rental services. “We feel that our property management services offer a high degree of professionalism. We maintain an office in Ketchum, and we take delivery of packages there for clients. Our housekeeping staff consists of uniformed, trained, and insured employees, most of whom have been with us at least five years, and they drive new, clean company cars. I’m a licensed general contractor, and repairs and remodels are included in our services. We accommodate different needs, and we adjust our services to include as much or as little as clients need,” Jeff explains.
He continues, “With our basic engagement, we check homes weekly unless there is a cold snap, and then we check more frequently. We deliver vehicles clean and fueled to the airport for clients’ arrivals, and then pick them up and return them to the home. We pride ourselves with communications. We answer phones 24 hours a day, and respond to emails as efficiently.”
When probed as to what else may distinguish My Sun Valley Home in the property management field, Jones considers the question and responds, “Kim and I think like owners—we are homeowners ourselves. We maintain awareness that we are not managing commodities; we are entrusted with homes. Homes are more than an important investment that should be well cared for; they are personal environments.”
And what advice does Jeff Jones offer to those seeking property management services? “Definitely, I advise an interview to determine if the property manager can develop a long-term business relationship with them and has open, pro-active communications in place. What I mean by that is we issue an email in November and ask when the homeowner will arrive and the preparations they desire. I would also ask about systems that are in place to make certain that things are taken care of. An example of this is we service all heaters and boilers before clients come in.” He sums up that clients should look for professionalism and capabilities.their vacation in a rented private home or spacious condo. “It is an experience they treasure and want to repeat.”
High Country Resort Properties is a homegrown business local to Ketchum. It started 20 years ago, and is now locally owned and managed by Anita Northwood. “We manage 163 vacation properties available for rental inclusive of condos, duplexes, and singe-family residences. In addition, we manage 91 properties for homeowners who do not opt to rent, and eleven long-term rentals,” Norwood explains. “Many homeowners have been with us for 15 years, and many of our guests have been with us that long and return annually for their vacations.”
A building in the light industrial section of Ketchum serves as headquarters for High Country Resort Properties. It houses offices, reservations, an in-house commercial laundry, and a maintenance shop with storage for extras like televisions. “We have an active Internet presence for reservations, three full-time people dedicated to reservations, and an evening supervisor. We answer calls 24-hours a day everyday. Our housekeepers are employed by us and headed by a manager who has been with us over five years. We also have a maintenance staff for basic repairs and maintain a list of loyal vendors for specialty work,” says Norwood.
Service seems to be the name of the game for property managers. “We are at the beck and call of homeowners and renters,” confirms Anita. “We provide concierge services for things like dinner reservations and handling ski rentals. Our homes are stocked with firewood. We handle bids for sidewalk snow removal, furnace checks, and servicing carbon monoxide and smoke detectors. We go through our managed properties weekly with a detailed checklist and examine light bulbs, faucets, and areas under sinks, and we look for signs of pest invasion. We walk the exterior, flush toilets, check appliances, and run the dishwasher.”
According to Anita, people who visit Sun Valley and Ketchum are in for a treat because of the closeness of the community and the differences that set the community apart from other resorts. “It is a beautiful place to live with a fine quality of life, and it has both summer and winter activities. Surrounding the towns are Forest Service and BLM land, which makes for a special place with views and surrounding wilderness. More than that, it is a small, close-knit community where people jump in to help others out. Other resorts can get disenfranchised from the locals, but we are a community that works synergistically together. We are very fortunate to have the commitment that Sun Valley Company’s owners and staff extends to the community.”
Some of the events and groups that High Country Resort Properties supports are Ketchum Alive, Sun Valley Center for the Arts, the symphony, and the Environmental Resource Center. “When people rent from us, their money stays local, and we make every effort to support local groups.” When asked for reader advice, Anita turns her attention to visitors, and asks locals to give them a break and help them find addresses. “With our Night Sky Ordinance, it’s not easy to find one’s way around town in the dark if you just arrived. Help people out.”
invested in the community
Debbie Fox, General Manager for the Sun Valley office of ResortQuest by Wyndham Vacation Rentals, describes her management style as “boots on the ground and invested in the community.” The ResortQuest Sun Valley office manages 110 homes (houses, condos, and cabins) for short-term rentals. Fifteen years ago, the office initiated custom home management services for owners not renting out their home. “We work directly with owners and recognize every owner is different. Taking care of an owner’s home is a special opportunity.” Fox is pleased that the local management team brings so much direct experience managing properties to the job—90 years combined. “They live, work, and play here. They know our business and know the area and community.”
For the rental services, ResortQuest brings the power of a major hospitality firm to the interactive web site to assist renters in making selections of where to stay. “We provide detailed property descriptions, professional photography, and 24/7 web access, so people get accurate information. Our online presence is accessible from mobile devices, and people can easily book online and securely make payments,” explains Debbie. She adds that people are also welcome to book by calling the Sun Valley office.
ResortQuest offers in-house services for housekeeping, laundry, property inspections, and basic maintenance. “We have an owner representative on staff who walks through the units and discusses any concerns with the owners, and we keep a detailed inventory of what is in each home. There are both regularly scheduled walk-throughs and spot inspections. Once a year we provide a thorough preventative maintenance check and review the inventory, and there is at least one deep cleaning every year with a custom schedule for more frequent cleaning, depending on the usage. Known for the quality of our linens, we have a discounted rate for up-scale premium linens that our owners enjoy, and we provide additional linens as needed.”
According to Fox, ResortQuest by Wyndham Rentals enthusiastically supports a number of events and community groups financially and by providing lodging. “We are actively involved in the Wood River Ability Ski Program targeted to give veterans opportunities to ski and raft. We offer housing for artists visiting the schools through the Sun Valley Center for the Arts, to performers and vintners participating in the Sun Valley Wine Auction fundraiser, and to competitors in the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation. Another of our important causes is the Botanical Gardens and the ongoing education they provide.”
When asked about tips to people wishing to place their homes in the care of a property manager or available to rent, Debbie Fox points out that her company publishes “Vacation Rental Bill of Rights,” which seeks to raise awareness for professionally managed rentals and to give travelers more piece of mind. “It assures people that we are part of a trusted hospitality brand, and they are not on their own,” Debbie Fox sums up.
For such a new field, property management has gone a long way in a short time to offer services that give people in the Wood River Valley options for rentals and safe, reliable care of homes.