Lessons from 15 Years as a Top Property Management Company
What We’ve Learned at Sea to Ski Premier Home Management
It would be too cliché, to say that we have seen it all. Worse than that, it would be untrue.
If there is one thing that Sea to Ski has learned in the 15 years that we have been a top property management company, it is that no year, no season, and no week is ever the same. The duties and experiences of a good property manager are constantly evolving.
However, it would be accurate to say that we have seen A LOT.
Those experiences – the good, the challenging, and the strange – have given us the confidence to say that our team can handle anything, when it comes to managing properties. Our secret is simple. ‘We treat your home like our own.’ This has been our motto and our mission since the start. 15 years later, it remains our guiding star.
“We treat your home like our own”
1. THE WHY
Suffice it to say, our first lesson came well before Sea to Ski Property Management, LLC opened its doors.
In the Summer of 1998, Charlie Robbins, along with his wife Maura and their two children, packed up and left their longtime home in Seattle, Washington for the mountains of Park City, Utah. The family quickly fell in love with the boundless outdoor playground, beacon of visual and performing arts, and bustling community nestled in the Wasatch Mountains.
A few years later, however, the Robbins Family made the bittersweet decision to move back to Seattle. They weren’t ready to fully let go of their beloved Park City community and, as such, purchased a second home right in Old Town.
They did what any savvy vacation homeowner would do. They hired a well-known property management company to care for their Park City home and manage their rentals.
The Robbins experienced some success with vacation rentals, especially around the 2002 Winter Olympics. After a while though, they decided they would rather just keep it as a private second home. While their property manager provided management-only service, it began to feel like they were no longer a top priority client because they were no longer generating rental and lodging revenue for the company.
Unfortunately, this seemed to be the standard and not the exception. In looking around at the landscape of property management companies in Park City, at that time, almost all were focused on vacation home rentals and resort lodging – driven by maximizing bookings and high volume turnovers.
There was a niche to be filled. The Robbins knew there had to be other second homeowners like them. Private homeowners, not in the business of vacation rentals, who needed their property maintained and well looked after.
Prior to leaving the industrial pipe industry, Charlie completed an Executive MBA program at the University of Washington. All the while, the Robbins dealt with their property manager in Park City from a distance. All the while, thinking there was an opportunity there – to provide better private home management. Homeowners should be able to expect a premier level of property management service.
And with that, the concept for Sea to Ski – Premier Home Management was born. A boutique, full-service property management provider for the private homeowner.
The mission was clear from the start: To make clients feel we treat their home as if it were our own. Sea to Ski helps homeowners enjoy their property when they’re here and gives them peace of mind while they’re away.
In April of 2005, in partnership with Dolphin Capital Group (Park City, UT), Sea to Ski opened for business.
Not long after, Maura and Charlie were joined by two additional managing partners, Tierney Groy and Scott Benson. That’s when the company started to hit its stride and began developing a reputation for providing premier services, customized care, and proven experience.
The first lesson shaped who we are as a company and WHY we do what we do.
But that was just the beginning. Here’s what we’ve learned staying true to those ideals in the 15 years since…
Learning what each client’s specific expectations are for the management of their home is crucial.
Establish those expectations early on. This helps set a positive tone for the client relationship, a mutual understanding of what to expect, and starts the dialogue for open communication regarding their property management service.
How do they prefer the home is staged for their arrival?
• Would they like specific lights left on, to welcome them home?
• Do they prefer that the outdoor furniture is arranged a particular way on the patio?
• Are there seasonal decorations that they would like put out?
• Should the media remotes be placed in a specific location?
• Would they like the fireplace lit just prior to their arrival? (Safely, of course.)
Everyone has their own idea of what ‘arrival-ready’ looks like. At Sea to Ski, we make it our duty to know for each of our property owners.
“Learning what each client’s specific expectations are for the management of their home is crucial.”
On the flip side, how does a client like the home set after their departure?
• Do they prefer that all the shades are drawn?
• Should the outdoor furniture be covered, or stored away after each visit?
• At what temperature should the home be set while it is unoccupied?
Defining clear expectations for housekeeping is essential. Cleanliness is a large part of what a client sees and experiences when they first arrive at their home.
What are their specific cleaning requests?
• Should the towels be folded a certain way?
• Should leftover bars of soap be thrown away or kept?
• Do they expect the entire house to be thoroughly cleaned after every visit?
• Or, would they prefer to specify which rooms are to be cleaned when they make a request for housekeeping?
Overall, it is important to revisit client expectations on a regular basis. Ask questions frequently and always ask for feedback from homeowners.
It’s not just about making sure we align with expectations. This helps us build relationships. We make an effort to meet with clients while they are in town, when possible. We value getting to know them, not just as clients, but as fellow members of the Park City community. It allows us to better work together as a team.
The key to any relationship? Good communication.
Property management is no different. Open lines of communication with our clients, with our staff, and with our vendor partners is pivotal to providing the best possible service.
It is our job as property managers to communicate with our clients regularly, share home inspection findings, report all issues/concerns, and make proactive recommendations. Sea to Ski approaches managing homes with an eye for upkeep and return on the homeowner’s investment. We know our client’s home is their haven and their asset. Effective communication is essential to ensure expectations are being met and homes receive the level of care they deserve.
We act as our client’s eyes (also their ears, noses, etc.) while they are away. It’s important to send photos and touch base often, even if just to say that all is good. Frequent touchpoints are huge.
“Open lines of communication with our clients, with our staff, and with our vendor partners is pivotal to providing the best possible service.”
4. COMPLEXITY OF HOMES
Here’s a hot take: Homes are living beings.
They’re layered with complexity. How complex a home is generally depends on size and location.
They have vital systems, made of many moving parts. They need to breathe. Things need to be ‘exercised’ (or used). They need water and heat. Oh, and they definitely have a heart – it’s the people that make a house feel like a home!
Houses have a mind of their own, too. Despite our team’s breadth of knowledge and experience, sometimes things happen for reasons we cannot always explain. We make every effort to understand and repair, as needed.
In these situations, Mother Nature is often involved and beyond our control. Homes are exposed to intense elements. Park City homes, in particular.
For example, homes above a certain elevation have a higher risk of snow load and icicle issues in the winter. These homes also have more natural landscaping and, as such, trees occasionally die off and need to be cleared. Whereas, homes at lower elevations can experience more ground water issues as the snow melts in the springtime.
As the saying goes, “Wisdom comes with experience.”
Our collective experiences over 15 years of property management have taught us how to handle a wide range of different situations. We have taken the time to learn and understand complicated home systems and we know who to call to address the issue in a timely manner.
5. BUILD A STRONG SEA TO SKI CULTURE
We believe that a strong company culture is integral to being a top property management provider.
Teamwork does indeed make the dream work. That is why we have built our team, over the years, with competent and collaborative professionals. We believe that a measure of a truly successful company lies in how they care for and develop their staff. Sea to Ski has always aimed to provide an engaging and supportive work environment for its employees.
In order to achieve that, we focus on setting our staff up for success and ensure we give them dynamic tools and resources to do their job best. We do this through good training and ongoing support. We continuously evaluate our operations for areas of improvement. We have invested in systems and technology implementation to maximize efficiency, provide better tracking of information about our client homes, and (ultimately) be the best property managers we can be.
And while no one is without flaws, when mistakes are made, we react quickly to resolve them and make things right. We don’t make excuses, we address and move forward.
Building a strong Sea to Ski culture enhances the client experience, as well. We train all staff to treat our client homes like their own – with respect and great care. Our team is the face of our company. We make it a priority to hire well and train well.
This practice goes beyond just cultivating an internal culture. We have built strong relationships with vendors, in an effort to support good companies who will respond quickly during emergencies, during peak times, and respond to our call after-hours. Priority scheduling with the best vendors in town is a valuable asset that we provide to our clients.
“We believe that a strong company culture is integral to being a top property management provider.”
As we celebrate 15 years of Sea to Ski – Premier Home Management, we are taking a moment to acknowledge the lessons and growth we have experienced. The common thread is RESPECT and TRUST.
We set out to provide private homeowners with a better property management experience. Mutual respect, trust, and communication are the foundational blocks on which we’ve built that experience.
We treat your home like our own.