This section is from the book "Practical Real Estate Methods For Broker, Operator & Owner", by Thirty Experts. Also available from Amazon: Practical Real Estate Methods for Broker, Operator, Owner.
The only way to know the whole business is to begin at the bottom. There is a mass of trying details connected with the faithful care of tenement property. You cannot at first put this off on others. You will sometimes make a hundred dollars with very little effort, and the next day you will have to vex and weary yourself over the expenditure for some client - of $5 or perhaps 5 cents. Your eventual success will depend not a little on your being able to attend skilfully to a great number of uninteresting details, each a trifle in itself, but any one of which going wrong may be the cause of serious dissatisfaction. It may seem a trifling thing for you to go into the prices of small supplies and the cost of small repairs, but you must know these things and be constant master of the means and method by which they are attended to in your properties. In managing tenement houses, eternal vigilance alone will secure immunity from a host of errors, pitfalls, and losses that will otherwise be your undoing.
In respect to necessary expense connected with your properties, I can give one direction that will be worth all others combined. Consult freely with the owner. This is the owner's right; it is also your safety. It is especially necessary with regard to expenses. When you expend what is necessary to keep his property in condition and set it all down for his perusal, rendering a voucher for every item, little or large, as you of course will, the chances are that you will surprise and disappoint him. If it is his first experience he may sacrifice you after a year or two in an experiment to see if it cannot be done for less money. Therefore divide responsibility with him at every step if he will permit you. Most men want to be consulted, especially until they find that their agent is entirely safe. Before agreeing to do some needed repair or renewing or improving some appointment of the property get his views and consent; show him as nearly as possible to what it will lead. See if he has not some man whom he would like you to employ, or who will give you an estimate. He will presently find, probably, that men will bid lower for you than they will for him. The volume of your work makes you a desirable customer.
Study the needs of your houses and get a long view of them. You may see some way to improve them. Talk with the owner about these and make use of his suggestions. Something has been said about the tiresome and exacting detail of this business. These conferences with the owner will brace you up and prevent your tiring of and neglecting these matters that seem trifling, but that in the aggregate mean so much for the success of your undertaking. These conferences will not always be pleasant. Sometimes an owner has cause for discouragement and possibly distrust. Let there be no situation or transaction that you are not ready to face. Have no matters that must be concealed. It will be hard enough to satisfy him when things are right, without following questionable courses. I have used the masculine gender here in speaking of owners. Some of your most difficult cases will be with the ladies. Some of them will place full confidence in you. Some are nervous, some naturally suspicious, some ignorant; and this applies to the men as well as to the women. However, most of the owners whom you try to serve faithfully will be your friends.