Have you ever heard the saying, the day you stop learning is the day you die?

That is just as true in property management as it is in the rest of life.

Last month, I started managing a new property in another state. I’ve done this before, but it’s been a while, and I think I must have gotten a bit rusty at remote property setup. It was definitely a bumpy ride.

But that’s ok.

I knew it wouldn’t all be smooth sailing. But I wanted to do it anyway because learning is the key to growth.

Now I’ve got a shiny new checklist of all the things I should do (and not do) with new remote properties. It will be a huge help the next time I sign an out-of-state client.

It’s certainly been a frustrating learning curve. But I’m also excited. I’m positioned much better now to quickly start up another out-of-state property without all of the headache I had the first time.

If you stop learning, you die.

If you’re thinking about starting to manage properties remotely, I’m going to share with you the hardest-earned lesson I learned from all of this.

Have a standard door and lock installed when you (or your contractor) arrive to set up the property.

I use a specific smart lock with all of my properties. Every other time I’ve had a new property to set up, I’ve simply gone and replaced the existing lock with the one I use. It’s a pretty simple, pain-free process; doesn’t usually take more than an hour or so.

That’s IF the lock you’re replacing is a standard lock.

When I arrived to set up this new property, I didn’t realize that the old property management company had been using the hotel-styled key card locks. Unfortunately, most of the time to install this type of lock you have to cut a giant hole out of the door where the lock goes.

There’s simply no way you can install a standard lock on a door after it’s been fitted with a key-card lock.

So I arrived, armed with all the tools of my trade….only to be stymied by the darn lock. I tried to get a locksmith to remove it for me. He couldn’t. I tried to get a door sleeve to cover the hole; no dice. It would have to be custom-ordered. It was finally decided that we’d have to replace the entire door, but by that time I had to leave.

But I figured it’s such a simple lock….surely it would be easy to have someone else install it, right?

Not so.

So the door got replaced, and the homeowner hired some random person to install the new lock.

They did it wrong.

I didn’t find that out until the housekeeper showed up and couldn’t get inside.

Then I had to hire a locksmith to open the door and retrieve the key that had been left inside. He left the key with the condo management office, and the lock install guy said he’d come back the next day to fix the lock.

By the next day, the office had lost the key. So we had to get another locksmith out there.

Then the lock was installed incorrectly again.

It really is hard to find good help! It was seriously a 2-week saga and cost several hundred dollars to get this darn lock installed!

Eventually, I actually ended up driving back down to the property to finish the installation myself – a 12 hour round trip and only about 30 minutes of actual work. Yikes!

It was such an unbelievable saga.

But I definitely learned my lesson, and won’t be making that mistake again.

So learn from my mistakes. If you’re setting up a remote property, make it a prerequisite that the homeowner has a standard door and lock installed before you arrive. This will make it easy to swap out with any lock of your choosing.

This is even more important with listings that are remotely managed. Because if someone screws up, you’re going to have a hard time going back to fix it – as I painfully learned from experience.

Locks are absolutely the most important aspect of a listing. Without them, no one else can get in or out to do all of the other things that need doing. And they’re a whole lot harder for an untrained contractor to install than simply replacing a rug or some other cosmetic change. As Marie Forleo says, everything is figureoutable….but some things are a whole lot easier to figure out than others!