BARRE — The slogan reads “the missing piece to your peace of mind.”
But it’s more than a mere catchphrase to the co-founders of Stone and Browning Property Management, Reuben Stone and Mark Browning: it’s a philosophy.
“Owning rental property can be extremely overwhelming,” said Browning, a co-founder of the company. “That’s what we do. We take that headache and we absorb that. We make the life of being a landlord and a property owner simple, convenient, and enjoyable,” he said of the company, which opened for business in February.
Browning said the company, based out of Barre, does a variety of things to help its clients.
“We do commercial residential rentals, and we do everything from filling vacancies to advertising the empty units, to credit and background checks, screenings of potential tenants, organized financial reports, and minor maintenance,” he said.
In addition, the company also organizes contractors and helps collect rent.
Co-founder Reuben Stone said one of the reasons he got into the business of real estate management was because it offered variety.
“I hate routine more than anything,” Stone said. “In real estate I have learned that no two days are alike at all.”
According to Stone, the idea of the two friends running a company together was born a couple years ago when they became interested in the investing industry. However, he said the two realized they didn’t know a lot of the “strategies” of investing. As a result they wanted to start a business in an industry closely tied to investing where they could make connections with a multitude of people.
“Property management allows us to both help out landlords and other property owners in the area, while at the same time really learning the ins and outs of the industry and make the connections with landlords, bank lenders, and contractors,” Stone said. “So when it comes time when we’re ready to invest on our own, we know the right people to make it happen.”
The two said the homework necessary to start a business from scratch took about a year and a half. Both Stone and Browning are members of the Vermont Apartment Owners Association as well as the National Apartment Association.
Stone and Browning are recent college graduates. Stone graduated from the University of Southern Maine, where he majored in industrial technology with a concentration in management. Browning graduated from West Virginia University where he studied business administration with minors in public relations and communications.
Both hail from the Granite City and are graduates of Spaulding High School. They say their connection with the central Vermont community is one of the reasons they wanted to start a business here.
“Reuben and I were both born and raised in Vermont, we both come from great families, we know a lot of people and we’ve both been involved in our community,” Browning said. “People are very excited to see that we’re taking this next step.”
Browning said the company currently manages just under 10 units and he that he feels the reaction to the company from the community has been very positive.
However, Stone acknowledged that getting a new company off the ground is difficult work, as he said the two have only been back in the central Vermont area for two months.
“As far as the responsiveness of clients and new clients to approach and work with, I feel like that end has been kind of slow,” he said. “But on the other hand the clients we have now absolutely love us, in my opinion anyway.”
Browning said the one of the things that’s extremely important to both him and Stone is making and fostering connections with the people they are working with.
“What we really pride ourselves on is the relationships that we build between our clients and our tenants and how we maintain them,” he said. “That’s something that we stress every single day. We like to be in contact with our clients and our tenants nearly every day, or every couple of days.”
One of the ways they stay in touch with their clients is via an online system run through their website, Stone said.
“We use an online program that allows tenants and landlords to log in through their portal and see who’s late on rent, who’s paid rent, what maintenance requests have been made, who worked those maintenance requests, and how much they were,” Stone said.
“You can pretty much do everything through it, so it’s very essential,” Browning added.
Stone said that thus far the company is making a profit. But he said when it comes to a list of priorities for the company, making money is at the bottom.
“We don’t ever want to come across to our clients or potential clients that we’re only in it to take your money,” he said. “That’s not it at all. That’s at the bottom of the list. Our main focus is whether or not you’re happy. And if that means we take a hit to make sure you’re happy and you’ve got what you want, that’s okay. We just want to come across as people you can trust.”
Currently, Stone and Browning said they are the two “main” employees at the company, although they said they often contract out to a team of people that work closely with them. But Stone said there is a distinct advantage to being a small company.
“While we’re small right now, that’s the mentality that I want to carry throughout the rest of our lives,” he said. “Whether we grow to 200 or 300 units or whether we grow to 20,000 units, I want to have everybody be able to contact me. So if there are any issues, they don’t feel like they’re just another customer. I want them to feel like they’re the one and only one that we have.”
Browning said that while the real estate business is not the end goal — the pair still want to get involved in investing at some point — both he and Stone want the business to succeed and be around for the long term. The current goal for the company is to expand to Chittenden County, Stone and Browning said. In the meantime, Browning said Stone and Browning Property Management will continue to do everything it can to help apartment owners, landlords, and tenants thrive.
“We provide a service that just makes your life a heck of a lot easier,” Browning said.
For more information about Stone and Browning Property Management, visit www.StoneBrowningPM.com.MORE IN Central Vermont
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