Property Management: The World’s Best Job

By Shannyn Laird

 

To me, the idea of ‘Instagram perfect’ is ridiculous.

I’m sure there are plenty of happy people living great lives out there, but we all have our quirks and eccentricities, our ordeals and values, that make us interesting, complex humans.

In fact, there’s one element of my life I’ve been told time and again runs contrary to common wisdom and makes me a bit odd.

You see, I work in property management – and I love it!

Property management, or PM, is a lousy job according to my sources. I receive veiled sympathy about my work all the time:

“Property management… you couldn’t pay me enough to do that!”

But their wrong. These uninformed observers mistakenly think a property manager’s life must be full of stress and conflict, but I can attest that the opposite is quite true – or, at least it is in my work place.

 

Why the stigma?

There are a few reasons why the public might have this opinion on the role of PMs.

Firstly, people fixate on the sales side of real estate agencies. There’s this focus on the quick-wins with sales, rather than the long-term successes of property management. “If you’re going to work in real estate, why would anyone choose PM over the high-flying excitement of sales?” they reason. But I can tell you I experience a deep sense of satisfaction every day at my workplace via PM successes.

Secondly, bad news gets attention. There are entire websites devoted to highlighting terrible landlord behaviour, and those ‘Tenants from hell’ headlines are very clickable.

In truth, these are the extremes of the range. Neither tenants nor landlords are, on the whole, fundamentally bad. Most want to operate in a space of mutual respect, but many just don’t understand their relative responsibilities, and that causes conflict.

So, from the outside, a PM’s job must look like a series of never-ending complaint calls from a broad range of customers all looking for their issues to be addresses as top priority.

Granted, this sort of generalist view may have been founded upon real-life stories of less-than-satisfactory experiences in the rental space, but we’ve found the formulae for success at Urban. A few building blocks that we put in place from the outset to create not only a harmonious workspace for our PMs, but an excellent experience for landlords, tenants and general contractors.

 

Start with team

Your workmates are your second family.

The absolute first move for making this job a dream is to have an awesome team at the office.

In PM, this starts with seeking folk who are committed, responsible, detail oriented types that carry healthy doses of empathy and common sense.

Perhaps this is a lot to ask of one person, but as a collective, the right team can have these characteristics in droves.

Having processes in place to support the team’s operations are also key. For example, we keep our PM’s portfolios smaller than industry standard. Some might believe we’re overstaffed, but to me, having less stress for great managers pays off in the long run with good employee retention rates and highly-satisfied, well-serviced customers.

And while we obviously expect work to be completed at the highest level during work hours, Urban also makes room for self-improvement and life balance as part of the program. For example, we have a day each week devoted to helping everyone skill up through guest presenter lunches and educational support.

 

Educate tenants, owner and contractors

One of the reasons stakeholders have a hard time in the rental space is they’re unaware of how responsibilities are distributed. So, you need to set out the guidelines, rules and expectations early in the relationship.

When taking on a landlord, it’s not just a matter of having them sign a standard form and sending them on their way. Part of the process is to educate the owner on what they must provide a tenant who leases their property in terms of a safe, private, fully operational home. This is well legislated by lawmakers, and addressing this first up can easily help diffuse any future problems. For example, if a hot water system breaks at midnight and starts flooding the living area, we will be calling an emergency plumber at more costly rates and getting it repaired, because it’s the law.

Similar rules apply in the tenant relationship. Firstly, we ensure they’re a good match for a certain property and lease arrangement. We also make them fully aware of their role in the upkeep of the home so there’s no question as to who takes care of what. We also have processes in place to ensure rent is paid promptly each month and ways to address issues if this runs into a rough patch.

Finally – we ensure our excellent trades and go-to contractors understand our processes when it comes to arranging maintenance and repair. They know what standards are expected around cost, quality and timing. We also keep a panel of them on the books so if one is unavailable, there are several backups on hand.

 

Everyone wins

I get a lot of satisfaction when I get a new management from a landlord who’s frustrated by their last PM, and believes their tenants are a horror to deal with, because I get the chance to repair the relationship – and I rarely find one that can’t be fixed through a healthy dose of communication and understanding.

It’s these sorts of wins that have me and my team opening the office door and looking forward to getting each day underway.

In the end, by ensuring we provide a productive, low-stress environment where the ground rules are clearly set out for everyone to follow – from the PM through to landlords, tenants and contractors – everyone comes up a winner.