The skills you need to be a property manager
Do you want a career in property management, but don’t know where to begin? Property management is one of the most challenging yet rewarding professions. It requires you to wear many hats and perform a lot of different services to enhance a property’s value and quality of life for their residents. When hiring new property managers, most property management companies will look for a wide variety of skills. Of course, every company is different. We train all of our property managers, so they are fully in tune with our unique market as well as our corporate culture, communities and standards of service. That said, there is a common set of skills that many of us look for when hiring property managers.
Some people are hesitant to hire a property manager. Could someone possibly care for your property as well as you? Even established property management companies might be hesitant about hiring someone new for their team. After all, a bad hire can be incredibly disruptive to a business.
It’s nearly impossible to guarantee that someone will be a good fit for your company or property. That said, in our experience, it is possible to screen for a number of important characteristics that great property managers often have.
The best residential property managers know how to apply a broad skill set to the unique situations they encounter on the job. They move with ease into situations that require strong communication, negotiation, customer service, and organizational skills. Property managers also have the ability to manage more tangible property-related concerns, such as maintenance and repair issues.
Strong Communication Skills
On our list of the “must-have” property management skills, communication skills take first place. Without strong communication skills, your job as a property manager will be cumbersome. This skill can make or break your property management career. A residential property manager has to communicate effectively with people on all levels, including property owners/ landlords, current and prospective tenants, various contractors, the whole property management team, and other professionals. This role is all about coordination, and that requires you to listen and deliver messages and ensure everyone is on the same page.
Learning how to communicate with others while choosing the right words effectively can make or break your growth in the marketplace. Property managers will be in regular communication with renters, property owners, real estate agents, maintenance contractors, and others. While your properties are an important part of your rental property management company’s portfolio, your success in property management relies greatly on maintaining a high rental rate by attracting new tenants and retaining existing tenants. So it’s the way in which you interact that will seal the deal for tenants.
Respect means that you communicate. You’re easy to access, and when you’re not available, you have processes in place that allow tenants to connect with your property management company. An online tenant portal that allows tenants to self-manage by asking questions, find information, and pay rent online at a time that is convenient for them is a communication investment that will pay off. Keeping the lines of communication open is a great skill to have, and a way for a manager to build and maintain good relationships with tenants.
The work of a property manager often includes several simultaneous tasks, and this requires good organization skills. These are some of the essential property management skills. Being able to set up procedures that help you streamline the workload and keep several balls in the air at the same time is a must.
Let us think of a real-life situation: how would you manage your schedule while simultaneously screening prospective tenants and interviewing them, inspecting vacant apartment units, making sure everyone has paid their rents and that the security guard you contracted is doing the job as agreed? Without the ability to organize, the workload can feel stressful, and your work will look rather sporadic to others. Well-organized property managers define their duties and create organized checklists and deadlines to make sure they will not miss a thing.
Property management is extremely detail-oriented and requires a high level of organization. For example, that leaky roof might have been avoided if your property management company conducted an annual evaluation of large maintenance concerns, such as the integrity of the roof and the safety of stairs and railings. To avoid the leaky roof, you could identify the need for a stronger management process including an ongoing maintenance schedule that involves not only yard maintenance but checking appliances, plumbing, and other common problem areas in the home. Help your managers put these systems in place with rental management software that can be used in the development of a maintenance schedule and ongoing tracking of maintenance and repairs.
Knowledge of Relevant Landlord-Tenant Laws
Guess who both tenants and property owners often go to with their real estate related inquiries? You guessed right, the property managers. These property management skills are very important because you, as a property manager, should know real estate and tenant legislation in-depth. Imagine the owner’s or your tenants’ impressions if you cannot answer their basic questions. You should also realize that these laws can change, so it is property managers’ responsibility to remain up-to-date on all legal and regulatory aspects of property management. Also, remember that sometimes it is okay to admit that you do not know the answer. A good property manager will look for the information and come back with an answer. This leads us to the next important skill: customer service.
Customer Service Orientation
Customer service orientation is also one of the key property management skills. Property managers, in essence, serve their customers (i.e. tenants and property owners). Customer service is about being present and handling your customers’ inquiries.
A good property manager makes her or himself available to tenants, for example, through a web portal where tenants get to ask questions and find relevant resources. When your tenants or the property owner ask questions about the rental property, they should be answered as soon as possible. In terms of complaints, property managers will also need to take urgent action and fix tenants’ problems. A pool of reliable contractors will be useful for unexpected repair and maintenance work. Good property managers do not hide behind the organizational processes of property management, but they prioritize people over other responsibilities and reap the benefits with better tenant retention.
For tenants, excellent customer service and exceptional communication skills go hand in hand. When tenants communicate a question to a manager, they want an answer as soon as possible. Property managers must have a way of managing tenant queries and concerns for problem-solving. A tenant portal makes these questions and concerns visible to tenants. A good property manager must act. For example, suppose a tenant contacts the apartment manager about a possible leak in the roof of their condominium. In that case, you need to take responsibility for this complaint and treat this issue as the emergency it is and respond in a timely manner. To do this, you need a list of pre-approved contractors at the ready and a schedule that shows when your employees and those contractors are available to inspect and manage the customer’s problem.
While some property manager skills are more self-evident than others, marketing skills are often ignored when property management skills are concerned. Why does a property manager need marketing skills? Property managers need to advertise vacant apartment units and need to be able to write about them compellingly. They also need to know where to list them to reach the desired groups of prospective tenants. This is marketing!
Luckily there are good resources online for learning real estate marketing. Indeed, there is plenty of support available if you feel your core competencies lie within other property management functions. Marketing is a skill, and it can be learned too.
Most property managers are skilled in property maintenance and related tasks, but not everyone has extensive marketing experience. Marketing is also one of the responsibilities of a great property manager. Do you find it challenging to write about your properties, add that information to listing services and your website, and develop the site itself so that the listings speak to certain desired groups of tenants? Writing a great property description requires knowledge about the amenities of the property and surrounding area, as well as an understanding of how those amenities will attract a specific group of tenants. Digital property marketing assistance can help you develop a website and list your properties for rent, even if you don’t have a lot of skill or experience with web listings.
Technical Property Know-How
Property managers may have very different backgrounds than one another, but the key denominator for all usually is some basic level of technical understanding of how buildings work. This is a prerequisite for well-documented inspections at the rental properties that keep them safe and secure. Property managers’ technical understanding and know-how help to map typical and expected problems at rental properties. This way, they can be mitigated proactively, and urgent maintenance issues can be prioritized based on their urgency. Therefore, technical know-how is one of the essential property management skills owners, and tenants expect managers to possess.
Portraying Characteristics of a Property Manager
How is portraying certain characteristics related to property management skills? Being a property manager requires you to show a certain kind of personality and character traits in different situations. Property managers need a lot of patience and flexibility on one hand and assertiveness on the other. Their patience, especially, can be often tested when working with various stakeholders with different expectations. How would you react if your contractors run late, your tenants stop paying their rents, or the property owner expects urgent reporting? These are the moments where you need to show patience and flexibility.
On the other hand, the role of a property manager does from time to time require you to be tough. Rental property managers must track late rent payments and handle evictions of problematic tenants. Safe to say, this is a balancing act and requires a great level of professionalism and tact. Cultivation of social intelligence can also help property managers adjust their behaviour according to any given situation, and people they are dealing with.
Think Like Investors
A key consideration for property managers should be that they are managing the properties of investors. This means they need to manage the property as if they were the real estate investor. To this end, they must understand the goals for owning a rental property: to make money out of it.
This skill might not be so self-evident, but anyone who is working in real estate and property management knows that the industry is quickly becoming digital. This, of course, also impacts the property management skills managers are expected to master. New technological tools are introduced frequently that can assist you, your tenants, and the rental property in various ways. Good property management uses these tools to create additional value for their customers’ experience. But it is not only about the added value, as several fundamental responsibilities of property managers require the use of digital channels and tools. What is certain is that today’s tenants are used to different kinds of digital conveniences. So stay up-to-date on the digital property management tools you could utilize for better customer experience and competitive advantage.
The property management industry is evolving at rapid speed. New technologies are being introduced all of the time, from software applications to hardware that enables landlords to conduct self-showings. Candidates must be comfortable using technology because sooner or later, your business will want to jump on the #proptech bandwagon to stay competitive with your peers.
The only thing certain is change. This also applies to the real estate industry and your property management career. A good property manager is committed to ongoing education, which supports and further develops the skills listed above. So, check some of the latest professional development books and other resources out there that ensure you are up-to-date with industry developments and your job description.
Be dependable and available.
Being available when clients need you is vital. Your job description requires you to work with different kinds of people, and it’s your job to keep them satisfied.
Respond to emails and phone calls in a timely manner. If you can’t respond immediately, let them know and offer your sincerest apologies. Either way, show them that you genuinely care about resolving their issue as soon as possible.
Property management is a fast-paced and highly competitive niche. As such, it’s important to have skills and abilities that keep you ahead of the pack. Along with self-discipline and determination, these habits will improve both your professional and personal life.
Commitment to Ongoing Education
Okay, confession—we couldn’t keep our list to just ten qualities of a good property manager! So here’s a bonus trait for you to consider: A candidate’s commitment to ongoing education, which goes hand-in-hand with all of the qualities listed above.
Hands-down, our favourite question to probe further in this regard is by asking candidates what they read. Some will say they don’t have time to read (gulp!), while others may tell you they read the news. Some may read fiction, while others may read business education or professional development books. Look for someone whose reading choices support ongoing industry education and professional development.
Again, it’s almost impossible to find a “perfect” property manager. Some people’s skills will be stronger in one area of the business than others. Regardless of their hard skills, however, you’ll want to find someone who displays these time-tested qualities of a good property manager.
Property managers need to have a diverse range of skills, and they must understand properties as well as people. Some property managers come from a background in customer service, while others come from a background in building maintenance. Each manager should have an understanding of how buildings work so thorough and well-documented inspections can be conducted. Managers also need to understand the typical problems of rental properties so that they can respond appropriately and rank maintenance issues according to their urgency.
Successful property managers get things done when they need to be done. At the same time, they’re savvy and experienced enough to know which parts of their job take priority over others. If you’re going into the industry, it’s important to have good work habits.