Around the country, cities of all sizes have found it necessary to find new ways to house their growing populations. If you live anywhere near a major transportation corridor and are within 50 miles of any major metropolitan area, you’ve been hearing about it and/or witnessing it. Already, about one third of the U.S. population rents an apartment. As a result, more apartments get built, necessitating the hiring of people to manage them.
Over the course of the past year, I’ve had the opportunity to become acquainted with a property manager for a company that owns thousands of residential rental properties in multiple cities. A long time ago, in my “rental days,” I was fortunate enough to live on properties that were always less than 6 residential units. Back then, it never dawned on me how detailed and involved such a job might be because most of the time, the property manager was the property owner. If anything needed attention, getting it done required merely making a phone call. When I began to understand the scope of my new acquaintance’s work, I could only then begin to have a basic understanding of scaled property management. When done well, it can be a very impressive, rewarding and diversified career. By no means is this an easy gig – it is not!
At its core, property management is a combination of (in no particular order) customer service, administrative and logistical duties. But it doesn’t end there. A good property manager will take on light maintenance and repairs, when necessary, retrieve supplies from retailers, and perform research and background checks on prospective renters.
Despite “the great migration” away from cities, propagated by the pandemic, many people are still renting apartments. In areas near colleges and universities where students have returned to their classrooms, there was a strong surge for student housing this fall, which will also create lots of vacancies becoming available in the late spring and early summer when semesters end. This seasonal cycle means that property managers must try to fill their vacant units, with hopefully long-term renters. The manager will use social media, as well as traditional means of promotion and advertising to promote the availability of their unoccupied units. In other words, a property manager’s work can remain hectic at all times of the year.
The property manager and their staff are frequently the first people one meets when they go to check out a prospective rental place to live. Usually, if an application hasn’t already been procured and filled out beforehand, the manager will provide a rental application, give a tour of one or more available units or a demo unit, and spend some time talking about the facilities and amenities available both on-site, and in the neighborhood. This is in addition to explaining the rental fee structures, add-ons, security deposits, and revealing a few, but not all, policies of the property, such as if smoking is allowed in units, on the grounds in designated areas, or not permitted at all. Application fees to cover the cost of the background checks must also be collected.
Other items like pool, hot tub and fitness center access, parking, and policies about noise and parties, might also be discussed. There’s usually a long list of items that are important to both the prospective renters and the property owners that the manager must go over, and that must be reviewed and agreed upon by all parties.
The property manager is also responsible for coordinating maintenance requests and repairs, scheduling trades people to work collectively with on-site staff or independently to accomplish major tasks. If there are more than a dozen or so apartments to look after, this can be a major undertaking, and herculean when hundreds of units are involved because multiple issues needing attention tend to crop up at the same time, particularly after a major storm or other weather event. Overseeing groundskeepers, gardeners, pool cleaners, electricians and other service providers are also part of the property manager’s responsibilities.
Keys to individual units and the property’s overall security are also handled by the property manager. Imagine trying to keep track of the hundreds of keys needed for individual unit entry, garage and pool access. Maintaining good relationships with locksmiths and possibly an external security company are also important as a larger property can keep these service providers pretty busy. Coordinating carpenters, painters, plasterers, plumbers, carpet installers/removers and other trades will also keep the property manager on their toes.
A property manager is also likely to be responsible for mail and package distribution for residents. Indeed, there will be mail boxes that are going to be filled by local USPS mail carriers, but small and large packages must be secured and residents then notified of their packages’ arrival.
The customer service aspects of the job continue from move in to move out. The property manager has to demonstrate good listening skills, provide responses in a timely manner, and display compassion and understanding when issues crop up for the tenant and their rental.
Good jobs with this much diversity are rare, and it can be exciting and invigorating to use so many skills all the time. Such opportunities might also present on-site living situations that cut down on commuting time and expenses. Property management can be a satisfying career for the person with the right skill-set and experience, and more and more of these jobs are becoming available around the country. Ask yourself: Are you the right person to take on all the challenges property management offers?
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