Property Management Jobs and Careers

Estate and property management is not just about overseeing the practical aspects of land and property. There is an economic imperative too: well-managed properties maintain and increase their investment values, while sometimes generating income and profits for the owners. This is certainly the case with commercial retail and industrial properties, but it's also true with community associations and properties owned by cooperatives, right down to the individual home with a single property owner.

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An estate or property manager is appointed by the owner to handle all issues that affect the property. They are then responsible for selling, leasing, transferring and operating. This is a truly multitasking job, which varies enormously according to the individual situation and whether the manager is employed by the property owner or an agency.

Duties of a Property Manager

Usually, property managers take care of the property's financial operations. Whether the property is urban or rural, this may mean:

Housing Manager

A housing manager may work for a housing association, a local authority or another provider of accommodation. They are usually responsible for liaising with the tenants and ensuring rent is collected, as well as handling issues that arise, such as complaints, and organising repair and maintenance work.

If working for an association or housing trust, the manager may be in constant contact with a particular community that the organisation supports, such as minority groups or people with substance abuse problems. In these cases, they will be working in a team with other support staff in the organisation. A housing manager may be the line manager for other staff, such as housing officers or tenancy support officers.

Community Association Manager

The property manager in a community association has some differing responsibilities, due to the different nature of the employing organisation. The residents they liaise with are not tenants, but homeowners who are sharing in the overall costs of running and maintaining the property they live on or in.

Usually, the association's volunteer board of directors has employed the manager to take care of the property's maintenance and facilities. The manager may also undertake some of the administration. Community association managers also help ensure conformity to association and government rules and regulations.

With very large associations, the manager is usually one of a larger team who handle a sizeable workload. In such instances, the manager takes care of the association's financial concerns, while overseeing maintenance and operation of the shared facilities and public areas. They must do so while always being compliant to legal regulations, particularly when reviewing community members' proposed alterations to homes.

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Estate Manager

Estate managers often bridge the related areas of property management and business practices, given that their primary concern is the value of the properties as investments. Estate managers may therefore be involved in property development, property investment management, valuation, facilities management and estate management.

Operating in both the public and private sector, estate managers are increasingly important due to the continued unpredictability of the property market. Taking advantage of the investment opportunities offered now needs greater expertise at both every stage. Estate managers need to not only maintain value on existing properties, but to manage the development of these and other properties, as well as negotiating urban and environmental planning procedures to develop new ones.

Employers range from global property firms with interests in building surveying, corporate property and investment to small firms with a rural focus. Additionally, numerous medium-sized companies and consultancies operate in both public and private sectors. Between these two extremes there are many medium-sized companies, consultancies and opportunities in the public sector.

Property Agent (Estate Agency)

Estate agency property managers handle the leasing of residential property to tenants. They earn commission-based fees according to the level of service provided to property owners: if they only find the tenants, there may be a flat rate fee, whereas if they find tenants, collect the deposit and rent, organise repairs and conduct inspections, they receive an ongoing percentage of the rental monies. They may also charge prospective tenants an application processing fee.

These property managers need to ensure that all legal health and safety requirements are met. Having satisfied themselves that the property meets all regulations, they will set a rent and then advertise the property. Once a tenant is selected, their application is checked and references are taken up. Credit checks may also be run.

The manager draws up tenancy agreement contracts and organises bank transfers. They will collect a deposit from the tenant as well as the first month or two months' rental payment, before collecting monthly payments on behalf of the property owner.

Type of Person

Property managers employed by large organisations other than estate agencies usually have university degrees, with education in areas including accounting, business administration, finance, property management and public administration.

A logistical approach and problem-solving skills are also important, as problems occur on an almost daily basis. The ability to organise and prioritise a workload and ensure that construction, maintenance and repair work is conducted in an organised and timely fashion.

Financial acumen and a commercial awareness are vital. Property managers in larger investment organisations need to possess strong knowledge of the property markets and economic trends that affect investment values.

Numeracy and the ability to understand financial arrangements are essential, as is attention to detail - there can be a high level of office-based work involving documentation.

Negotiating skills are also valuable, as tenders need to be issued, contractors hired and materials bought.

As much of the work involves liaising with tenants, good interpersonal skills are needed. Communication skills are important, whether verbal or written.

Getting Started

Given the wide range of skills and extensive knowledge needed for positions of greater responsibility, property managers often commence their careers in positions of less responsibility and work their way up. This may mean working in office complexes or apartment units, gaining experience under supervision before advancing to assistant manager roles.

Experience is easier to gain in an estate agency, where an aspiring property manager can work in an assistant role in the residential or commercial lettings department. These days, this kind of experience exceeds that gained in areas such as construction, because employers are more likely to want financial, administration and client handling abilities.

Assistant property managers gain experience of budgets, insurance and risk options, as well as property marketing and rental collection. Recent university graduates with qualifications in finance, accounting or administration are often selected for these positions, even without on-site experience. It follows that graduates who gain secondments or internships will stand an even better chance of success with the most attractive positions.

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