I was chatting with a new client just the other day and we were talking a little bit about the industry and the ‘revolving door’ that seems to see property managers come and go from business on a consistent cycle. He was saying that he has a property in NSW and has had 6 property managers in the last 6 years and I joked that it’s a new property manager every six months! But it was true, almost 6 months on the dot he’d experienced a change in property manager. He was incredibly frustrated because there hadn’t appeared to be any kind of handover and any outstanding issues at the time of the change seemed to go back to square one with each new member of staff.
We had a bit of a chat amongst ourselves in the office after this phone call and I got to thinking about it a little more. So, I started talking to some of my friends who work in the industry about the staff turnover in their offices and a clear pattern emerged.
Staff retention in Property Management is pretty appalling. The average PM changes companies every 12-18 months. Not as bad as my poor client who barely got to know his PM’S name and hadn’t once had a routine inspection with the same property manager since the beginning of his experience with the agency but still concerning.
Most clients think that the staff turnover is the fault of the staff members. That property managers come and go because they can’t do their jobs, because they are incompetent and simply can’t keep up with what’s required. The amount of times I’ve heard PM’s described as ‘hopeless’ or ‘useless’ by landlords and tenants is far more than I care to remember. The reality is that this high turnover of staff has more to do with the inadequacies of the agency and the director than the PM.
Lack of training is honestly the biggest downfall of our industry. So many young people join our industry seduced by the thought of a really classy lifestyle of boozy lunches and glitz and glam (take a look back at my Blog: Property Management- The Myth and you’ll see I used to feel this way about real estate too) and they come into our businesses and think that they can take on this world, how hard can it be right? Surely they’ll only have to make some calls, open some doors, close some doors and have an ace headshot on their business card.
We should all know by now that there’s far more to this complex beast than that.
But in all their enthusiasm and excitement the directors and department heads forget that these new minds need to be trained and nurtured so that they are equipped with the tools that they require to do their jobs properly, to uphold the company standards of service and excellence. Instead they throw them in to the deep end, drag them into a meeting once a week and examine some basic KPI’s, probably scold them for their downfalls and send them on their way again.
As an industry we have, for years, failed to nurture the potential of our people. If you’re excited, if you’re enthused, if you’re passionate then you have the basics of what it takes to succeed in any industry- and given the right knowledge, the right tools and the right support these people can become invaluable members of our business that will help it to grow and prosper.
But the fact that we don’t take the time, that we don’t train our people from the beginning and commit to ongoing training in the areas that are identified as a concern means that six months down the track this person is stuck in a portfolio that is crumbling beneath them. Sure, they’ve done the basics, some condition reports, opened some doors, made some phone calls but that’s it. And do you know what happens when that portfolio implodes, and it gets too much to handle? That person throws their hands up in the air and they walk away. Not only do they move on to their next position ill prepared and lacking in the skills and knowledge to do succeed at the next place, but they’ve left a complete mess for the next person to clean up. The flow on effect is 6 months of hard work trying to clean up from the person before whilst still trying to manage the day to day and then comes a burnout from working long hours with little support and that person soon moves on too.
Added to that is a lack of support. I have a wonderful friend who has been a PM for over 20 years. She is simply amazing. She’s so frustrated in her current role because there is simply no support. The department head doesn’t seem to give two hoots about anyone or anything providing they don’t loose properties as it will affect their numbers. When my friend recently went on leave nobody took care of her portfolio, she was expected to either work through her holidays or face the catch up when she returned to work. I know from experience if you leave things to build up until you return you may as well book another holiday straight away because you’re so exhausted and overwhelmed from trying to get back on top of things. My friend will often go to her department head for support with difficult situations and is simply shrugged off. Yet the tables are turned when that same department head goes on leave and my friend is expected to step in and take care of things in her absence whilst still doing her own work with little to no thanks or appreciation.
Too many times I see PM’s loaded with responsibility and a portfolio so large that there is no possible way they will ever succeed or uphold the company values. They are literally drowning in work and the fact that they are undertrained makes it impossible for them to have the coping strategies to work through their daily tasks without eventually falling by the wayside.
Until the industry mindset changes and agencies and their directors realise and understand how important their people are to their business and recognise Property Management as a lucrative business that deserves training and support then nothing is going to happen. Discount agents are the worst offenders in this scenario, they’ll happily offer their clients a 4 or 5% management fee and then employ newcomers to the industry to take care of the daily management of their property, they’ll pay them the bare minimum and provide them with no training or support. You’ll see staff turnover in discount agents far quicker than anywhere else changing companies around every 8 months. The reality is that Property Management teams should be undertaking at least one training activity a month whether that be attending a training session, watching webinars, reading a book or simply reading industry related articles on the internet. We should strive to learn something new every single day and to support our people in their learning and development. At the end of the day it’s going to result in a better service to our clients.
There are quite literally hundreds of Property Managers in every single area of every suburb, some are the big corporate companies, some are independents, and some are boutique agencies specialising in Property Management. Your choices are endless. You could easily shop around and find the lowest management fees and go with that agent, but you’ll likely have two or three property managers in the first fixed term lease because there is no training or support in the office and the management fees are so low they can’t offer their teams decent remuneration packages.
Or you could do your research. Find out as much about the company as you can- forget the fees because the fact is they’re 100% tax deductible anyway. Talk to the people in the business, ask who your property manager will be, ask them how long they’ve been with the business, how long they’ve been in the industry… ask them what they LOVE about their job. This is the person that is going to take care of your investment property worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, do you really want to focus on the difference between their fees and the agent down the road who has absolutely no clue what they are doing with no support from their office? You want to connect with this person, you want them to treat your property as if it were your own and you want to be sure that in a few months’ time you’re not going to receive a friendly email introducing your new property manager because they’ve moved on.
Here at H2HPM I am the director, but I am actively involved in every single aspect of the running of the business on a day to day basis. Unlike most traditional agencies we have no sales department, so my sole focus is on Property Management and providing outstanding service to all my clients.
I manage my own portfolio and I support my team. Everyone here has ownership over their role, they have the power to make decisions when they need to, and they know that they can ask for additional support and training whenever they feel the need. As a group we attend training sessions and conferences together and we undergo in office training sessions every fortnight. We are not scared to identify the areas that require improvement and work on them.