Like a computer to a programmer, or a book to a worm, a line of communication follows property managers everywhere, day and night. People will have questions about their condominium fees, others will have problems with their toilets, and then there's contractors who need permission to perform repairs. The different kinds of calls are endless, but all have to be dealt with promptly.
Whether a residential property manager looks after a complex with 30 condo suites, or a building with 300 rental units, the work requires a clear understanding of expectations and the ability to deliver. "You must like dealing with people and be good at it," said Laura, a Certified Property Manager (CPM). "Your goal is to try and keep everybody happy, and be fair to all. We're in the service business and the big thing is just being there."
Marc, a senior property manager, said managing a condo requires a similar approach, except those in a condo are owners and not tenants. That difference changes the relationship and the laws governing the property. "You can't always solve everybody's problem to meet their desire," he said. "But sometimes you solve a problem just by educating them, because they may have a problem with the law. The whole point is to be open and honest."
Regardless of what type of residential property being managed, the work can proceed at a break-neck pace. "You're on call basically 24 hours a day," explained Laura. "Depending how many properties you may be responsible for, at rent time it can be pretty hectic if you're responsible for collection at many sites." Marc added: "You answer phone calls from people with different concerns about their properties, meet trades people on-site, negotiate contracts.... There could be 50 to 60 different calls in two days. You don't have time to be bored."
There could be 50 to 60 different calls in two days. You don't have time to be bored.
In addition to ensuring rent is collected, a rental property manager often trains, evaluates and supervises on-site employees, such as a live-in manager, ensures buildings and equipment are operating soundly, completes income and expense reports, and deals with those who don't pay the rent on time. Rental property managers may oversee a number of buildings, meaning different owners will have different expectations as well. "It can be stressful if you work for a building owner that doesn't want to put money back into a building," said Laura. Again, managing a condo complex requires many of the same duties be completed.
The pace of the work came as no surprise to Laura. After time in the construction industry and working as an office manager/accountant, she wanted to continue dealing with people, but in a new role. After completing courses from university, the Institute of Real Estate Management, the Real Estate Institute of Canada and gaining hands-on experience, the CPM designate loves the work. "It's very rewarding," she said. "I've never had a day that I didn't want to come to work. Ninety nine per cent of the people are really good, although there's that one per cent that will try you on."
Marc, who came to the industry after completing a social sciences degree, also completed hands-on training and education to receive his Accredited Residential Manager (ARM) and Professional Associate (ACCI) of the Canadian Condominium Institute (ACCI) designations. He too enjoys the work. "It's a good industry if you like people and solving problems. I enjoy what I do."
Ninety nine per cent of the people are really good, although there's that one per cent that will try you on.
Managers are also required for commercial and industrial buildings, but those relationships are considerably different, and can be less human intensive than residential management. "Often you're dealing with a president, or vice president, or small business owner and you don't see them until the lease is up," Laura said. "You don't develop the same relationships as you do in residential where people get to know you." Condo management also means many personal relationships are established, Marc said, but condo managers take direction from a volunteer board of owners, and not from an outside property owner, thus changing the fine print of that connection.
Another part of Laura's interest in the work lies in the freedom of her time. "I am basically self-employed." But to continue to meet obligations to others, support is needed. "It's very important to have competent back up staff, although I'm more hands on. I will go over and check the boiler with the resident manager. The staff know my tenants have my phone numbers. If they don't look after a problem, they know the next step may be a call to me. I don't get many calls."
Working with for a management company, Marc said he and his co-workers will take turns covering weekends and the required 24-hour call. Often, however, the manager for a specific property will also be called to deal with whatever arises.
While travel may cause some CPM's headaches, Laura, who currently manages eight buildings, believes there's a bright future for good property managers. "If you like people and deal with some stress as a positive thing, go for it."
Marc also sees many opportunities in the field. "You have to be well organized and know how to manage your time well, but if you're willing to learn, there's lots of opportunities.