Any residential or commercial property must be taken care of from both a physical and a tenant-relations standpoint, and that is what a property manager does. He maintains and upgrades facilities while acting as liaison between the owner of the property and tenants. In many cases, the property manager has the responsibility for attracting tenants to the property as well. Since most property managers are in charge of a number of properties at any time, the job can involve frantic work, unusual hours, and extremely difficult schedule coordination. “My desk looks like a hurricane hit it all the time,” wrote one manager, adding that his paperwork burden isn’t just large, “it scares me.” It takes strong communications skills, strong organizational skills, and a flair for numbers to handle this demanding position.
“Everything that goes wrong is your problem,” mentioned one property manager, pointing out that a property manager has the most client contact when disasters occur, such as a flooded basement, a heating system gone awry, or a burglary. This can be daunting for those who don’t perform well in crisis situations. One respondent told us that the best property managers are “proactive rather than reactive.” The more they can anticipate potential problems and prevent them, the fewer they have to deal with. When things do fall apart, often due to short-sighted owners who won’t lay out sufficient money for upkeep, managers must respond quickly and decisively. More mundane tasks, such as collecting rent and coordinating garbage removal, cannot suffer because of unanticipated events.
Many property managers feel that the best feature of the profession is the chance to work with a variety of people on a number of different tasks: “I never know what my day’s going to be like,” as one put it. “I think I know. I’ve made lists of stuff to do. But as soon as you cross one thing out two new things come up. It’s a race to keep on top of everything. I love it.” While property managers spend a lot of their day dealing with paperwork and talking on the telephone, the problems they deal with vary greatly from week to week and month to month, giving most property managers a sense of creative challenge that keeps the job fresh. Onsite managers also have to show prospective tenants around the site and meet with resident boards and committees, which can mean evenings or weekends spent in meetings.
Most major employers ask that property managers have a bachelor’s degree, although no formal requirements are inherent to the field. Coursework that proves helpful to candidates includes real estate, organizational behavior, mathematics, accounting, finance, logic, psychology, and public relations. A few property managers who were responsible for recruiting new tenants stated that marketing courses were helpful as well. After being hired, many people attend brief weekend or three-day training programs, sponsored by the hiring company, that acquaint them with the concerns and obligations of the property manager. Those who wish to become property managers in the public sector, for example in subsidized federal housing, must be certified, although the certification carries weight in the private sector as well. Professional organizations such as the Institute of Real Estate Management or the National Organization of Home Builders administer these exams.
Since they are well-versed in the ins and outs of real estate, many property managers become commercial real estate agents. A significant few with finance experience move into property development, particularly on a local level. Some become specialists in building maintenance and repair, using their industry connections to get regular work.