Expert advice: How to hire a property manager

Jim Gallant
| 6 min. read
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Published on March 5, 2019

Five property management experts reveal what a candidate applying for a property manager job at their businesses must have to make the cut.

Are property management skills, education, and experience most important to general managers of companies hiring new team members? Or do qualities like sense of humor, flexibility, and confidence count more?

To find out, I asked five property management thought leaders, all of them business owners or senior managers at their companies, what matters most for a new property manager to fit in and succeed.

Responses have been edited and condensed.

“Begin by looking at the value proposition of your company. I’ve discussed this in articles over the years, and it’s essentially the driving force behind the growth of any property management business.

Bobby Russo, Ace Mulligan Homes
Bobby Russo
Co-Owner, Ace Mulligan Homes
Pinal County, Arizona

“First, clearly articulate what separates you from your competition. For our company, it’s the delivery of clean houses that allow the tenants to turn them into homes for their families. At the same time, of course, we must protect the investments of our rental owners and secure positive cash flow.

Here’s what I look for in a property manager:

  • Compassion and passion for this business —  We all know this line of work can beat you up, 24/7.
  • Grasping each rental owner’s financial model —  Our people need to understand our owners’ investment goals well to serve them properly.
  • A real estate license —  Eventually we have to convert the investment to cash for the owner and hopefully retain the property as a rental with the new owner.
  • Ability to use our resources and trade vendors —  This ensures our tenants have the nice homes we promised them — always.
  • Networking expertise —  We grow our business through referrals and community networking opportunities.
  • Social media and web experience —  We promote our success stories everyday so to show we get “Better Every Day.”

In short, our business needs business managers, not just staff trying to complete a bunch of daily transactions.  Many of our tenants and rental owners have become like family to us, and they depend on us.”

“The key to successful recruiting is three-fold, and comes under what I call ‘recruitment by design.’ First, know the role you want to fill. By this, I mean be clear on the specific skills and knowledge the candidate must possess. Doing this ensures you aren’t tempted to hire someone who simply has the most charming personality

Jo-Anne-Oliveri-Headshot
Jo-Anne Oliveri
Managing Director, ireviloution intelligence
Brisbane, Australia

Second, you should hire for attitude and train for skill. While possessing the right skills and knowledge is important, candidates must also have the right attitude — they must be teachable and open to improving their skills. That’s because experience is not always an asset; many ‘experienced property managers’ can bring along some bad habits, which makes them more of a liability.

And finally, you should always hire slow and fire fast. This means don’t be desperate to hire, take your time, and if employees are not delivering, let them go as quickly as possible. This ensures your brand is never damaged, your company’s reputation remains intact, and your clients stay happy.”

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Chris_Keivit-larger-headshot
Chris Keivit
Senior Property Manager, Nightingale Chancellors
Richmond, Surrey, England

“When hiring a new property manager, look for education, personality, management style, and experience, or some combination of these. Look at hiring a property manager as an investment; make sure the person is the right fit not only for your organization, but also for the client property he or she will manage.

While the above qualities are primary considerations, focus also on a candidate’s customer service abilities because a big part of being a good property manager involves dealing with the “customers” (the property owners). Ask candidates about specific problems they likely would face. For example, how would they handle residents yelling about internal water damage? Or, how would they handle a tenant simply in need of some consoling?

In summary, compassion, empathy, and ‘intestinal fortitude’ are just as valuable as experience and education.”

Loretta Morgan Headshot
Loretta Morgan
Managing Director, Jam Property
Caloundra , Australia

“When looking to hire a property manager, account for the requirements of your business as it moves forward.  Evaluate your current team’s strengths and weaknesses, and look how to fill any gaps you uncover.

Additionally, consider the dynamics of your team today and other factors like the types of clients and customers you have, the places where your offices are located, and, of course, your business’s plan for growth.

Here are a few qualities a good property manager must have:

  • Ability to build rapport and nurture and develop relationships
  • Attention to detail
  • Excellent time management skills
  • Command over one’s emotions in the face of inevitable adversity
  • Skill at managing crises to smooth resolutions and positive outcomes for all parties

Property managers handle so many different tasks and encounter such a variety of issues everyday that a great personality is paramount. Always hire based on attitude and personality first. Afterward, you can train new property managers in the skill sets they need to do the job.”

Travis-Fall-2012-1-122935-265x310
Travis Martinez
REALTOR® and Principal, Greener Montana Properties
Hamilton, Montana

“I would look for someone who isn’t frazzled by confrontation and can take blame for things that are ‘nobody’s fault.’ Handling such criticism from owners and tenants with grace and humility, while holding ground on the important issues, is more of a personality trait than a skill.

This quality, above all others, is most important in a good property manager. All the other aspects of the role can be taught, but if the nature of the job wears on a person, it’s unlikely he or she will last very long.”

Read more on Team
Jim Gallant
Jim Gallant

Jim Galant is a freelance writer from Boston, MA.

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