EPMEPM: Productivity

Are the riches in the niches?

With the real estate industry becoming more technology-powered and data-focused, both property management and sales departments are vulnerable to disintermediation. But, rather than remaining a generalist where most operators are, the answer could be to specialise, as Natalie Hastings explains.

Our industry’s past was all about the big-brand dominance of real estate generalists – those one-stop-shops that offered everything from commercial property management to private sales, owners corporation management to holiday letting. The future of real estate is about developing a reputation for excellence in a specific niche.

Your property management department may already have begun the process of specialisation, whether in the form of outsourcing various functions such as condition reports or trust accounting, or splitting the traditional responsibilities of a single person across multiple team members. Perhaps you’re on the cusp of redefining your vision for the next decade of your portfolio development.

Here are some intelligent ways property management departments across Australia have found their niche, future-proofing their businesses while presenting themselves as an expert to their clients.

Looking for greater efficiency and consistency? Property management departments are routinely beginning to specialise internally by dividing the traditional role of a property manager into multiple positions. Rather than expecting one person to have strengths in administration, leasing, marketing and business development, future-focused principals are recruiting specialist BDMs, leasing managers and maintenance specialists to streamline their departments.

Working to an individual’s natural interests and talents can enhance portfolio results and reduce stress, lowering team attrition and offering greater consistency for landlords and tenants. If one team member moves on, key knowledge about your landlords’ assets remains within the business. The property management department model of old asked that managers were all things to all people –in addition to sometimes being cleaners, tradies, marriage counsellors and mediators. This is not only exhausting for team members; it’s ultimately inefficient for businesses and their bottom lines too.

Landlords and tenants are both becoming more discerning. They want a genuine empathy and connection with the businesses to which they entrust their assets. The generic or ‘big brand’ approach to real estate doesn’t impress in the way it used to; today’s highly literate clients must be wooed in a more sophisticated way. It’s up to real estate businesses to meet and exceed their clients’ expectations with a connection.

That’s where establishing your agency niche comes to the fore. In a market saturated by real estate same-ness, savvy principals are differentiating their property management departments by choosing a specialty and sticking to it. Here are some bespoke solutions agencies have successfully adopted:

Property genre specialists: Build your reputation based on being an expert in the management of apartments. Or family homes. Or properties within body corporates. Or brick veneers, Queenslanders or student accommodation. Pick your category and go for gold!

Community specialists: Maybe your property management business does a wonderful job in managing expats’ assets. Or you’re well-known for managing properties from overseas investors, or specific community groups. Communities love to be acknowledged and understood; focus on building a relationship with a niche audience.

Location specialists: Stake your claim on your property management department’s farm area by focusing on listing only in that area.

Rather than restricting your potential for new business, your specialist status may win you more landlords than ever before!

Across Australia, non-traditional property management models are erupting, fuelled by shared-economy apps. Often led by property managers choosing to freelance, independent real estate contractors build businesses around managing Airbnbs for landlords. A highly contentious category of the wider property management community, these businesses won’t be going away anytime soon. How can your agency embrace the shared economy, or divert potential Airbnb landlords away from the app and towards your business?

Entrepreneurship within property management is the way of the future, with agencies specialising across a variety of niches. Technology and outsourcing have levelled the playing field when it comes to winning business and building portfolios. Is it time for your property management department to find its niche?

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Natalie Hastings

Natalie Hastings is the Managing Director of Hastings + Co. For more information, visit hastingsandco.com.au.