EPMEPM: Best Practice & Legislation

Don’t blame the messenger: Michelle Williams

When you start out in property management, it can be overwhelming and confronting having to deal with multiple tasks while trying to understand all the different elements of the role. In the early days what we tend to do is manage the tasks reactively as they happen, and we also fall into the habit of becoming 'order takers' or 'the messenger'.

Unfortunately, this kind of reactive management is no longer acceptable to the savvy investor. They expect you to represent them and lead their decisions based on knowledge and expertise. They don’t want you to simply be the go-between. When you think about it, why would they pay for that service when they could cut out the middleman?

When I see correspondence from my own office that is simply a message requiring the owner to make a decision without our advice, I question the value in our service and take the opportunity to educate the property manager around providing advice: a solution, not a problem.

The owner should not be the person to question us for advice; we should be offering it from the outset and making it easy for them to make a decision. For example, if you send an email with a question like this:

“Dear Mr Smith, your tenant has requested a short renewal of three months rather than 12. Please confirm your instructions.”

What will the owner immediately be thinking? I can tell you as a property investor myself they will be thinking: is it in my interests to allow a renewal of three months? How will it impact re-letting and the time of year – will it impact on the rent I can achieve?

So we need to be answering the questions before the client needs to ask them.

The email or conversation should go something like this:

“Mr Smith, Joe & Karina have responded to our offer of a 12-month tenancy renewal requesting a shorter extension of three months because they are looking to buy a home. While we appreciate the tenants being honest about their intentions, we act for you as our client. Our advice is to consider negotiating a seven-month minimum extension, because this will bring the expiry date into a much better time for re-letting and thus maximise the rental potential. Naturally, it is your decision, so please let me know your thoughts before we respond on your behalf.”

In order to deliver on the expectations of your clients you need to offer them professional advice and negotiate on their behalf the best possible outcomes. You need to start thinking like a property owner and understand their frustrations, financial stress and communication needs. It has to be easy for them to do business with you; they should not have to make all the decisions.

Another example of being the messenger is reporting maintenance. Below are two examples, one reactive, the other proactive.

“Mr Smith, we have received a maintenance request from your tenant: ‘The toilet is leaking at the base’ .Can you let me know if you are happy for me to arrange a plumber?”


“Mr Smith, we received a maintenance request from your tenant in relation to a leaking toilet. After a follow-up call for more information, we have identified that there is a slow leak from the base of the toilet. We have had a look at the condition report and it appears that the toilet is relatively old, so before we arrange a plumber on your behalf we would like to seek instructions on the maximum expenditure for repairs before you would like to consider replacement? As soon as you confirm instructions we will arrange a plumber immediately to avoid any potential water damage to the floor.”

Do you see the difference in this approach?

You are not just the messenger; you are the trusted advisor, the experienced professional delivering the best possible advice to your clients to maximise the return on their investment. I promise you that if you become the messenger, the owner will not see the value in your service and they will find someone who will deliver the value.

You should always offer your advice in all situations, even if the owner decides not to take it. At least you are demonstrating that you have thought about a solution and considered the best outcome.

So yes, you should blame the messenger if the business is lost to the competition. Work on your skills, knowledge and communication in order to deliver the service and advice that your client is paying for.

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Michelle Williams

Michelle Williams is the Managing Director of @home Property Management Solutions and has been named 2 years running in the top 100 Elite Agent industry influencers.