EPMEPM: Case Studies

Harriet Hovey: LJ Hooker Bathurst

Originally from the UK, Harriet Hovey migrated to Australia in 2011. Over the last four years she has worked as a property officer and property manager, and is now a senior property investment manager at LJ Hooker Bathurst. A member of LJ Hooker’s Captains Club, she was the 2015 International Best New Talent first runner-up and won the NSW/ACT Rookie of the Year at the LJ Hooker Summit Conference the same year. Her NSW cell also won the award for top property management growth after seeing a 117 per cent increase in the number of properties within the first 18 months of opening.

When did you start in real estate?
I started working in real estate as a full-time, unpaid property management volunteer in 2011. I had moved over from the UK and hadn’t yet been granted work rights in Australia. It took seven months to get approved and I finally started as a property manager in February 2012.

What are your qualifications?
I have a Certificate of Registration, LJ Hooker Captain’s Club membership and a whole lot of common sense!

What made you choose a property management career?
I really just fell into the position and thrived. I quickly realised the poor reputation most property managers get labelled with and wanted to change my clients’ perceptions through hard work, going over and above what they were used to.

As a property manager, what are the biggest challenges you face?
We are very flexible with our landlords and tenants, so our biggest hurdle would be to remember each person’s specific requirements and how they like to be managed. That means ensuring that all notes in their agency agreements are followed through, such as their preferences for routines, daily payments, copies of invoices prior to payment, and so on.

What do you love about property management?
I love changing people’s perceptions from both tenants’ and landlords’ perspectives. I believe property management has been seen as the ugly sibling of sales for too long, so I enjoy seeing the change in our clients when we add value to our services and they realise we do a great job in harmony with the sales team.

What is unique about your agency?
We offer a service that nobody else in our area provides. We have a way of reducing the interest that clients will pay to their bank by using daily payments into offset accounts. This means we can keep a quality management fee whilst saving our clients money. We also send presents out to all our good tenants twice a year with written references included – plus we send them a thank you SMS every time rent is paid. We strongly believe in tenant appreciation. Happy tenants mean happy landlords.

Do you have an amusing story?
I have had some very interesting tenants. The best phone call I’ve received was from a male tenant advising that someone had broken into their house, made themselves dinner, had a bath and then slept in his bed. This was all while the wife was home and she didn’t realise, therefore the locks needed to be changed. I think he maybe should have a bit more of a chat with his wife…

What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
Never let perfect get in the way of better. I’ve lived by this since the first week of starting out in real estate, when a superior told me to write it down. It means that you shouldn’t be scared of changing things for the better just because they might not be absolutely perfect the first time round.

What are your most important values?
My key values are honesty and having a personality. My clients know where I’m from, when and where I go on holidays and what my favourite movies are. We list lots of personal information on our website, not just the old ‘dedicated team ensuring we deliver results’ blah-blah. In this age people will Google you anyway, and they want to know more about you.

We’re also open and straightforward with people, which strengthens relationships in our office. We’ll never try to get out of something if we’ve made a mistake – we will find it first and get straight on the phone with an apology and a resolution.

Do you have a mentor, or someone who inspires you?
I thrive on the LJ Hooker network of great minds and utilise them when I can; people such as Amy Sanderson, our National Performance Manager, and BDM Suze Forster from LJ Hooker Belconnen, who sends out regular informative and hilarious emails.

What would be your dream job?
Helping other property managers to be great! I want to share my experiences and ideas with others and encourage them to new ways of thinking.

How do you maintain work/life balance?
Being from the UK I try to head back when I get the opportunity to see my family and friends. Other than that I teach dance to adults after work and I do enjoy a large glass of pinot gris (not at the same time!).

I don’t believe that a work/life balance necessarily exists; as work is such a big part of your life you can’t separate the two. I think you should just have good balance in life generally and make the most of every opportunity.

If you could host any three people at a dinner party, who would they be?
I would probably have some good talkers so I could listen to their stories. So Stephen Fry, Morgan Freeman and the Queen! (Because every good Pommy wants to meet the Queen…)

What are your predictions for the real estate industry for 2016?
I think we’ll become similar to Tripadvisor, with reviews and comments, so keeping a great relationship with all clients is key. I also see the online owner self-managing portals increasing, with landlords thinking they will be able to save money by doing it themselves. As this kind of technology advances we’ll need to find a better way to tackle it as experience will become obsolete.

What advice would you give someone starting out?
Have a strong backbone and don’t take any negative experiences to heart! Be constantly aware of changes you can make to improve yourself and the business you work for. Do more than the minimum and be proactive, and you will have fans for life!

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