Elite AgentOPINION

How to look after the lifeblood of your agency’s long-term profitability

MRI Software recently released the Voice of the Property Manager 2021 Report which highlighted some alarming statistics about the health and wellbeing of property management staff within the real estate industry.

In a survey of 773 respondents, 23 per cent indicated that they intended not just to quit their current employment, but to leave the industry entirely.

This number should be ringing alarm bells for your business.

Just think for a moment and consider how your business would be affected if a quarter of your property management staff quit and walked out the door.

Especially as there is already a national shortage of property managers within the industry, making replacement 1. difficult and slow.

What is of further concern is the impact that it would have on your landlords, who, if unhappy, could easily look for someone else to manage their property, eroding the valuable asset that is your rent roll, and cashflow.

I truly believe our industry is beyond looking for band-aid solutions and needs to address the crux of the problem. We need to put an end to the rotating door of property managers moving within, as well as in and out of the industry.

How do we retain staff and reduce turnover?

After more than 40 years in the industry, I have identified three crucial areas requiring immediate and decisive action.

1. Training

Many states have introduced legislation and training for property management staff, which is a step in the right direction as it has lifted competency levels.

However, we also need to ensure that our staff are trained in valuable skills like conflict resolution, time management, and using technology to make their jobs easier.

The better a person can do their job, the more likely they are to feel satisfied in their role.

2. Working Hours

Each property management staff member needs to have sufficient down time. After-hours work should be shared and rostered between team members.

If need be, bring in part-time staff to assist so that your property managers don’t have to work after hours or weekends on a continual basis.

3. Workload

Ensure that your property managers can comfortably cope with the number of properties that they are managing.

I have seen situations where it is almost impossible to provide good service to landlords due to the heavy workload.

The unrealistic workload may be the outcome of a principal who is under financial pressure, unable to pay for more staff because the agency is discounting fees and struggling to make a profit.

This points to a significant cause and effect problem flowing through our industry, caused by agents who discount their fees, thereby putting other operators under pressure to compete on price to get new business.

Staffing costs are the lion’s share of an agency’s running costs.

Discounting fees puts the business owner in the position that they cannot afford to pay staff at the level they deserve, or to reward their staff adequately, which contributes to the current staffing crisis.

What is the solution?

The responsibility is on agency principals around the country to make the time to get involved with their property management departments.

They need to find out how their staff are operating and what issues need to be addressed.

  • Look at what you are charging for new business and how it impacts your bottom line. Ensure that you run a separate chart of accounts for your Property Management Department proportioning agency costs, so that you can get a true picture of what the department is contributing to the profitability of your agency.
  • If income needs to be increased to generate more profit, then look at your fee structure and see if you can find ways of increasing income without compromising service levels. Every single extra dollar you can generate goes to the bottom line, because you already have your fixed costs covered.
  • What needs to be done to make your staff more productive and their job easier? Look at how technology can assist and support your team. The only difference between you and your competitor is what and how you do what you do, so aim to lift the standard and be the best.
  • Look at staff workload, and if necessary, restructure to balance the workloads of those that are struggling or consider increasing staff. Bring in a temp to cover high-volume workload times or weekend appointments. Look at automating after hours calls, or setting up a roster system for emergency calls, but do not leave it as the responsibility of just one person.

Implementing these practical suggestions will go a long way in relieving some of the stress on your property management departments and increase the chances of retaining your staff.

Your staff are the face of your business, and it is imperative that you consider their health and wellbeing a top priority in your operations. And while you are at it, why not work on winning “Boss of the Year” for 2022?

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Chris Goodway

Chris Goodway is the Founder and CEO of The Rent Roll Broker, a business broker specialising exclusively in the sale of rent roll portfolios and real estate agency practices in Australia.