How long have you been working in real estate?
I started back in 2006, so it’s almost nine years.
What are your qualifications?
I completed a Certificate III in Real Estate (property management/traineeship) along with my agent’s representative course when I first began my career. I then took my Certificate IV/full licence.
I was recently awarded Property Manager of the Year for Victoria 2015 at the Investor’s Choice awards. I am very proud to have received this accolade as I was voted for by my clients! We live in a reputation-based economy now so testimonials and results speak for themselves, but to have this formally recognised really is the icing on the cake.
What do you find are your biggest property management challenges?
I think the challenges change on a daily basis, but the foremost difficulty is adapting to the many different types of people we deal with. Each client will have a unique reaction and need a different resolution to their situation.
Understanding people and the outcome they require isn’t always an easy task – especially when they are not forthcoming with their expectations! That’s where good solid education and communication come into play. You need to educate your clients on good practice and provide ways for them to understand what a tenancy entails. From the upkeep of a property to reasonable expectations, it’s all part of your job.
I’m also very big on communication. I work part-time in our office as I divide my time between my 15-month-old daughter and my clients. Although I do work from home, I’m not a person who can leave things incomplete. Property management doesn’t close for the day! So communication is key in order to keep all parties updated and informed.
As long as you understand the Residential Tenancy Act back to front and have solid policies and procedures in place, the fundamentals of what you do and how you do it will always be the easy part. It’s getting your clients to understand the legalities and that the advice we provide is actually for a reason: their benefit!
What do you love about property management?
I love the variety in my day and the fact that no two days are the same. Every day I have unexpected things that need to be finalised. From a client calling with a multi-unit development requiring an appraisal ‘today’ to a snake in a semi-rural property that needs to be removed, I can never tell what my day is going to be like. Don’t get me wrong, I am organised and I do have a daily diary that I try to adhere to, but I’ve learned to expect the unexpected on a daily basis!
Why is your agency or team unique?
We are an independent office. Our business and clientele began with our individual reputations; we have all maintained positive, long-term relationships with the clients we’ve met in the course of our careers.
Reputation is paramount in real estate. Offering a fresh approach to selling, buying or renting, Peter Leahy Real Estate has a strong commitment and connection to the local area. Our focus is on providing an exceptional level of customer service for our clientele, from the initial contact right through to the successful outcome.
Our commitment to our clients comes from our passion and enthusiasm for the industry. We care about our customers and achieving the best outcome for their property; whether it’s sales or rentals, each property is treated with the same regard and respect. Our office is a very tight-knit team who share the same values and strategic outlook.
What was the most memorable (or unusual) property you have ever managed?
The most memorable events stem from completing routine inspections. I remember preparing to enter a one-bedroom rental property in Richmond that had an unusual odour about it. When I went into the kitchen, I found the tenant had removed the cupboard doors and placed wire mesh in front of each cupboard space. Behind the wire was straw, and neatly perched in each cupboard was a chicken!
What’s the best advice you have been given?
Tell the truth. Sometimes you need to deliver bad news or explain a situation that may not be ideal. It’s part of the job. Don’t run away or procrastinate – you can always transform it into a positive outcome! If you are upfront and honest with your clients and have taken the time to understand and provide reasonable resolutions or steps to take, you will strengthen the trust within your relationships.
Also, do what you say and say what you do. If you tell someone you are going to do something, then make sure you actually do it. Always tell people what you are doing and why. If people are aware of you working behind the scenes for an outcome then things run a lot more smoothly. Not everything we do can be seen.
How do you maintain healthy relationships with landlords and tenants?
Communication. The key is to be transparent. If you are open and honest with your clients, things run a lot more smoothly and I find that relationships that are built on trust, rather than expectation, last the distance. Nothing can replace the value of a sincere phone call and building a relationship from personal interaction.
Many of the clients whom I met back when I first started as a property manager are still my clients today. I’ve seen their kids grow up and I know their properties inside out. Nothing beats good old-fashioned service and sincerity. These are the clients who attend their inspections, the ones I meet regularly and who send me endless referrals; in fact, some of my landlords and tenants I’m fortunate enough to call friends.
When evaluating a potential client, I will decide how much my client and I will stretch and grow while working together. Will they be difficult to deal with and prevent a successful outcome? If I feel that this potential client will provide mutual opportunity for growth and build a strong relationship, I will likely accept the challenge and take on their property. If I feel that the potential client isn’t open to new ideas and won’t do the right thing, I will likely decline their property and suggest they may find a better match with an alternative agent.
How do you relax outside real estate?
On my days off I ride. I don’t allow anything to interrupt the time with me and my horse. It’s the only real opportunity I have to turn the phone off and let it all off my shoulders. It’s also mummy and daughter time; the delight on my daughter’s face and her bond with the ponies is just magical. Times like this make all the hard work worth it. Sometimes it really is the simple things that affect you the most.
The past 18 months or so has been a very testing time in my personal life; my daughter was born 12 weeks’ premature and spent a long time in hospital before coming home, so ‘me time’ never really existed. I make sure it happens now and I feel I’m a lot better off for it. Before this, my life was work, work, work. Now I have family and work. That’s one of the reasons I don’t sweat the small stuff anymore; you can definitely be successful and have a family and/or personal life. You just need to prioritise.
If you could have any three people at your dinner party, who would it be?
Ronnie Chieng – he’s a brilliant Aussie comedian who has me in stitches. You need laughter in your life.
Richard Branson, because his success and outlook on life amaze me, and his values and ideals would make great conversation. I think I would get a lot out of that meeting!
Thirdly, Johnny Cash for his voice, stories and opinions.
What are your predictions for the real estate industry for the next year?
I feel the market will continue to rise around April 2016 and then it should plateau out and remain steady. There is always a consistent requirement for rental property and, even though the demand fluctuates, the need for knowledgeable, experienced and personable property managers is always there.
What advice would you give someone starting out in property management?
Take it all in! Don’t be disheartened by people with negative outlooks and jaded personalities. Some people are property managers because it’s just a job; they lack passion and drive. Don’t be influenced by the black sheep of the flock. Find your niche and be the best at it. Ask for things to do, learn what you do well and build on it. Make sure you do the training courses offered and broaden your knowledge base. Most of all enjoy it! Everything in life is what you make of it.