EPMEPM: Case Studies

Kim Wilson, Property Manager, Barry Plant Boronia VIC

Kim Wilson is a highly accomplished businesswoman. While she is still yet to turn 30, she is already the principal of her own stand-alone property management franchise with the Barry Plant Group in the Melbourne suburb of Boronia, and was a nominee in this year’s Telstra Businesswoman of the Year Awards.

When did you start in Real Estate?

I had two weeks’ work experience in a real estate office when I was 14 and that was it – I was hooked. I was offered the weekend reception job at a local agency and then after I turned 17 I worked full time, starting as the receptionist and progressing through the ranks until I became Department Manager and then a business owner.

What are your qualifications?

I have a full real estate licence and my Certificate IV in Training and Assessment. I lecture at Swinburne University on a casual basis, teaching the Agent’s Representative Course to students.

What made you choose property management as a career?

I was one of those fortunate people who know from a really young age what they want to do in life. From the time I was 12 years old I collected real estate magazines and local real estate advertising – I just loved housing! After I completed work experience at 14 I knew that’s what I wanted to spend my life doing. Property management is a combination of everything I love: houses, paperwork, organisation, clients, the law and technology. It’s challenging and fulfilling.

As a property manager, what are the biggest challenges that you face?

I get really cross when competitors cut their fees and don’t divulge that they are also cutting their service. Many landlords do eventually realise this and change to a more professional agent, but in the meantime their investment hasn’t been properly looked after and they are suspicious of all property managers. You have to work very hard to win their trust.

It can be a challenge, when the market changes, to get some landlords to understand that rental increases are a science, and increases beyond what the market will tolerate can lead to an untenanted property. I’m a landlord myself and I understand that our costs continue to increase with council rates, maintenance and so on, but we cannot factor this into a rent review; we can only use comparative analysis to determine whether the rent should be increased or not. I’ll also advise a landlord to keep a great tenant at the same rent or for a small increase rather than risk an unknown tenant who may not look after the property. Good tenants are gold, and are often undervalued by both property managers and landlords chasing short term profits.

Tell us about any of the awards that you have won.

The Barry Plant Group have annual Awards for Excellence. Over the last six years I was nominated every year and won Property Management Department of the Year, Property Manager of the Year and twice received an award for greatest growth in a rent roll. As I’m competing against 80 other offices, these awards are cherished. I was also fortunate this year to be a nominee in the Telstra Businesswoman of the Year award. While I didn’t win, to be even nominated amongst such an amazing group of Australian businesswomen was fantastic.

What do you love about Property Management?

I love that every day is different. I love the mix of helping people combined with the intellectual challenge of this highly regulated and legislated industry.

I love the fact that systems and procedures can get me and my team through a punishing day-to-day workload.

I love training a new staff member and imparting my love of this industry. Most importantly I love receiving that thank you from a tenant when I have helped them find a home to move into or a landlord when I have found them a good tenant to secure their investment.

Why is your agency unique?

Most real estate agencies have both sales and property management functions. We are a stand-alone property management office. Everyone in the office is devoted to property management.

We have invested in the latest technology to help us manage our workload and also to provide our clients with a more efficient service. We’re virtually a paperless office, with routine reports, photos, statements and invoices all emailed. We have an online reply service for landlords to advise us of their instructions regarding rent reviews and lease renewals, and condition reports are presented as DVDs.

What was the most memorable (or unusual) property you have ever managed?

The most unusual home I ever managed was a small house that had a shower recess inside a built-in cupboard. Very strange.

The most enjoyable home (and one I fantasised about living in) was a veritable mansion – quite an unusual size for the suburbs where I operate. It had a theatre room, in-ground swimming pool, a master bedroom with a walk-in robe the size of my living room! Loved carrying out inspections of that house!

All property managers have interesting stories about the vagaries of their tenants. We had one tenant who lived in a unit for 20 years. After he departed, the landlord fully renovated the unit and just before he was going to release the property back onto the market he went into the roof cavity to check a light and found 20 years’ worth of newspapers stored up there.

We’re always very careful not to intrude upon the privacy of tenants and one day, having confirmed with the tenant that they would not be home and that it was okay to use a key, I embarked on an inspection of the house. When I came to the son’s room I found him and his girlfriend kissing. They had wagged school. The first words to come out of his mouth? “Please don’t tell my mum!”

What’s the best advice you have been given?

Don’t take it personally, and have fun every day.

What are your most important values?

Honesty, dedication, determination – and most important – politeness. It costs nothing to be polite but the rewards are immense.

What are the key features in maintaining healthy relationships with landlords and/or tenants?

Communication! So simple yet so many agents don’t do it. Keep the lines of communication open; when you say you are going to call someone back – do it. If you are waiting for an answer from one party, ring the other party to keep them up to date.

Do you have a mentor, or someone that inspires you?

As a female business owner in an industry that is traditionally dominated by men, I am inspired by a number of women who have proven that women too can be very successful in business and who never gave up, no matter what obstacles came their way. Ita Buttrose, Janine Allis, Gillian Franklin, Diana Williams and, of course, Oprah are just some of the women I love to read about and all of them are my inspiration.

My real estate mentor is my previous employer, Eddie Fuller, who I purchased my share of the business from. He has always believed in me and supported my dreams and vision.

What would be your dream job?

I am working my dream job! Where to from here? I’d love to have the biggest agency in our area, but also to be recognised as the most professional. I want technology to keep pace with my dreams and allow me to harness it to make my business even more efficient, while still keeping the personal relationship with the client by phone and face-to-face.

I’d love one day to become more involved in training – not just people but also office set-ups, systems and procedures. You’ve probably gathered by now I am very much a process-driven person. When things are operating smoothly, life is great.

How do you relax outside of real estate?

I love to exercise. I couldn’t handle my workload if I wasn’t physically fit. Apart from that, I like visiting wineries and love movies. I’m a Collingwood supporter – but don’t hold that against me. As far as travel goes, France has always been a dream holiday destination for me and I’m heading there in December 2013.

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Samantha McLean

Samantha McLean is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of Elite Agent and Host of the Elevate Podcast.