Elite AgentFeature Interviews

Never too young to lead

Emily Varga’s journey into property management was somewhat unconventional.

She sought the career out, cold-called handfuls of real estate agencies and did it during a low period in her life.

It was January 2018, and Emily had just come out of a relationship.

She was working in an administration role at a workplace devoid of positive culture and spending eight hours a day there was far from a cheery experience.

“I went home from work one day and I was really feeling down,” Emily explains.

“After trying for more than an hour to get myself together, I ended up realising that this role was not doing anything positive for me.

“I also realised that I wouldn’t get anywhere by sitting there and feeling sorry for myself.

“So I picked up the phone and started calling real estate companies.”

Emily called about half a dozen agencies and applied for property management jobs on Seek – and it worked.

Canberra-based agency, Independent, called Emily in for an interview and the rest is history.

“When Independent offered me a role I took it straight away, no questions asked,” Emily says.

“There were many things that I was upset about in my life that I couldn’t change so I started asking myself what I could change and one thing I really needed to change was my role and my job.

“It took me being in a bad place to realise something had to give somewhere and that’s what it was.

“I haven’t looked back since. It’s only been up and up since then.”

That upwards trajectory saw Emily move up to become a senior property manager just before her first anniversary with Independent, in January 2019.

At the end of last year, she was promoted again and became a team leader in charge of six staff members.

“I have five property managers and one admin assistant, and together we manage 1,140 properties,” she says.

Emily says she has always been naturally drawn to property management as a career choice but had always been “too chicken” to give it a go previously.

She says building lasting relationships with clients and problem-solving are the key attributes that drew her to the profession.

“With sales there’s a relationship where you will have a lot of contact for a couple of weeks or months, for however long it takes the property to sell, but with property management there’s an ongoing relationship that you have to nurture,” Emily says.

“You have to always put your best face forward, and I really thrive on creating lasting relationships.”

From managing staff to properties, tenants and landlords, as well as attending tribunal hearings, Emily’s role is vast and hectic.

One of the achievements she’s most proud of is bringing a 21-unit, low-cost housing complex into the 21st Century by doing away with manual paper-driven processes to tech-based, digital procedures.

“I directly manage, not only the units themselves, but I assist in the strata management of that complex as well as the leasing process from start to finish,” Emily explains.

“When I took over managing the complex in March last year every one of the processes was paper-based.

“So the first thing I did when I took over the complex was to learn a way to put every process onto a tech platform and make it electronic.

“That included doing the ingoing reports electronically, the tenancy agreements electronically and having the maintenance issues lodged through a new platform.

“The rest of our properties, and we have about 3,500 at Independent, were already using all of these processes.”

It took Emily about a month to get everything organised, including having new tenants sign up to an app that allows them to set up their utilities and notifies them when their rent will be drawn.

As well as saving time, the changes mean a better client experience for landlords and tenants, which is something Emily is passionate about.

“In terms of signing tenancy agreements, it’s a huge improvement in convenience for the tenants, who had to come into the office to sign the documents,” she says.

Ingoing condition reports are also more detailed, which ensures landlords’ assets are being protected to the highest level.

“I was quite proud of myself after being able to move everything to digital platforms because, not only is it better for the clients, it’s better for our office and the environment,” Emily says.

At just 24, Emily realises she’s what some might consider ‘young’ to be in a leadership role, but she says age and gender should be no barrier to success.

Her leadership style is to be transparent and personable and to recognise that no two team members are the same, so she needs to adapt to meet their needs.

“You need to learn each individual’s style and cater to them,” Emily says.

“Leadership isn’t one size fits all.”

Emily says being in a leadership position does sometimes mean having to have tough conversations with team members, but that can be managed with careful consideration.

“A leader should be respected, not feared,” Emily says.

“If something comes up then you need to address it then and there and ensure that you’re doing it carefully.

“I don’t think any of my team would say I’m a softy and, in actuality, I’m probably quite the opposite.

“What works for us is that I know what they expect of me and they know what I expect of them.

“We’re all really focussed on not letting each other down, and that includes working at our full potential and growing as people.”

With the wisdom experience brings, Emily says she’d advise the 2018 version of herself to build her resilience, her confidence and to never give up.

She’d also warn herself not to take things personally if a client or colleague became angry with her.

“I now know the difference between a client or a colleague being angry with me or just angry at the situation,” Emily says.

“A lot of people tend to direct their frustrations and their anger at whoever they’re speaking to.”

Often a property manager can be caught between the wishes of a landlord and those of a tenant and Emily says that’s where having built strong relationships with each can really pay off.

“Sometimes you do feel like you’re always the bearer of bad news and while that’s not always the case it’s why I try to build very strong relationships so that it hopefully it doesn’t always feel like it’s coming from a bad place,” she says.

“It’s coming from a caring place, even if the news may be bad.”

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