EPMEPM: Feature Interview

Nurturing the Nature of Property Management: Rae Tolley

Former businesswoman Rae Tolley jumped at the chance to take on a fledgling rent roll with Beller Property Group. Two decades later she’s still there, and says she loves the combination of property management and human relationships.

Reflecting on a property management career that has spanned over two decades, Beller Property Group’s Rae Tolley says it’s a role that appeals to her nurturing nature.

“You need to be caring and have a big-picture approach, because as a property manager you’re a big part of people’s lives.”

Rae started her real estate career with an 18-month stint in the industry 23 years ago. A successful foray into running her own business within the food industry followed, but real estate remained an enduring passion.

When the opportunity arose to run Beller’s then-fledgling property management division in the Prahran area of Melbourne, Rae jumped at the chance to put both her business acumen and real estate skills to use. It came with the commitment that she would run the property management department like her own business inside the growing Beller brand.

Since Rae seized the reins, the department has expanded from a rent roll of 80 to almost 2,000, and now includes a team of 12 property managers, a new business manager and four support staff. Along the way, Beller has bought existing rent rolls but also enjoyed extensive organic growth, due in no small part to their reputation for customer care.

Rae explains that her aim is to give owners and tenants the best possible service, guidance and results.

“A lot of tenants believe you’re just looking after the landlord, but we’re always working for the best result.”

“It’s about consistency and being genuine. Our entire department is based on that, and I look for that in everyone I employ. When you start a relationship with someone, you need to be committed to that property, that person and the tenant.”

For Rae, that commitment has extended to two decades of working with some landlords and tenants.

“We still have owners who were at Beller when I started in 1997, and we have tenants who have been in properties for over 25 years.”

It is this crossroads between real estate and real relationships that Rae truly enjoys, and says this is why sales was never an avenue she considered.

Instead, she relishes the opportunity to support, advise and guide owners over the life of their investment, while also building ties with tradespeople and playing the middleman between tenants and owners.

“That can be a difficult situation to be in, as you’re working to appease both sides. Our role is to give the best possible advice and respect how people perceive the situation. A tenant may describe a problem and when the tradespeople get there it can be very different.

“You need to be compassionate for people’s situations, because one size doesn’t fit all. You need to be adaptable and have respect.”

And she admits this intermediary position can be stressful. “You have to have self-confidence and a good sense of self-worth. A lot of the time tenants believe you are just looking after the landlord, but we are always working for the best result.

“It’s always better to have an uncomfortable conversation than a situation.”

“It’s in everyone’s best interest to give the best possible advice, because we’re the ones responsible if something goes wrong. It’s important not to put things off and it’s always better to have an uncomfortable conversation rather than a situation.”

Rae notes these communication skills and the negotiating ability of property managers often fail to attract the recognition they deserve within the real estate industry and beyond.

“Property managers are often overlooked for their skills and patience to be able to cope with so many things that arrive in their inbox or by phone.”

She reflects that property management is also an area of real estate undergoing significant change. “In the past five to six years there have been fabulous changes to technology, including how we do our daily tasks. There are also new pieces of tech on the cusp of making a very real difference.

“Property management is different to 10 years ago, when it was a young person’s career direction. There is a shortage of younger people and quality property managers. I’d like to see property management receive greater recognition and be regarded more highly to attract new people into the industry.”

Rae notes her office is fortunate to boast property managers with significant experience who have been with the team for the long term. It allows a nurturing culture where new entrants are actively mentored and embraced, in the knowledge the collective team is only as good as the weakest link.

Meanwhile, she explains that the expansion of acquiring eight rent rolls over the years has also furnished the team with unique skills and insight.

“It’s always exciting. You don’t quite know what you’ll get until it arrives. There aren’t too many situations that our team hasn’t experienced,” she says. “And that stands our department in fabulous stead to deal with a variety of issues.”

As for her advice to anyone considering entering property management, Rae says simply, “It’s a fabulous industry. It’s a privilege to care for so many people’s assets.”

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Cassandra Charlesworth

Cassandra Charlesworth is a features writer for Elite Agent Magazine with over 15 years’ journalism experience in metropolitan and regional newsrooms. She has a specialist interest in real estate, tech disruption and a good old-fashioned “yarn”.