At 25 years of age, Luke Spence from Belle Property in South Brisbane is one of the industry’s rising young stars. As the winner of Belle Property’s ‘Property Manager of the Year’ award, we asked Kevin Turner of RE Uncut to find out about Luke’s recipe for success.
Kevin Turner: How long have you been in the industry and how did you start?
Luke Spence: I started in 2007, so coming up to five years this year. I began as admin support, but I’ve always been interested in a career in Property Management.
What was it that attracted you to property management? Did you have any experience as a tenant or a landlord?
It seemed much busier than sales, but basically the aspects of property management that attracted me were relationships with clients and tenants. I was only 19 turning 20 when I started, so at that stage I was neither a tenant nor a landlord. Now I’m a tenant looking to be a landlord.
What are some of the big lessons that you have learned?
I guess I’ve learned a lot about life cycles of maintaining managements and looking after tenancies. When I started, I think property management wasn’t viewed as professionally as it is now. We’ve seen a lot of changes, such as small claims. I think my perception has altered a little bit in seeing the industry become more professional in the way that it’s run.
Tell me about your business. Is it portfolio or task based?
We started as portfolio based, and our aim is to keep it as portfolio as we grow. I’m the senior property manager. My Principal and the Director of the South Brisbane office is Bettina Jude. She’s quite ‘hands on’ as regards property management, seeing that everything runs smoothly. We have a new business manager as well and two supporting admin staff, so altogether there’s about five of us that manage the property management side of the business.
How much focus do you have on the growth of the business, and how do you go about achieving that?
Last year the business put a lot of focus on property management. It was our second birthday, and my Principal and I made the decision that we were going to grow the portfolio substantially. It had been growing organically from 2009 to 2011, and then we purchased a rent roll in October of last year, which increased the portfolio by 134 per cent.
That is a big increase. How did you cope?
It was quite an easy transition. We were smart in what we looked at purchasing, doing our due diligence on the portfolio that we were acquiring and speaking with staff members who were then running it. The current property manager made the transition from managing that portfolio to moving into sales with Belle, so we worked quite closely together for the first three to four months and then employed back-up staff and support staff to help with all the administration.
Let’s have a look at the way the business has changed in recent times with technology and tighter legislation. Has that changed the way you work now?
I think the introduction of the smartphone has pretty much changed the way we run every day tasking. We haven’t used iCloud and Dropbox much. Having the REST Professional on the iPhone, with all your contacts, contractors, tenants, and landlords pretty much in your pocket, has been fantastic.
You’ve mentioned iPhone. Do you use an iPad as well?
Not so much the iPad. I find that if I carry around the iPhone I can take it more places. Whatever I would have on the iPad, I can have on the iPhone. We are looking at bringing in little inspection
pads for our entry condition reports and for our routine inspections.
What’s been your greatest achievement in the last year or so?
My personal achievement was receiving the Property Manager of the Year award for Belle Australia in February. I’m also pleased that I’ve been able to develop the portfolio quite substantially with a lot of my referral and current client relations.
What would you say are the main areas of focus in your business – business development or service delivery?
Well, my main focus is to keep offering a unique and tailored service to our clients. We do want to be viewed as a boutique agency that offers service, so I’m more of a client relations officer than a property manager. We really push relationships with our clients quite heavily. Our focus would also be making sure that the life cycle of a tenancy is well run and efficiently looked after for both the landlords and the tenants.
Do you complete surveys among your landlords and tenants?
We do send out survey packs at the end of a tenancy. My Principal, Betina, is very ‘hands on’ when it comes to client nurturing, so we also give our clients a call every three months just to follow-up. We make sure they’re happy with the service, if there’s anything we could change as regards servicing them, or what Belle South Brisbane could do better.
You talked about your BDM earlier. What other strategies have you got to build profitability and growth into your rent roll?
A lot of our new business comes from client referrals and existing clients, so we try to nurture that aspect of gaining new business. We also do a lot of profiling within our area, just to let local residents know about us and our achievements, and how we could help them if they were looking to invest in the area or provide us with some properties to manage.