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The importance of listening: Kelley Seaton

The Leasing Network Owner and Director Kelley Seaton has been in property management for 27 years and finds the role as fulfilling now as she did on her first day. A passionate advocate for the industry, Kelley explains her idea for a national framework to monitor fees and why she wants to see property management recognised as a professional career option.

What was your first job and what did it teach you?

My first job was working afternoons and weekends in a small corner store when I was 14 years old. 

It taught me how to listen well, because there is a difference between hearing and listening

We had many older regular customers who loved to chat and they would often pick up the same conversation the following week and it taught me to pay attention as I would have to remember everything.

It also taught me how important family is. The shop owners had children who loved doing sport, and while they were busy running two stores, their family unit was always their first priority.

How many years have you been in the industry?

This is my 27th year in the industry.

Did you choose property management or did property management choose you?

Both. Property management definitely chose me at first.

The one profession I was certain I didn’t want to do when I left school was real estate, but that’s exactly where I landed.

In the early years, I stepped away for a brief time to work in other professions, but I couldn’t stay away, and found myself back in property management pretty quick.

So while it did choose me initially, I chose to return to the profession I enjoyed.

What’s your most memorable rental property and why?

It would have to be one in Grandview St, Shelly Beach. It backed onto the golf course and golf balls regularly found their way into the swimming pool and smashed multiple windows.

This happened many times so I laminated the emergency after hours call out number for the local glazier and placed it on the tenant’s fridge.

The property owners didn’t want a large fence blocking the beautiful views, so for years the invoices were sent to the golf club, which they happily paid back then.

What key goals are you focusing on this year?

Our number one goal is rent roll growth.

Over the past year we have found a trend where people are moving up to an hour’s drive away from Sydney as they can work from home and enjoy the coast lifestyle, so our sales market has been absolutely booming.

But our gains and losses have been heavily affected as we secure 10 new managements then we lose five that sell to owner-occupiers.

It’s frustrating, but that’s the industry we are in, so we have just reset our yearly targets and goals for growth and I am keen to smash them.

If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be?

Recognition for property management being a professional, well-paying career.

I’d also like to see agencies realise they are worthy of great management fees and can generate these through showing their worth and value to their customers.

To help close the gap on this, I would love to see a national framework to monitor management fee income and charges.

So many companies are doing themselves an injustice by offering cheap fees.

While we may have different ideas and business models, I feel cheap fee agencies are robbing themselves and their property managers of potential income.

If you have ever worked in property management, you’ll know just how tough this gig is, especially during the pandemic.

As a business owner, if you have more income, you can in turn pay your team well.

I want everyone in the industry to be paid a professional, high-earning income.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given and who gave it to you?

“Phone calls are for communication and emails are for confirmation.”

A good friend, Julie Collins, who is property management queen herself in Lake Macquarie, gave me this advice and I feel that it will be forever relevant.

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Kylie Dulhunty

Kylie Dulhunty is the Deputy Editor at Elite Agent.