Communication: The Key to Successful Property Management

As Trainers and Coaches, we are constantly learning.  Our observations and investigations in offices, our problem solving with individuals and teams, our mentoring of team leaders, our classroom discussions and feedback all gives us great insight into the industry – its challenges and issues.

We’ve learnt a lot in the past 12 months and we thought we would share a few thoughts on these learnings, particularly from a Property Management team perspective.

Property Management teams are made up of many individuals and roles, which vary from office to office, relative to different portfolio sizes and structures.  Consequently, we work with Property Managers, support staff – Assistant Property Managers and Property Officers, Leasing Consultants, Receptionists and Property Management Administrators.

One of the things we have made a point of studying this year are the ‘pain points’ of the industry,  in the hope that through our Coaching and Training we can progressively address these and improve everyone’s life and job satisfaction.

Without taking anything away from the many great businesses and individuals we see, there is still considerable stress, anxiety and overall ‘pain’ in Property Management. Collectively, it seems to arise from the following:

  • increasingly high expectations of Landlords and Tenants, especially in terms of speed of response time and performance
  • inability to retain and win over new Landlords in the face of competition and discounting
  • out of control maintenance – Landlords who don’t want to spend money, Tenants who constantly complain and databases full of dated maintenance requests which seem to pile up endlessly week after week
  • a regular group of chronic arrears offenders who work the system and pay ‘just in time’ all the time
  • people who start out as brilliant Tenants (when they are looking for a property) and soon become painfully difficult to get along with as soon as they move in
  • disputes and disagreements about the condition of a property at the start and end of tenancies, escalating to Bond disputes, and
  • Property Managers who go home feeling stressed, overworked and tired

In offering some solutions to these ‘pain points’, we would like to point out that each of these is largely preventable. In fact, there are some businesses which suffer minimally in these areas whilst others feel like they are in a constant battle ground. From what we have observed the magnitude seems unrelated to size of business, structure of business, market place and/or socio-economic background of the Tenants. So, if not these obvious criteria, what is causing the pain?

There is one overwhelming factor which keeps arising, that is causing daily stress in Property Management. It is what we call the ‘C’ word and it stands for … you guessed it… ‘Communication’ – or lack of it.

Effective and efficient communication where expectations are clearly expressed and managed promptly, where there is acknowledgement of individual differences, and where there is empathy and trust as the cornerstone, is the one common denominator which provides a ready solution to all of these ‘pain points’. However, for a variety of reasons, these attributes seem to be sadly lacking.

The question is ‘why are we not communicating effectively and efficiently?’ Is it due to lack of skill and/or poor knowledge of the issues and therefore an inability to adequately articulate the problem? Is it an anxiety around consequences or power – will the other person be so overpowering that I won’t be able to stand my ground? Is it about simply being ‘too busy’?  Perhaps it is because there is great technology which allows me to automate or speed up communication, but which has also reduced its effectiveness? It seems from our observations, feedback and coaching of Property Management team members that it is a combination of all of these factors and more.

So, our mission this year is to get everyone talking – feeling comfortable and motivated to pick up the phone and talk to both Landlords and Tenants.  It is about being able to do that even when you don’t have the answer.  It will require you to talk to people to find out how to solve their problem and to ‘buy’ time whilst you find that solution.  It means being comfortable in simply asking people what you can do to serve them better – using different questions, listening between the lines for the ‘hidden’ answers, talking to them about possible options, sharing scenarios, following up just to let them know an outcome or solution has been reached.

In the meantime, if you get caught up in a difficult situation…. Simply ask yourself the question:  ‘What did they say when I talked to them about it?’  This is a good test to ensure you are picking up the phone and communicating in a way that will get you results, and keep everyone happy, most importantly, yourself.

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