The three steps PMs need to take to deal with problematic tenants and the six skills you need to succeed in the cut-throat world of property management.
RPM talks to Cushla Symons from RE/MAX Regency to learn all the tips and tricks she’s picked up in 20 years.
When did you first join the PM industry?
1994, 22 years ago.
Why did you join the PM industry?
I was recruited as a receptionist/sales administrator initially, at the ripe age of 18, and when the property manager resigned, I was given the job by default. Back then, this was with little to no training.
How do you deal with disgruntled and aggressive tenants?
Firstly, don’t take it personally. Often complaining tenants or aggressive tenants are that way not because of the issue at hand but other life events, pressures or stresses. We often bear the brunt of those other issues and nothing will be resolved if we take it personally.
Secondly, listen. Most people don’t complain frivolously and there is often merit to their complaint. Be understanding and non-confrontational. Try and explain that we are here to help.
Finally, be solution-focused not problem-focused. Focus on the facts not conjecture and ask them for their solution while being fair to all parties. In most cases, people just want to be heard and understood.
What would you like your next career step to be?
Having already achieved roles of training, coaching and development at a national level, my current goals include growing our RE/MAX Regency management portfolio base to triple its current size, and further to this, to continue to grow property managers and team members within the RE/MAX network, both internally and externally on a local, national and global scale.
What piece of technology do you find the most useful for your business and why?
Matterport 3D digital scans.
This technology works on two levels. When used for marketing, it allows prospective tenants to view a property from anywhere in the world without physically visiting the property. This makes it faster and easier for our interstate and international customers and clients to rent property with the certainty and confidence that they are seeing the property as it really is, avoiding costly travel.
We use the 3D scans in conjunction with the entry condition report (between tenancies) to document and report on the condition of the property. These scans are so detailed that they can pick up small chips in tiles and minor marks on walls. It has eliminated any issues relating to the vacate process as the 3D scan can be referenced from many angles, often detailing what simple photos and comments cannot. It has also created certainty for our landlords as they receive this 3D scan at every change of tenancy, creating transparency, honesty and accountability throughout the relationship.
What area of property management needs more dedicated training?
Where shall I start?
We are fortunate within RE/MAX Regency that the principals and management provide a strong foundation of support and training for our entire team. We have access to the best industry trainers covering a wide variety of topics.
Having recently re-designed and re-engineered the structure of our team, it is clear that you must work on getting the team structure and systems right before focusing on how to manage property. Many principals and property managers tend to focus on the minor issues, without tackling the real root of the problem.
There are plenty of training seminars focusing on how to reduce rent arrears, how to conduct an inspection and time management, to mention a few, but very few businesses will take the time to assess the core structure of the business and whether the systems and procedures are running the business or whether they are at the mercy of their staff.
It is very common in the industry for property managers to control the business by implementing their own systems and strategies. However, when that property manager moves on, the business will suffer (often losing clientele) until a new property manager can implement their own systems and strategies for “survival”.
Property management training starts with the principals and owners of property management businesses, to help them understand the make-up of a successful property management business. This is where I believe agencies need to focus their training.
What skills does a PM/BDM need to be successful?
The modern property manager needs:
• Good time management
• To be adaptable to changes in systems, technologies and legislation
• An understanding of the legislations applicable to the industry
• Exceptional customer service and patience
• The ability to accept new ideas and increase their knowledge
• To be open to opportunity
Where do you believe property managers' responsibilities should start and end?
Our property management department structure is slightly different in that we have a business development manager as well as a leasing consultant and an administration team.
A property manager’s role is to act as a conduit for the exchange of information between the tenant and the owner while maintaining legislative boundaries. In the pursuit of this goal, it is also their role to educate landlords and tenants, and provide additional information to benefit the landlord in increasing their income and maximising capital growth.
What would you be doing if you weren’t in the PM industry?
I’ve never wanted to do anything else.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
The variety, and RE/MAX Regency team and its culture.
What are the most stressful aspects of your job?
In our team, we focus on looking at things from the other person’s perspective and it can be quite stressful.
When you communicate with people who believe “their property manager is out to get them” or refuse to understand the facts, the legislation, logic or reason.
How do you relax after a stressful day at work?
Alcohol and slapstick comedy (and that’s before I get home).
How would you describe a perfect property management day?
Organised and structured.