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Best of both worlds

By Staff Reporter
19 February 2013 | 18 minute read

The nation’s top sales offices, and how they work with property management

RESIDENTIAL PROPERTY MANAGER’S sister publication, Real Estate Business, launched its inaugural Top 50 Sales Offices ranking this month, with some of the biggest names in the industry featured. A common link between most of the top performers was the importance of property management in the agency’s overall growth. We ask the top five sales offices about the role property management plays in their company, and how they go about maximising the rent roll’s influence on their bottom line


ADAM DENINA, director at Starr Partners Parramatta in western Sydney, believes his property management department is the lifeblood of his office.

“Without property management, it’d be bloody hard to run an office,” he admits.

As the youngest principal featured on the list, Mr Denina (right) has rejected the outdated view that property management is a separate industry.

“We’re all in the same office, literally down the hallway. If we refer a client across to the rental department, they take care of it and vice versa. I’d hate to have that ‘sales versus property management’ mentality in my office.

“At the end of the day you’re all salespeople – a property manager is still a salesperson because they’re still selling a service. It’s just a different service.”

The free flow of information between the two departments is monitored by Mr Denina, who makes sure neither takes more than they give.

“If the sales guys have a lead they need to pass on to the property management team, they walk down the hall and hand it to them. Our process also means we follow it up with the property manager a few days or a week later to make sure everything is going smoothly.”

“All the referrals also go through me, so I can make sure they have been followed up, and that way I can keep track of who is passing on the most leads.

“If the property management team is passing on more, I’ll try to encourage the sales guys to do the same. If you get one, make sure you give one back.”

Mr Denina’s office purchased a rent roll almost a decade ago, and has since grown it by 50 per cent.

“We’ve got over 1,500 managements, and without that we’d be up the creek without a paddle,” he admits.

“Our property management department probably contributes around the equivalent of a hundred sales each year to the business.

“Investors see ‘For Lease’ signs everywhere with your branding, and they want to be part of that.

“Out of the 1,500 managements, we have around 1,400 landlords, so we don’t have many investors with multiple properties.

“They’re mostly individual owners.”

Mr Denina’s team is made up of a dozen individuals working in pods to service the 1,500 properties.

“We’ve got three property managers, a project manager, three property officers and two letting consultants – it’s a big department,” he explains.

“We try to have a whole team meeting once a quarter. We’ve been doing that for the last three years, but we have individual property manager meetings on a monthly basis as well as a property management team meeting every two weeks.

“I’m very numbers orientated. I like to know how many people they’ve spoken to and how many phone calls have been made.”

RPM REAL ESTATE GROUP isn’t your typical office. According to director Peter Grant, the group targets large scale developments and sells thousands of blocks of land per year.

“We tend to go after multiple listings at once. So we target developer listings that have multiple properties for sale,” says Mr Grant.

“While we still deal with one-on-one mums and dads, we just focus on more volume-based sales.”

“We have a property management department and we have to face the same problems as any other office in the country. We still have guys standing at open inspections every weekend, but we’ve said, ‘OK, we know property, why not go out there and chase some of the bigger boys?’”

RPM Real Estate has five property managers, with a number of support staff.

While Mr Grant would prefer his exact rent roll not be divulged, he claims the business has seen great growth over the past 24 months.

RPM manages properties all across Melbourne, and has a fairly unconventional way of doing so.

“We have three property managers who work from home,” he says. “They’re spread out across Melbourne to service the different areas, which is how we have such a large spread.”

THERE ARE many ways to create a culture of respect between the sales and property management departments. But according to Alana Williamson, head of property management at Creer Property in Charlestown, NSW, having the office working in harmony is the only way to run a successful business.

“The best source of business for any real estate company is referrals,” she says.

“So whether that be tradespeople, vendor, purchaser, landlord or tenant referrals, our reputation for sales and property management relies on them to give us such a market presence.”

And with 900 properties on the rent roll across Charlestown and the rest of Newcastle, the system appears to be working.

“It’s imperative both sales and property management under the Creer banner are representing our presence in all aspects. We have a very close relationship with our sales department,” she says.

“Our referral basis is very good. We only have a very small amount of properties on our rent roll that we lose to other agents when it’s time to sell, and that’s all from that relationship between the property manager and the landlord, which gives them the trust to sell the property with us.

“And that works the other way too, so when an investor has just made a purchase, retaining that as a management is easier and is generally good for the business.”

Internal referrals between the departments are the best type of leads, Ms Williamson claims.

“They’re the hottest leads, because they’re not sitting on their hands. They’re actually active in the market at the time.”

But Ms Williamson admits it’s not just her work that creates the harmonious environment.

“It stems from the culture, and a big part of that comes from our director, Craig,” she says.

“We go away every year for a three-day camping trip, both the sales and property management departments. It’s the best bonding session.

“I’ve worked in other agencies and been in real estate for 14 years and from what I’ve seen, a lot of other directors don’t have a direct interest in property management, the sales people would always get the spoils and the quirks.

“But at this office, we’re definitely treated the same. We get the new and upgraded computers too, we also get the good phones. What’s more, we also get lots of money to go toward training and we get to go to heaps of conferences every year.

“We’re all paid above award wages and have remuneration bonus. All of that motivates us and creates this culture, which shows us that we’re a valued part of the business.”

DAMIEN MOORE admits he used to be a principal with his sights firmly set on sales.

“We had a number of really talented people who had been in our property management department for a long time. But like most principals I was sales-based. Property management was never a particularly strong focus for us,” he says.

But two years ago, Mr Moore (below)realised how well his rental department was doing.

“I just suddenly realised that we built this property management division, which at that stage was about 550 properties, without having to work tirelessly.

“Our organic growth happened by having a good mix of staff who were doing the right thing. We then accelerated that by emplying a BDM, and we are about to consider a second.

“I have a new found love for property management and we now manage in excess of 1,000 rental properties in the local market area. We had zero when we started 10 years ago. What’s best is we grew that 100 per cent organically.

“The new found love for me was the fact that there was this side of the business that I never had much to do with, and I suddenly realised our sales business was such a strong business that if we blueprinted the systems and some of the non-negotiable back-end stuff that we used in our sales team into our rental team, we could accelerate our growth really quickly. And that’s what we did.”  

Ray White Glen Waverley has witnessed a net growth of about 460 properties. With a staff to property ratio sitting at around 1:180, Mr Moore believes having the support staff is vital.

“We have a total of nine property management staff, which includes a part-time administration assistant. We have a leasing consultant and a BDM to grow business,” he says.

Mr Moore also believes it’s important to provide incentives for staff, to create an energetic environment.

“We also do a lot of fun things, not just in sales, but in property management as well. We have targets set – last year’s target was achieved three days before Christmas – which now sees myself and nine property management staff heading to Bali for three days over the Anzac Day long weekend, and they’ve worked hard for that,” he says.

“Everything we do in our business revolves around reward challengers; we work hard in this business so you’ve got to have fun, and we celebrate our successes probably more so than other businesses.”

The integration between the sales and property management team is fairly advanced in the Glen Waverley office.

“Our BDM sits with the sales team. We realised three or four years ago that our sales team generates good volumes and many of our properties needed managing, so most of the organic growth we saw in our rent roll was coming from our sales division,” he explains.

“For that reason, our BDM, Ryan, is positioned geographically amongst the sales team because most of the leads he gets come internally from the sales guys.

“We obviously also have a very strong referral commission that’s paid between the departments that works really well.”

JACKI BROWN from Ray White Rockingham runs the property management department for the nation’s top sales office.

“Myself and Murray [Brown] run the business. We equally share the responsibility of all departments, but he takes care of the day-to-day sales and I oversee the property management department,” she says.

As one of the directors, Ms Brown (below) also takes responsibility for systems and procedures, as well as accounting and human resources.

According to Ms Brown, much of the success of the Rockingham office is due to the property management department.

“It’s probably the backbone to our office,” she says. “It’s a bit like the bread and butter, while sales is the cream on top.”

Ms Brown is a strong believer in an integrated team, pushing for clients to be included in both sides of the business.

“They both go hand in hand; one without the other doesn’t work nearly as effectively. Our property management department works closely with our sales department – we are constantly making sure that the person we are dealing with is a client of both our sales and rental department, not just one or the other,” she says.

“If they’re here for property management requirements initially, we talk them through to sales and vice versa. So when we’re talking to a buyer, we’ve already brought up the idea of us managing their home if it’s an investment.”

With such a successful formula, Ms Brown doesn’t understand why an office would choose to have segregated departments.

“They operate separately on a day-to-day basis, but overall they work quite closely,” she explains. “It’s one business, not two. The administration section isn’t seen as a separate business, so why should it be any different? We’d encourage others to see it like that, too.”

To maintain the high standards, Ms Brown ensures all property managers undergo weekly training.

“We generally would do one big team meeting once every six months. But our property managers have a meeting and training every week without fail, except for public holiday weeks,” she says.

“That training could sometimes be about liaising with our sales department or how to improve communication within the business. That way, handing over a client from one department is as smooth as possible. Procedural training is important.

“We recap every six months with the departments involved, and we have an open forum about what’s happening between the two departments. If we find things aren’t working, we’ll look into changing things to make it flow better.”

The openness demonstrated in the forums helps the business move forward, instead of having certain departments left behind in policy decisions.

“Within our building there are a few offices, so the rental department is on a different floor. We’d like to have them both together, but unfortunately that’s just not possible in the current arrangement,” she says.

With a large rent roll of about 640, Ms Brown claims the rental department contributes to almost a third of all profits.

“At this point in time, I’d think that around 30 per cent of our total revenue is attributed to the property management department,” she says.

“When we want to pass a lead to our property management team, our sales rep would be in contact with our business development manager. Our BDM also goes out with the sales representative during an appraisal, so they can do a rental appraisal at the same time.”

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