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Why property managers burn out

By Darren Hunter
13 March 2014 | 12 minute read

Burnout is a serious problem in property management today, and there are key reasons why property managers burn out and resign.


Just recently, whilst confirming training attendees with a real estate business owner, they informed me that the person who was originally booked in had since left their employ and was no longer in property management. I was then asked the golden question, ‘Why is it so hard to keep property managers?’

I replied ‘How long have you got for me to explain!?’

Responding to this question is not an easy one! So it’s time to formally tackle some of these issues and place them into an article.

What is the problem?

Property managers are leaving the industry faster than they are coming in.

Real estate business owners are increasingly finding it difficult to source and employ trained and experienced property managers. Either they end up getting someone inexperienced, or do get a person with experience, however with so many bad habits (and bad attitude) they end up damaging the business.


The fact it is very hard to find someone that has solid experience and also able to competently fulfil their duties. Even if a business owner does get a suitable person with the right attributes but without experience, there is a good chance they might end up leaving the role within a short time, not wanting to do it anymore.

Classes training new property managers are always full and in strong demand as principals put new people into whatever new property manager training is available, to just get them going. Basic level property management training is in very high demand at real estate training institutes and colleges!

The question I would like to explore is why are property managers leaving the industry? Why do they start with enthusiasm but leave disillusioned, not wanting to go near the job ever again? Why do they ‘burnout’? Why is the job so unattractive to keep staff for reasonable time frames compared with other industries?

Getting to the core of the problem

Let’s look at some causes to the problem:

  1. The business owner is usually mono-focused on sales
    Most principals are sales people. Selling real estate is what they know best and to them the rental department is simply a ‘consequence’ of the sales process and a ‘necessary evil’ they must have! In many cases the rental department simply becomes a babysitting service for future sales referrals.
  2. Under-resourced departments
    Because the average real estate principal does not understand property management they supply just enough resource to allow it to survive. The property manager is not supplied proper in-house training, technology, procedures or tools.
  3. No guidance
    As there is no resourcing or ongoing training the property manager just works out the job through trial, lots of error, blood, pain, sleepless nights, stress, sweat and plenty of tears! As they have no real guidance they learn the only way they know how, by chaos, mayhem and crisis!
  4. Discounting
    Property managers are really good at this one! Signing up landlords ‘at any price’ many do not realise that even discounting their management fee by 1% not only reduces average income received per property overall, but may wipe out the department’s profit margin for that property management altogether! Therefore the property manager must take on more properties to justify their position becoming over worked, followed by a drop in service levels finally resulting in the property manager leaving.
  5. Dealing with difficult people
    The role deals with a lot of people on a daily basis, and where systems, training and management guidance lack, this results in clients and tenants becoming upset with the service they receive (or lack of).

Further, people in general are becoming more demanding and critical of the service levels they receive, and unfortunately the overall property management industry has not caught up to the levels of service people are now wanting and expecting.

What can you do about it?

So what can a principal or department leader do about it? Here are five keys to turn this problem around for your department:

  1. Take some interest
    Firstly, the business owner must realise that they are the driver and the key reason why a department succeeds or fails. If the ‘head’ is connected to the ‘body’, if the principal/manager is interested in building, growing and nourishing the rental department, the department and its people will respond and grow accordingly!
  2. Take control
    Implement an ‘ideal week’ so that each day has set tasks and activity that occur in planned time slots. Your property managers will really hate this being implemented, but will be singing your praises after implementation when they realise how much extra time they have and their new found sense of control.
  3. Streamline your department
    Implement step-by-step streamlined procedures, letters and forms that property managers must follow. Systems bring so many benefits into a business like total control, lower stress levels and ease of training new staff. (Click here for more information about systems and procedures).
  4. Training
    Ensure your people have regular training so that they are able to know their roles better and have the skills to effectively conduct their duties.
  5. Planning
    Know what must be improved in your department, and implement a plan to improve every area of your department taking it from crisis and pain to success and reward for everyone involved.

Property management can be done the right way and become the backbone of any real estate business. When your rent roll contributes up to 90 per cent your business resale value, it is worth your time, focus and wanting to do it the right way!

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