The norm that sees property managers working long hours in high-stress environments with a lack of support from leaders needs to change, according to a leading industry figure.
Sadhana Smiles considers meeting client expectations is “the new frontier” of property management, but also cautioned that such expectations will never be met if people are unhappy in their jobs.
In her own independently researched Healthy Workplace Report, she has acknowledged that “a competitive environment on fees has reduced our margins; high stress levels is causing mental health issues; we have high turnover of people and as of March 2020 there were over 7,000 property management roles on Seek”.
The CEO of Real Estate Industry Partners said: “We have an issue and we need to act on it.”
From her survey of more than 1,000 property managers across Australia and New Zealand, she found half (50 per cent) of property managers are working to a task-based work structure — and more than six in 10 are responsible for task-based management end to end.
Nearly four in 10 property managers are looking after anywhere between 100 and 150 properties, while another 23 per cent are managing between 150 and 200 properties at any one time.
Nearly one in two property managers said managing client expectations was causing them the most stress in their work — or 47 per cent.
Forty-three per cent also indicated lack of time as a contributing factor to their stress levels.
According to Ms Smiles, it’s “a reflection of the ever-increasing client expectations”.
She said it’s also a reflection of the fact that many property managers are stuck using legacy software, with systems needing a much greater focus on taking on some of the repetitive tasks associated with property management, including arrears, rent reviews, lease renewals and reporting of maintenance.
Her research also revealed that 40 per cent of property managers are suffering under “extremely high” levels of stress, which is of major concern, given that “people who work under high stress do not perform at their best”.
Almost the same proportion (36 per cent) rated themselves as moderately stressed.
“If most of our property managers are highly stressed, they will never be able to provide clients with moments that delight,” Ms Smiles warned.
Espousing the belief that “happy people = happy clients = happy profits”, Ms Smiles warned that future profits cannot be possible without “critical changes” to the industry.
With the currency of a property manager changing rapidly, she argues that “we need people in the future who will embrace change quickly, take on the various technology opportunities, constantly look for new and smarter ways to do business, [and] have conversations with clients about their yields and return on investments”, she expressed.
She advocates for property managers to be able to stop doing administration work and, instead, focus on nurturing clients, which has been made possible through the use of technology.
Having considered that AI “is able to do a lot of the heavy lifting”, she said businesses which work quickly and effectively to introduce technological solutions will get ahead of the pack, and empower their property managers to deliver “memorable experiences” for clients.
Most importantly, Ms Smiles said it means property managers will start to do impactful and meaningful work — creating workplaces “that people want to belong to”.