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What do property managers want?

By Juliet Helmke
15 January 2024 | 12 minute read
moni mazzeo reb ojkobl

The owner of a property management firm made it her mission to find out what professionals in the field feel they need to stay in the job long-term. The results of her research surprised her.

Moni Mazzeo, founder of the Rental Property Network based in South Australia, started her real estate career in sales, becoming a principal of a business, alongside her husband, in her 20s. That might have been the end of the story, had the couple not decided to sell up in the mid-2000s when a health issue for Mr Mazzeo forced the duo to re-evaluate their needs.

But though they put real estate on pause for a time, as Ms Mazzeo explained, there was an element of the industry that always bugged her, and in which she identified an opportunity to forge a path forward.

Something that she and Mr Mazzeo observed in most sales offices, but could never understand, was what they felt there was an apparent adoration of sales people yet a mere toleration for property managers.

And as she explained on a recent episode of Secrets of the Top 100 Agents, it sparked a business proposition.

“I had this little idea bubbling away in my brain about a better way for property managers, and it focused on giving property managers flexibility,” she said.

“That was something that I always saw and loved in sales: being able to come in and out of the office whenever you pleased, go and have coffee with people, go and network. And the same opportunity wasn’t offered to property managers”.

Alongside examining the compensation model for property managers and increasing their wages, Ms Mazzeo made this focus on flexibility the bedrock of her business, feeling certain that retention of property managers was integral to the long-term relationship-building that is so important in the success and growth of a rent roll.

The strategy has proved successful, with the business growing to a total of 30 employees in its 10 years of operation. Yet, never one to rest on her laurels, Ms Mazzeo was not blind to the wider discontent of her industry that only appeared to be growing. More research into the question of why property management had such high turnover, could, she felt, contribute to change in the sector.

Ms Mazzeo took this task on herself, embarking on a master’s degree focused on the property management industry, culminating in a research project that widely canvassed professionals from the sector on their experiences and the impact the job has on their wellbeing.

“Around 30 per cent of the people that I spoke with had suffered a significant mental health crisis as a direct result of work pressures,” Ms Mazzeo revealed.

“We’re talking about a significant mental health crisis. We’re not talking about somebody who just didn’t feel like going to work that day. And half of those people had physiological reactions to stress, meaning they had heart palpitations or their pulse raced; they started sweating and felt sick – all of the things that are common when you’re feeling really stressed. To me, I don’t think we should be going to work and having that as an acceptable standard,” she said.

Being in a property management role is something like ending up at the short end of a funnel where tenant stress, landlord stress and even management of office culture end up as their responsibility.

What they need to mitigate this, as Ms Mazzeo discovered, is not necessarily flexibility – though that’s certainly important and can greatly increase a sense of work/life balance – but rather material support from the person at the top.

“If you’d asked me pre-research what was going to be the defining information that came from the work, I would have said that flexibility – our flexible model – is what makes all the difference. The truth is, that’s not what came out of the research, which really surprised me,” Ms Mazzeo revealed.

“But by far, the number one requirement is support: enhanced support systems where employers are really listening and creating that supportive environment for property managers. It doesn’t have to be something complex. It can just be a mentor or a cup of coffee and a chat. That’s what they’re really looking for.”

Training is a form of support that they specifically and repeatedly request, to be equipped with the tools ranging from communication strategies to being software-savvy to be able to manage clients and workload effectively.

In many ways, a more robust training program would be indicative of the type of effort and attention from business principals that property managers often report is lacking, which is at the root of many of the industry’s troubles.

Ms Mazzeo’s research, she explained, ultimately concluded that “property managers can deal with almost all of the stresses within the role if they are provided with support. A lot of them said that lack of support from their principals was the major stressor”.

In other words, it’s not necessarily the daily tasks of the job, which may indeed involve dealing with disgruntled people from time to time, but rather the feeling that they’re alone in the endeavour.

“Property managers [reported that] they just felt they weren’t supported, and they desperately wanted principals to understand what it meant to provide support and just be there for them.”

Listen to the full conversation here.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Juliet Helmke

Based in Sydney, Juliet Helmke has a broad range of reporting and editorial experience across the areas of business, technology, entertainment and the arts. She was formerly Senior Editor at The New York Observer.

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