Little Real Estate’s Marketing Manager Neil Cox spends a day with a PM and finds unpredictability is all in a day’s work.
I was a relative newcomer to the residential real estate space when I took up my role as Marketing Manager earlier this year. Property management is a large part of what we do at Little Real Estate and from the start I was intrigued by, and drawn to, the hustle and bustle of the property managers end of our office.
There is an unpredictability to residential property management and that certainly isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. If you like to drop into your desk at 9am with a steaming cup of strong coffee wafting over your keyboard and know exactly where your workday is headed, steer clear of any property manager jobs you may see advertised.
On the other hand, if you relish a day that speeds off as soon as you open your inbox, asks you to serve multiple competing needs simultaneously, and gets you out and about regardless of the weather, then step right this way.
Earlier this month I tightened my chinstrap and shadowed one of our dedicated Hawthorn property managers as he went about an average day. Tristan Cleary is one of our highly capable and experienced professionals, he is perennially industrious and seems to genuinely love the challenging world of property management.
Tristan’s experience and knowledge of the assets under his management means he can comfortably manage a portfolio of between 150 to180 properties at any given time. Most of the Little Real Estate property managers will have a similar number of properties in their portfolio.
We delve straight into the inbox and are immediately faced with about 40 emails and another 25 messages from our customer care team. Tristan says this is slightly less than average and sets about sorting the urgent from the less so and filing those which are merely informational.
It strikes me as we work through this initial part of a typical property management day that for someone with Tristan’s experience, this bit is a little like gardening. Some properties are reasonably established and flourish with a small amount of care and little intervention. There are those that need a small amount of regular attention, and then those that find themselves in need of constant attention to bring them back to a position of strength. The longer you tend the garden the better you know which one is which and where to focus your efforts.
At Little Real Estate we pride ourselves on our flexible working arrangements, and Tristan’s wellbeing is certainly improved by this aspect of our business. He works about half the time from home, which is a 90-minute drive from his office in Hawthorn, and this suits his domestic arrangements. Saturdays are part and parcel of the work of our Victorian property managers with most at Little Real Estate working about one in four.
We were due to head out to a final inspection for a vacating tenant mid-morning. It was a perfect example of the unpredictable nature of Tristan’s day. The tenant had forgotten to drop off the keys and had headed into the city for the day. Once at work, he was unable to make the trek back out to our Hawthorn office to rectify his oversight and the final inspection was rescheduled. Flexibility is Tristan’s mantra, things sometimes don’t go to plan- no use moping around, there’s plenty more to do.
Watching Tristan at work, it strikes me there are other things he does that smooths the way through his hectic days. He has built excellent rapport with the trades he uses to maintain and mend the properties in his portfolio. He offers an honest assessment of the urgency of the job, and experience has taught them to take the young property professional at his word.
The vast majority of tenants are very reasonable in their requests which generally relate to maintenance, leasing enquiries and in the summer, air conditioning. Tristan tells me he does get some unusual requests, like the time a tenant sought approval to undertake structural renovations on his rental property. That one was declined, but a request from another tenant for permission to install a home cinema in their rental property was gladly accepted.
The afternoon was devoted to some rental properties that were open for inspection. I tagged along to one in Melbourne’s outer eastern suburbs. On a quiet side street off a quiet side street, Tristan opened the curtains and doors and positioned the A-frame sign on the nature strip. He also made a point of ensuring our privacy statement was available for the groups of prearranged, prospective tenants about to arrive.
The rental market is tighter than it has ever been and every person who came through expressed a desire to take the process further. There were questions, predictably about pets and air-conditioning, and Tristan provided honest, direct answers.
As I walked back up the street, I realised I had seen no other people beyond the prospective tenants and the property manager. Tristan had told me about a Little Real Estate personal safety device that he carried with him when out in the field that triggered a response should he activate it. Little Real Estate are not unique in providing these safeguards, but they are not universal in the Australian residential property market, and they probably should be. Most real estate professionals, male or female, have felt uncomfortable at one time or another and it must be good to know that help is just a discreet push of a button away.
As the sun set on my day experiencing life through the eyes and ears of a property manager, I reflected on the importance of the role. They really are party to the highs and lows of people’s lives. From the elation of handing over a set of keys to a new tenant, to the disappointment of a broken heater that simply can’t be fixed in time for the cold night ahead, it is all in a day’s work for our Little Real Estate team of intrepid and compassionate property managers.
As I turned into my driveway at home, I felt ravenously hungry. It was only then that I realised Tristan and I had completely missed lunch and I texted Tristan to voice my displeasure.
Welcome to the world of property management, he shot back with a winking emoji.
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