When someone asks about what it takes to be a "good" property manager, our minds often envision a person with skin as tough as alligator hide; someone as fair and impartial as a judge; one whose patience is unlimited; and whose wisdom knows no bounds.
Those, however, are personal attributes. And, although they are certainly noteworthy, and they surely contribute to the overall successful picture of a "good" property manager, they don't cut to the heart of the question.
A "good" property manager must possess a large number of skills and talents, as well as being created from the fiber described above. This article looks at 26 different skills and talents -- everything from A to Z -- that should be possessed by a "good" property manager.
Using these skills regularly and developing these talents to the best of your ability is what makes the difference between a property manager and a "good" property manager. Having these skills and talents, and not using them, or using them only once in a while does not make you a "good" anything.
Customer service is often touted as the position that will be most in demand as we continue into the twentieth century. A "good" property manager is customer service personified. Each person who lives in your community, looks at living in your community, or works in your community is your customer. If you, as property manager, develop these talents and use these skills as outlined below, customer service will be second nature to you and you will indeed have become a "good" property manager.
This list, however, is not all-inclusive. There is already a second list of A to Z almost ready to print. How many others can you think of that should be included? Send your comments by email to [email protected] for inclusion in the next list.
Activities - Even without a clubhouse, you can arrange activities for your residents. Coordinate volunteers to help organize events and publicize them. Be creative; encourage new ideas from residents. Check your library for books detailing unusual ideas for get-togethers. Encourage the formation of a resident social organization to keep the residents of your community active and create that "neighborhood" feeling.
Balance - It is up to you to balance your day. Allow time for resident interaction in activities and discussion. Keep an eye on expenses and remember the importance of balancing the budget. Balance the needs of your employees and residents with the needs of your employer.
Curb Appeal - "If you don't have curb appeal, you aren't open for business", as the saying goes. Make sure your community is clean, curbing and sidewalks are swept, flower beds weeded, and the entrance attractive.
Dress - Dress appropriately. If you work in the office, dress professionally in good looking clothing. If you work outside in the community, wear uniforms for easy identification by the residents when they see you. Employees - A company's biggest asset is its employees. How you treat your employees is how they will treat your customer (your resident). Show your residents the trickle-down effect of a positive attitude. Stress taking care of your employees so they will take care of your customer. Praise liberally, often, and sincerely. Discipline when necessary in private and follow up in writing.
Follow Through - In each and every thing you and your staff do, emphasize the importance of follow-through. Whether you are notifying a resident of a covenant violation or a delinquent rent situation, follow through on the appointed date. All court judgments and monetary awards require follow through for collection. Another big area that needs constant follow through is the maintenance requests you receive from your residents. And don't forget to always follow through on preventive maintenance on your vehicles, equipment, and rental homes.
Green - Green is usually synonymous with money, and so it is here. Keep the green in your community! Improve your cash flow; reduce the delinquencies; and increase the amount of green on the bottom line.
Honesty - A personality characteristic that every company values and no manager should be without -- in themselves as well as in their employees. Even in the worst situation, honesty is better than the next best alternative.
Initiative - Be at the forefront of those who get things done; not those who wonder how it happened; or even worse, those who don't even realize that something happened! Develop self-confidence in your employees, and encourage them to take responsibility for work assigned to them, and initiative to realize what else needs their attention.
Judgment - Exercise good judgment in all things; be fair and consistent in relationships with employees and residents. Look at all sides of a situation before making a decision. Listen to input from everyone who will be affected by your ruling. Make prudent decisions for the good of the company in a reasonable amount of time.
Knowledge - Know the industry; your job functions and requirements; where to go to get help; and who to call in case of emergency. Know the economic indicators, market conditions, and demographics of your area. Know the property managers in your surrounding area as well as the retailers. Know the laws of your state and county which regulate landlord/tenant situations.
Listen - Listening is the most important part of communication and the one least often used. Wise men have said you can learn much more by listening than by talking. Residents need to know you have time to listen to their concerns. Employees need to know they can talk to you when they have information to share, or a question they feel is important.
Marketing - Marketing starts when you walk out of your home in the morning, and ends when you go to bed at night. It is a never-ending, constant situation which needs your attention. Even when a community is full, you must continue to market your community reputation as a desirable neighborhood.
Newsletters - Newsletters are one of the best and easiest ways to communicate with your residents. Make them upbeat, positive, and full of good ideas. Use your residents as sources of information for columns; recognize new residents, birthdays, anniversaries, achievements, and awards. Incorporate graphics and clip art to get attention; use colored paper. Introduce contests and announce community activities. Most importantly, be regular. If done properly, residents will look forward to contributing articles and receiving their newsletters!
Occupancy - Filling the community and keeping it full gives you the budget you need for improvements. Occupancy increases not only by bringing in new residents, but by keeping the ones you already have. Be creative in advertising, marketing, and filling your community with more homes to eliminate vacant sites. Be just as creative in covenant enforcement and developing a "neighborhood" feeling to reduce the number of residents who leave.
Professional - Become an active proponent of the Decade of Manufactured Housing by increasing the level of professionalism within your office and your community through training, proper terminology use, and performance. Each piece of paper that leaves your office should have the professional, clean look which represents your community. In dealings with residents maintain your professional decorum no matter what the situation. Insist that your employees are professional in their performance and provide training when needed. Reward and acknowledge increases in the level of professionalism within your staff.
Quality - Quality goes hand in hand with professionalism. Impress your staff and your customers with the quality of your work on a regular basis -- then insist on the same from your employees. Provide a quality community for your residents. Screen prospective residents to maintain the quality standards you set for your community. Every request from a resident requires a quality response -- whether it is maintenance or other communication.
Realistic - Encourage realistic attitudes toward residents who have short-term requests or problems. Be flexible whenever possible within the corporate guidelines to help resolve a problem, not create a bigger one. When issuing covenant violation notices, be realistic in the time frames you give for corrections and/or repairs. Delinquencies are a problem, but not an impossible one, if you are realistic about payment plans. Being realistic means to honestly look at a situation, see if there is a workable solution, then work toward it. Being firm in following up on broken promises does not mean you are being unrealistic.
Sales - Sales is not only selling homes. Sales includes selling yourself and your community everyday to everyone you meet. That includes not only employees and residents, but also vendors and prospective residents. Sell yourself; your commitment to the betterment of the community and your belief in the value of the residents. Sell your community; the location, amenities, and the sincere dedication of your staff.
Think - Don't allow yourself to get into the habit of just coasting by doing the minimum to survive. Constantly be thinking of ways to improve your community, the communication with the residents, and your activities. Think about the apperance of your community and what could be done to improve it. Think about programs and training that would benefit you and your staff. Think about the impression you make and how that reflects on your community.
Upgrades - Constantly upgrading and improving your community should be one of your priorities. Even in newly built communities, it is possible to upgrade in appearance -- just by filling vacant homesites. Older communities may be a challenge, but you can do it. Get creative, enforce covenants, show your residents that "upgrade" means "increased value" for them and their home. Bring the value of your community up by upgrading the assets within.
Verify - Each time you are told of an incident, and asked to take some sort of action, verify your information. Whether it comes from a resident or an employee, verify before you accuse. Purchasing also requires you to verify costs against allocated budget amounts, verify invoices against purchase orders, and verify payment to vendors. When planning the budget for the next year, verify projected costs for fixed expenses and capital improvements.
Win-Win - Create a win-win situation every time for both residents and employees. Whenever there is a controversy or difference of opinion look for a positive solution that pleases every one. Winning alone creates resentment and hard feelings. Winning together creates a team. When you and your residents win together, you have created community spirit.
Xerography - Use your photocopier as an example of one of the low-cost services you can provide to your residents. There are several others: use of the fax, use of a conference room, free lawn care when your residents are on vacation, daily phone calls to check on the elderly, rent check pick-up for the disabled or homebound, etc.
Yes - Learn to answer every question with a "yes" rather than a "no" and to form the answers positively. Even if the bottom line must be a negative, start your answer by saying, "Yes, I can see where that would be important to you . . .". Using a negative right away causes you to lose the resident who is trying to communicate a need to you. Using a positive word or phrase shows that you have heard, you have understood their need, and that you are trying to work out a solution.
Zest - Approach each day, each situation, each person with an attitude full of joy and zest. Be positive and cheerful. Look for reasons to enjoy your community, your residents, and your staff. Fill each person you meet with the zest of living.