A career as property manager can be extremely fulfilling and financially rewarding.
Not only you get to work on so many different things, from marketing and advertising to sales and customer services, but you also get to meet a lot of successful and interesting people from whom you can learn a lot.
However, anyone who’s been working as a property manager long enough knows how busy it can get: emails, phone calls, walk-ins, often all at the same time, several times a day.
This can really feel overwhelming and intimidating, especially for staff with little to no experience.
It’s no surprise that the average staff turnover for the letting industry is 40-50% with a career length of just over 18 months.
In fact, I’ve personally worked in companies where staff turnover was closer to 80%. Yes, you read it right, 80% in a space of just a few months.
The truth is, not everyone is cut out for it. And if you’re the type of person who enjoys slow-paced, predictable jobs, then a role as property manager is probably not for you.
It will wear you out faster than a misbehaving 2-year old kid.
But if you enjoy fast-paced environments, where no days are the same, where interpersonal and problem solving skills are essential, where proactivity is celebrated, then a career as property manager is what you need.
After 10 years experience in property management, holding various roles from letting executive to general manager and even business owner, I’ve decided to put together a list of tips to help aspiring and experienced property managers increase their productivity and make their job easier.
Here’s what we’re going to cover in this article:
Without further ado, let’s get to it.
Keep a daily journal
As property manager, you must absorb a lot of information and perform a myriad of tasks every day. And trying to remember everything is just not an option.
Plus, It’s already well-established that the brain is good at solving problems, but not so much at storing information.
That’s why organisation skills play a vital role in the success of any property manager.
So, how do you capture, organise and store information in a way that makes it easy for you to find, analyse, and draw insights from?
Well, the solution is quite simple, use a A5 Notebook.
Use a A5 notebook
Use a full page for each day. On the right side, create your to-do list (ideally the day before) and
start with the 3 most important tasks. Then, add other tasks as you see fit.
But, like every property manager knows, there’s always going to be new important things to do throughout the day.
So, as new tasks come up, add them to your list. Additionally, if you’ve performed a task that wasn’t written, add it in your list too, just so you can mark it as completed.
Warning: if you need to perform a task but plan to do it later in the day , add it to your list immediately.
Similarly, if a task is to be performed the next day, write it immediately on the next day’s page.
The reason is that It’s so easy to get caught up with other things that you’ll likely forget about it.
For example, if you planned a viewing today and need to follow up with a call the next day, add the follow up call on tomorrow’ page, just after the viewing is completed.
Furthermore, if you haven’t had time to complete certain tasks (as it will likely happen a lot), add them on tomorrow’s page. Again, if you still haven’t done it the next day, add them for the day after that, and so on.
Then, use the left page to log all relevant activities. That is, data that are worth measuring.
It could be data about the number of new applicants, viewing per properties, number of properties let, number of new landlord leads, or something else.
You know best what data are important to your business.
It doesn’t need to be overly detailed, but make sure to include the following information:
- Time (Could be simply “AM” or “PM”)
- Type (email, phone call, walk-in)
- Nature (viewing request, complaint, landlord’s lead)
- Additional notes (brief description and outcome)
It shouldn’t take you more than a minute to complete.
Why should you do it?
First of all, if you usually report to someone, you’ll be able to provide a complete and detailed update on the work you’ve done.
Secondly, and most importantly, you’ll be able to draw insights from your all these information. Like patterns, or bottlenecks that you otherwise wouldn’t have been able to notice.
You’ll be amazed at how much improvement can derived from systematically collecting data and information.
Here’s how your notebook could look like:
Using a notebook is a very good way to capture and store information. But, by its very nature, a notebook limits the extent to which you can elaborate on ideas and tasks at hand.
That’s why you should also subscribe to a note taking app
Subscribe to a note taking app
Note taking apps allow you to elaborate a bit more on an idea, a task at hand or a project you’re working on.
I personally recommend the Evernote App; It allows you to capture and store just about anything, from anywhere. You can create voice memos and written (and handwritten) notes, take photos, save emails and website content, and more. Plus, you can do all that with relative ease, even if you’re not technology-savvy.
As we all know too well, inspiration can strike anywhere. So, using a notetaking app is a very powerful and effective way to make the most of those light-bulb moments.
Let’s suppose you’re walking in the street and you suddenly come up with this perfect email content idea that you could use for prospecting new property owners.
Chances are, if you don’t act on it immediately, you’ll forget about it, or at least forget the exact wording you wanted to use.
With Evernote, though, you don’t need to wait until you’re back in the office or at home.
You can record a memo while you’re walking to make sure you keep the content of your email exactly the way you want it to be. All you’ve got to do is transcribe the content of your memo into a note or simply use it as is while crafting your email.
Similarly, if you are in an important meeting and you decide to use a notebook to take notes (using your phone doesn’t look really professional), you can always take a picture of your notes later, and store it in the app.
And because Evernote is cloud-based, you can sync your notes across all your devices, so you can access them from anywhere.
Finally, Evernote makes it really easy to organise your notes. For example, you could create a Notebook called landlords, and store any notes that applies to it. Or maybe create a notebook called work and create notes for the different projects you work on.
I, myself, created a “Landlords” note in my “Work” Notebook, where I store everything from the number of properties we manage for them, deals we have in place, important information to remember, and more.
Then, before calling or meeting one of my landlords, I take a quick look at my notes, so I can have a much more meaningful conversation with them.
How you organise it is up to you. The important thing to remember here is that notetaking apps make your work more intuitive and makes it much easier to bring your best ideas to life.
As a side note, I like to use Evernote for professional projects as well as personal ones. Using it has really changed my life for the better.
All these organisational techniques can drastically improve your productivity and make your job easier, but they’re irrelevant if you don’t record all correspondence.
Record all correspondence
Whether you’re using the latest property management software or simple spreadsheets and word documents, recording all correspondence should be a priority.
No communication system can be effective without a proper record keeping process in place.
Not only it helps everyone to keep track of what’s happening, but it also allows staff members to have meaningful conversations with clients and, in turn, provide great customer service.
Once again, the record doesn’t have to be overly details, but should at least include the following elements:
- The date
- The initials of the staff member
- A brief description of the exchange (what’s being discussed)
- The outcome of the exchange (what happens next)
By doing this, you’ll make it much easier for colleagues and staff members to collaborate, and get up to speed with what’s happening in the business.
Here’s an example of a maintenance issue’s timeline:
As you can see, I have the complete timeline of the job, from who dealt with it and when, to what was happening and how it got sorted.
Keeping records of all your correspondence can go a long way in improving internal communication and, in turn, customer service.
But you still need these information to be readily available and easy to read in order to make the most of them.
And that’s why you should create snapshot documents.
Create “snapshot” documents
What is a snapshot document?
Snapshot documents are documents that provide an overview of whatever you’re dealing with. They are visually effective, and make it super easy to find relevant information in a single glance.
Let’s assume that you’re dealing with a tenancy application for a 5-bedroom property. Chances are, you are simultaneously communicating with each applicant individually, answering their email, phone call and walk-in enquiries.
Some might need clarification about the instructions, others might want to pay their deposit in instalments, or some might simply send an email to say that they’ve completed the application and paid their money.
When called upon, these information must be readily available for anyone who’s helping you with the application. And while any decent property management software will group and store these information for you, you’ll still need to open each email/correspondence individually to get all the details.
You might remember everything and not need a second look, but other colleagues who’ve not been involved from the beginning will certainly need to do some digging before they can get up to speed with the application.
This is not very effective and can be time-consuming. And that’s where snapshot documents come handy.
Here’s an example of a list of tenancy applications:
As soon as you open the document, you can see who’s paid what, when, what’s left to pay and which applicant we still need to chase.
Thus, if one the applicant (or your manager) ask for an update, you can provide it quickly and with great details, without having to open several emails or ask other colleagues for answers.
Use colour coding for your documents
Colour coding is a great way to add even more visual clarity to a document. It provides contrast, and allows to find specific information easily.
For example, you could use blue for comments relating to a payment made by an applicant, yellow for something that you need to follow up on, and red for more important tasks you need to perform.
Tips: keep it simple by using a maximum of 3 colours, to avoid cluttering up your document.
Here’s an example of a snapshot document taken from my Evernote account:
Similarly, when I open this document, I can quickly read the feedback given by the colleague who did the viewing, the feedback given by the prospective viewers, the subsequent action that was taken by the staff members “FA” and the reply from the viewers.
All this without leaving the page.
And, because I can easily share it with others, this document makes collaboration super easy and user-friendly.
All these techniques are a great way to stay organise and productive as a property manager, but it leads to nothing if you don’t perform when it matters most:
Finding tenants for your managed properties.
One of the best way to turn prospective viewers into tenants is to optimise your viewings.
Optimize your viewings
Viewings are a vital part of a property manager role. Without viewings, It’s extremely difficult to rent a property, and subsequently grow your business.
But they also take a lot of time and efforts. Especially when properties are located far away from the office.
Thus, having the right strategy for organising viewings will save you a lot of time, effort, and money. It will also increase your viewing conversion rate (that is, the number of viewings it takes to rent a property) and allow you to focus on other aspects of your business.
Set fixed dates for your viewings, and stick to it
It may sound counter-productive at first, I get it.
The more viewings you do, the more chances you have of finding a tenant. If someone seems really interested, why not take them round the property at the earliest opportunity? Plus, some people might be working at these times, or simply cannot make it, for other reasons.
Shouldn’t we give them flexibility and work around their schedule ?
Although these seem like valid points, I would argue that it can undermine your business reputation and reduce your chances of converting your viewings.
The reason is that, as humans, we tend to be more attracted to things we can’t easily get. Scarcity and exclusivity create more interest, and, in turn, more demand from potential customers.
So, when you arrange viewings around people’s schedule, it creates two problems:
- The prospective tenant might think you’re desperate to find a tenant and that they can take their time before making a decision, or worse, it can give them the impression that no one wants to rent the property.
- When you arrange viewings at a moment’s notice, it’s much more difficult to organize group viewings and you miss out on the FOMO effect they create (we’ll come back to that in a bit).
Instead, you could, maybe, set your viewings for Monday, Wednesday and Friday evening only. Or do viewings only 2 days of the week, or week ends only.
In fact, how you set it up doesn’t really matter. The importance thing to remember here is that you should stick to the plan.
And that is because, more often than not, someone really interested in a property will find a way to attend the viewing. Whether it will be by taking some time off work, or rearranging their schedule accordingly.
The ones that ain’t prepared to do that are usually not that interested so you don’t want them anyway.
Organise group viewings
The other benefit of allocating specific times for viewings is that you can organise group viewings.
That is, showing the property to two or more unrelated people (or group of people) at the same time.
Not only it saves you time and money when compared to individual viewings – as you only make the trip once – but it also creates that FOMO effect in people; It will lead them to believe that the property is in high demand and that they should act quickly to secure it.
Thus, it will increase your chances of finding a tenant.
Screen prospective viewers thoroughly
Setting fixed dates and organising group viewings are great ways to increase your chances of converting, but It’ll all go to waste if you don’t properly select your prospective viewers.
To avoid that, you should prepare a list of questions to be answered to make sure they are a good fit for the property.
Here are some questions that might help you create your own list:
- Have you read the description fully?
- Is the distance ok from your place of work/study?
- When are you looking to move in? Are you willing to move in immediately?
- How many people will be moving in?
- Do you earn at least 3x the rent? If not, have you got a UK-based guarantor who does?
- Are you currently renting through a private landlord? or through an agency?
- How easily, do you think, will it be for us to collect reference from your agency/landlord?
- Any pets at all?
- Any CCj’s or convictions that you’re aware of?
It might sound like a lot of questions to ask before a viewing – and some people won’t be happy about it – but it’ll ultimately save you a lot of time by filtering out people who are not a good fit for the property.
Needless to say, you shouldn’t offer a viewing to people who don’t answer these questions favourably.
By applying all the above methods, you’ll drastically increase your chances of turning prospective viewers into tenants.
But finding tenants doesn’t stop here. There are other tasks to perform in order to secure their signatures and seal the deal.
In fact, that’s where many property management companies fail, as not every staff member uses the required process to seamlessly take “wannabe” tenants all the way to the finish line.
For that reason, it’s really important that you document your routine as much as possible.
Document your routines
To do so, you’ll need to create SOPs (i.e. standard operating procedures).
These are detailed documents that explain how to carry out a task from start to finish.
Create processes and checklists, and document the way that you want your business to operate.
This means that you need to create a repeatable process for the myriad of recurring tasks that arise in property management (e.g. posting vacancies, inspecting properties, processing applications, screening tenants, moving tenants in, and onboarding new property owners).
SOPs offer property managers multiple benefits:
- allow staff members to align to a certain standard
- serve as resources for anyone needing help accomplishing a task
- save you time from answering the same questions over and over again
- improve efficiency of tasks and prevent people from deviating form a process that works
- provide an effective way to train new employees as your business grows
Now, in order to create SOPs in great detail, you need to learn and document the steps for each process. Meaning, it’s worth being in the trenches so you gain experience and optimise the process so everyone can work efficiently and cohesively.
It’s also a good idea to involve staff members or whoever performs the task on a regular basis.
It’s also worth noting that SOPs don’t necessarily need to be written documents. They can be videos too. So, use whatever format makes the most sense.
As we’ve seen, a property manager role can be enriching and greatly rewarding. It truly is a multi-facets role where no days are the same, where you get to work on so many different things and where you get to meet fascinating people every day.
However, to succeed as property manager, you’ll need to possess, among other things, great organisational skills and the ability to absorb a lot of information and present them in a way that makes it easy for you and your colleagues to interact with.
Using these tips will go a long way in helping you doing just that, and will allow you to drastically increase your productivity and make your job a lot easier.