The daily life of a property manager is far different today than it was a decade ago. In the multi-family sector, residents want more than to simply rent an apartment – they want to experience a lifestyle. They expect their relationship with a landlord to feel less transactional and more emotional. With increased competition among building owners, front-end staff must focus on building brand loyalty and brand awareness to develop that trust.
For Cory Chisholm, senior vice-president of property management at Midwest Property Management in Edmonton, residents’ needs take priority over business needs. This is a win-win. When residents recognize a brand as a lifestyle choice they, in turn, build up that brand and the surrounding community.
“With changing demographics, we see that millennials care more about the experience of a home than just the aesthetics,” he says. “Not only does the unit have to be pleasing to the eye, it’s amenities are just as important. Residents are looking for proximity to great restaurants and transit, as well as community events within the building and access to an online portal.”
The CERTIFIED PROPERTY MANAGER® (CPM®) designation program offered through the Real Estate Institute of Canada (REIC) taught him that responding to the needs of residents builds loyalty, which is key to developing the reputation of a property management company. Through trust, residents are more likely to respond to change in a positive manner.
This senior-level property management designation also shows that an individual within the industry has mastered the analytical and leadership skills required to enhance both the short and long-term values of large real estate portfolios.
“The CPM designation is the Tesla of the property management industry; it’s the one that sets the bar for professional recognition,” Chisholm adds. “It shows you how to fulfill an owner’s needs, but also gives you the credibility residents are looking for. You become professionals running homes rather than just some Ma and Pa operation.”
Through the program, future CPMs acquire foundational skills that are transferable decades later. They learn everything from maintenance mechanics and financing to marketing, human resources, ethics and overall site management. This knowledge has been guiding Chisholm throughout his 21-year career.
“When I got my designation in 2006 it was extremely valuable. I had already been in the industry for about eight years and thought I knew a lot,” he says. “But it was only when I began taking courses at REIC that I learned about the intricacies of property management.”
Advice for the Next Generation
Strong interpersonal skills, a high level of resilience and financial acumen are necessary skills for budding property managers.
People starting out in the industry may consider this an easy field, but the career path is far from monotonous; every day is different. On the residential side, property managers are dealing with people’s lives.
“This is where people get married, where they experience tragic times, where they host Christmas,” says Chisholm. “Anyone who is interested needs to understand this is a people business and these units are people’s homes. Once you understand that, you will make it a good experience for them.”
Property managers also have to be thick-skinned and display strong leadership skills in what he calls a “very personal business.”
“For some residents, a leaky tap is very frustrating because they’re paying rent, we need to be empathetic and understand that,” he says. “At the end of the day, we want to offer a carefree experience, so residents are enjoying their home and not worrying about getting the sidewalk shoveled or the gym equipment working.”
The CPM designation develops these people skills while also exploring the financial side of the business, from cash flows to income statements. When looking at an income statement, a property manager should be able to grasp the health of a building to determine what is suffering and in need of repair.
Managing Unpredictable Events
CPMs are also equipped with skills to handle unpredictable events like floods, which are becoming increasingly common in many regions. REIC offers a Managing the Physical Asset course that explains how to develop a first-rate property maintenance program and manage various types of risk. The course covers the building envelope and mechanics, while also teaching students how to be mindful of operating systems.
“Mechanics are the internal organs of your building; if those aren’t working, it doesn’t matter how pretty the outside is because you’re going to run into issues,” says Chisholm. “The course provides a variety of ideas so when something does happen, you have the tools to react properly and not panic. You learn how to acquire a core set of reliable contractors, policies and procedures to deal with inevitable events like floods and fires.”
The proliferation of social media is more important than ever. Chisholm advises publicizing your name on various platforms where communication moves back and forth.
“It’s a smartphone-driven world where people want to see each other’s reactions and have quick conversations – whether you want to mail in a work order or book a viewing,” he says. “You need to have a good website and resident portal.”
By the time potential residents come to a building, they’ve already read reviews and viewed the building online. They have seen the website, unit pricing and screenshots of amenity spaces. Without a good appearance on the front end, a property manager won’t attract the same amount of residents as someone who does. Technology is pushing good operators to remain relevant and competent, while the bad ones lag behind.
“The more information about a product you’re selling, the better,” says Chisholm. “That will sell your apartments for you. By the time potential residents come to you, they just want to touch, feel and walk through the property. That is where you build the experience on the customer side.”
The CPM designation program covers how to analyze a property’s physical and fiscal performance, and how to market, retain and improve tenant, resident and employee relations.
“REIC gives you the tools to become very good at a broad scope of things,” says Chisholm. “From minute-to-minute you could change from being an accountant, a psychologist, a building or mechanical expert, and above all you have to be an excellent leader.”
To learn more about the Managing the Physical Asset course and the CERTIFIED PROPERTY MANAGER® (CPM®) designation program, please visit: www.reic.ca