Real estate employers are lamenting their limited pool of job candidates, but still keeping a lid on salary levels. Results from a national survey of the demand for human resources reveal that 59 per cent of respondents in the property and facilities management sector experienced a pickup in business activity last year; yet, only one quarter bumped up salaries by more than 3 per cent and 16 per cent offered no raises at all.
It’s a trend registered across the wider labour force, as 81 per cent of survey respondents from Canada’s 10 major business sectors reported that skills shortages have negatively affected their operations, but just 22 per cent plan to boost salary rates by 3 to 6 per cent in 2017. At the same time, 62 per cent of those employers anticipate an increase in business activity over the coming year.
“While employers expect the economy to pick up and business activity to continue to increase, most are hoping to do more while keeping payroll costs the same,” says Rowan O’Grady, president of the recruitment firm, Hays Canada, which produces the annual overview of job functions and related compensation. “This is understandable with the turbulent economy still causing some uncertainty, but it does mean that even as the economy and business activity pick up, most Canadian workers will not see that improvement affect their lives for at least another year.”
In some cases, identified skill shortages are quite select — for example, the oil and gas sector is uniquely in need of restructuring consultants. In contrast, real estate employers report they are pressed to fill some of the industry’s key job functions, including: commercial property manager; condominium property manager; building operator; and commercial leasing agent.
Prospective openings are drawing fewer applicants and/or a larger share of jobseekers who lack qualifications for available positions. In response, Hays consultants suggest companies could broaden the scope of their search and invest in training workers lured from other sectors.
The sector also needs to do more to promote the appeal of its careers. “There is a common misconception that jobs in the property and facility industry are maintenance roles when, in fact, many roles are about customer service, business development, and life cycle planning and energy management,” the survey report observes.
Turnover further compounds staffing issues, particularly in residential management. “Strata/condo management professionals are especially in high demand as it is a very demanding and intense area of the industry, which causes professionals to move on to other areas fairly quickly,” the reports states.
Survey findings show that Vancouver-based condominium managers typically earn up to 20 per cent more than their peers in rental residential buildings. The inverse is true in Montreal, where typical annual salaries for rental residential property managers are pegged in the range of $60,000 to $70,000 versus typical salaries of $50,000 to $60,000 for condominium managers.
Typical salaries for commercial property managers surpass those for residential managers in all seven surveyed Canadian markets — ranging from a low of $65,000 to $75,000 in Winnipeg and Montreal to a high of $80,000 to $89,000 in Calgary. Salaries in Calgary are likewise the highest in the country for several other positions, including those Hays Canada categorizes as “in demand”.
Typical salaries for commercial leasing representatives are in the range of $90,000 to $105,000 in Calgary compared to $70,000 to $80,000 at the low end of the scale in Montreal. Building operators typically earn $55,000 to $65,000 in Calgary versus $45,000 to $50,000 in Winnipeg, Ottawa and Montreal.
Although Vancouver and Toronto are consistently named Canada’s most flourishing commercial real estate markets, salary levels in the two metropolises are rarely chart-topping. This may be in line with the ambiguity Hays Canada analysts encountered across all regions and business sectors.
“Less than two-thirds (52 per cent) of employers are certain they are paying market rate, and 22 per cent don’t know what market rate is. What’s more, almost half of professionals don’t believe they are paid market rate, or don’t know what market rate is,” the report notes. “With fewer companies offering salary increases, this trend is likely to continue. Employers who aim to maintain or improve retention without increasing payroll costs must ensure they are offering other benefits and perks to keep employees engaged.”