HOW FAR CAN A PROP­ERTY MAN­AGER WALK?

IS THERE A CEIL­ING on the port­fo­lio size for an in­di­vid­ual prop­erty man­ager? Could you im­prove your ca­pac­ity by 20 per cent while still do­ing a great job? Brock Fisher, COO of Rental Ex­press, takes a look at both the myths and the pos­si­bil­i­ties.

Elite Property Manager - - Contents - Brock Fisher

‘HOW MANY prop­er­ties can a prop­erty man­ager man­age?’ This is one ques­tion I hear a lot in the prop­erty man­age­ment in­dus­try, sec­ond only to ‘How many prop­er­ties do I have to man­age?’ in an in­ter­view for a prop­erty man­age­ment role.

If I asked you ‘How far can a prop­erty man­ager walk?’ what would your an­swer be? Think about that for a mo­ment. How far do you think a prop­erty man­ager could walk?

Your mind starts tick­ing over, think­ing about all the vari­ables and dif­fer­ent fac­tors in­volved in com­ing up with a log­i­cal an­swer. Maybe you think the ques­tion is stupid, and that’s fair enough too. It is in­tended to chal­lenge per­cep­tions around this is­sue be­cause, in the evolv­ing in­dus­try we work in, port­fo­lio size looked at strictly as a num­ber is no longer rel­e­vant. It is a prop­erty man­age­ment in­dus­try cliché.

One of the things I have no­ticed about the port­fo­lio size dis­cus­sion is the gen­eral ten­dency for peo­ple to shout down any­one do­ing any­thing that would be con­sid­ered out­side of ‘the norm’. They look at all the rea­sons why they be­lieve it can’t be done, as­sum­ing that bad ser­vice, poor re­sults and ex­treme lev­els of stress are the only things that can hap­pen with a larger port­fo­lio than the size they are used to.

I have seen dis­cus­sions in so­cial media fo­rums and at con­fer­ences about port­fo­lio sizes that many peo­ple seem to find ‘con­frontingly large’. But what I find frus­trat­ing and dis­ap­point­ing is that peo­ple are los­ing a golden op­por­tu­nity to learn from ex­cel­lent op­er­a­tors. They com­pletely close them­selves off to what could be pos­si­ble, rather than be­ing chal­lenged by it, be­ing cu­ri­ous about it and ask­ing ques­tions to see what lessons can be learnt to im­prove their skills and al­low an in­cre­men­tal im­prove­ment in their own in­di­vid­ual work­ing sit­u­a­tion.

It is my opin­ion that as­sump­tions peo­ple make about port­fo­lio size stem from a lim­ited imag­i­na­tion. They con­sider their own cir­cum­stances right now, do some maths in their head about what would hap­pen if their port­fo­lio was 15 per cent big­ger, or 50 per cent big­ger, and ar­rive at the con­clu­sion that their world would be car­nage.

But what if your busi­ness was struc­tured dif­fer­ently? What if your sys­tems and soft­ware were dif­fer­ent? What if you worked in another way than you do now? What if you had as­sis­tance – what might be pos­si­ble then?

The lessons learnt from in­dus­try lead­ers like Bill Basha at McGrath Cronulla are not that ev­ery prop­erty man­ager should be man­ag­ing 396 prop­er­ties or they aren’t try­ing hard enough. Bill’s story, to me, is a lot like the prop­erty man­age­ment equiv­a­lent of the four-minute mile, when so­ci­ety thought that it would be never be pos­si­ble for any ath­lete to run a mile in less than four min­utes. Once that bar­rier was bro­ken and peo­ple knew it could be done, many ath­letes then quickly found a way to go faster than four min­utes.

Prop­erty man­agers who suc­cess­fully look af­ter large port­fo­lios have grasped an amaz­ing op­por­tu­nity to chal­lenge them­selves, to learn in­no­va­tive and dif­fer­ent ways to han­dle their week and its var­i­ous ac­tiv­i­ties, and con­sider dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives to im­prove how they op­er­ate as a prop­erty man­ager.

Imag­ine if you could im­prove your own ca­pac­ity by 20 per cent while still do­ing a great job and work­ing a reg­u­lar week. You’ve then added sig­nif­i­cant value to the busi­ness and had a great im­pact on profit. How much more re­cep­tive do you think your prin­ci­pal or depart­ment man­ager is go­ing to be when it’s time to re­view your salary pack­age? And how much more con­fi­dence will it give you to ne­go­ti­ate a rise?

When you think about port­fo­lio size, don’t just fo­cus on the num­ber it­self. Here are 10 fac­tors to con­sider which have a huge im­pact on what is and isn’t re­al­is­tic:

1. What soft­ware is used to man­age prop­erty

IN THE EVOLV­ING IN­DUS­TRY WE WORK IN, PORT­FO­LIO SIZE LOOKED AT STRICTLY AS A NUM­BER IS NO LONGER REL­E­VANT. IT IS A PROP­ERTY MAN­AGE­MENT IN­DUS­TRY CLICHÉ.

man­age­ment tasks?

2. What soft­ware is used to han­dle leas­ing en­quiry and prospec­tive ten­ant book­ings?

3. Are there any leas­ing of­fi­cers or rou­tine in­spec­tion of­fi­cers, or do you do all that your­self?

4. Are there any prop­erty man­age­ment as­sis­tants or do re­cep­tion staff help? And if so, how many tasks do they help you with, and how much of those tasks do they take care of?

5. Are en­try in­spec­tions, va­cate in­spec­tions and rou­tine in­spec­tions com­pleted on site, on an app, or are they hand­writ­ten and typed up in the of­fice?

6. How many rou­tine in­spec­tions need to be done per year?

7. How far are the prop­er­ties from the of­fice? How far are they from each other? And what roads do you need to use to get to them?

8. How many are houses, and how many are units?

9. How many mul­ti­ple own­ers are there in the port­fo­lio?

10. How old are the prop­er­ties gen­er­ally? There are more, so while you are think­ing about it why not find another five fac­tors that might in­flu­ence how many prop­er­ties you can man­age ef­fec­tively?

Speak­ing from per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence, in the past I’ve man­aged a port­fo­lio of 130 mod­ern units lo­cated quite close to­gether that took half the time to man­age than a port­fo­lio of 100 older houses and units that were far more ge­o­graph­i­cally spread out.

At Rental Ex­press we fo­cus on the staff-to-prop­erty ra­tio, which takes into ac­count the num­ber of staff in­volved in pro­vid­ing front­line prop­erty man­age­ment ser­vices (or

pro­vid­ing as­sis­tance and sup­port to those who do), di­vided by the num­ber of prop­er­ties we man­age. This ra­tio is cur­rently one to 70.

There are hun­dreds of dif­fer­ent ways to struc­ture a prop­erty man­age­ment busi­ness but, re­gard­less of how many prop­er­ties are man­aged and un­der what struc­ture, there are four key fac­tors that re­ally mat­ter: 1. Does it work and get the job done? If it doesn’t de­liver re­sults, there’s no point do­ing it that way. 2. Does it re­sult in clients be­ing sat­is­fied? If clients aren’t happy with the ser­vice pro­vided, they don’t stay. 3. Does it re­sult in prop­erty man­agers be­ing happy, sat­is­fied and well paid for

their ef­forts? If prop­erty man­agers are not happy with the struc­ture, sup­port and re­mu­ner­a­tion, they leave for bet­ter op­por­tu­ni­ties

4. Is it sus­tain­able? If it’s not sus­tain­able, al­low­ing the busi­ness to make a profit, then the job op­por­tu­nity ceases to ex­ist be­cause the doors of the busi­ness need to close.

So, next time you are dis­cussing the is­sue of port­fo­lio size, how will you put that into con­text and what will your fol­low-up ques­tions be?

And if you come across a prop­erty man­ager re­spon­si­ble for a large num­ber of prop­er­ties, rather than be­ing scep­ti­cal try say­ing ‘Wow, that’s great. How do you do that?’ Be cu­ri­ous!

BROCK FISHER com­menced his prop­erty man­age­ment ca­reer in 1998 and is a li­censed real es­tate agent. Brock works as Chief Oper­a­tions Of­fi­cer at Rental Ex­press in QLD, one of Aus­tralia’s largest and fastest grow­ing spe­cial­ist prop­erty man­age­ment busi­nesses with a rent roll of ap­prox­i­mately 4,500 prop­er­ties.

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