FOR­MER BUSI­NESS­WOMAN RAE TOL­LEY jumped at the chance to take on a fledg­ling rent roll with Beller Prop­erty Group. Two decades later she’s still there, and says she loves the com­bi­na­tion of prop­erty man­age­ment and hu­man re­la­tion­ships.


Rae Tol­ley

R eflect­ing on a prop­erty man­age­ment ca­reer that has spanned over two decades, Beller Prop­erty Group's Rae Tol­ley says it’s a role that ap­peals to her nur­tur­ing na­ture. “You need to be car­ing and have a big­pic­ture ap­proach, be­cause as a prop­erty man­ager you’re a big part of peo­ple’s lives.”

Rae started her real es­tate ca­reer with an 18-month stint in the in­dus­try 23 years ago. A suc­cess­ful foray into run­ning her own busi­ness within the food in­dus­try fol­lowed, but real es­tate re­mained an en­dur­ing pas­sion.

When the op­por­tu­nity arose to run Beller’s then-fledg­ling prop­erty man­age­ment di­vi­sion in the Prahran area of Mel­bourne, Rae jumped at the chance to put both her busi­ness acu­men and real es­tate skills to use. It came with the com­mit­ment that she would run the prop­erty man­age­ment de­part­ment like her own busi­ness in­side the grow­ing Beller brand.

Since Rae seized the reins,

the de­part­ment has ex­panded from a rent roll of 80 to al­most 2,000, and now in­cludes a team of 12 prop­erty man­agers, a new busi­ness man­ager and four sup­port staff. Along the way Beller has bought ex­ist­ing rent rolls but also en­joyed ex­ten­sive or­ganic growth, due in no small part to their rep­u­ta­tion for cus­tomer care.

Rae ex­plains that her aim is to give own­ers and ten­ants the best pos­si­ble ser­vice, guid­ance and re­sults.

“It’s about con­sis­tency and be­ing gen­uine. Our en­tire de­part­ment is based on that, and I look for that in ev­ery­one I em­ploy. When you start a re­la­tion­ship with some­one, you need to be com­mit­ted to that prop­erty, that per­son and the ten­ant.”

For Rae, that com­mit­ment has ex­tended to two decades of work­ing with some land­lords and ten­ants.

“We still have own­ers who were at Beller when I started in 1997, and we have ten­ants who have been in prop­er­ties for over 25 years.”

It is this cross­roads be­tween real es­tate and real re­la­tion­ships that Rae truly en­joys, and says this is why sales was never an av­enue she con­sid­ered.

In­stead, she rel­ishes the op­por­tu­nity to sup­port, ad­vise and guide own­ers over the life of their in­vest­ment, while also build­ing ties with trades­peo­ple and play­ing the mid­dle­man be­tween ten­ants and own­ers.

“That can be a dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion to be in, as you’re work­ing to ap­pease both sides. Our role is to give the best pos­si­ble ad­vice and re­spect how peo­ple per­ceive the sit­u­a­tion. A ten­ant may de­scribe a prob­lem and when the trades­peo­ple get there it can be very dif­fer­ent.

“You need to be com­pas­sion­ate for peo­ple’s sit­u­a­tions, be­cause one size doesn’t fit all. You need to be adapt­able and have re­spect.”

And she ad­mits this in­ter­me­di­ary po­si­tion can be stress­ful. “You have to have self­con­fi­dence and a good sense of self-worth. A lot of the time ten­ants be­lieve you are just look­ing af­ter the land­lord, but we are al­ways work­ing for the best re­sult.

“It’s in ev­ery­one’s best in­ter­est to give the best pos­si­ble ad­vice, be­cause we’re the ones re­spon­si­ble if some­thing goes wrong. It’s im­por­tant not to put things off and it’s al­ways bet­ter to have an un­com­fort­able con­ver­sa­tion rather than a sit­u­a­tion.”

Rae notes th­ese com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills and the ne­go­ti­at­ing abil­ity of prop­erty man­agers of­ten fail to at­tract the recog­ni­tion they de­serve within the real es­tate in­dus­try and be­yond.

“Prop­erty man­agers are of­ten over­looked for their skills and pa­tience to be able to cope with so many things that ar­rive in their in­box or by phone.”

She re­flects that prop­erty man­age­ment

is also an area of real es­tate un­der­go­ing sig­nif­i­cant change. “In the past five to six years there have been fab­u­lous changes to tech­nol­ogy, in­clud­ing how we do our daily tasks. There are also new pieces of tech on the cusp of mak­ing a very real dif­fer­ence.

“Prop­erty man­age­ment is dif­fer­ent to 10 years ago, when it was a young per­son’s ca­reer di­rec­tion. There is a short­age of younger peo­ple and qual­ity prop­erty man­agers. I’d like to see prop­erty man­age­ment re­ceive greater recog­ni­tion and be re­garded more highly to at­tract new peo­ple into the in­dus­try.”

Rae notes her of­fice is for­tu­nate to boast prop­erty man­agers with sig­nif­i­cant ex­pe­ri­ence who have been with the team for the long term. It al­lows a nur­tur­ing cul­ture where new en­trants are ac­tively men­tored and em­braced, in the knowl­edge the col­lec­tive team is only as good as the weak­est link.

Mean­while, she ex­plains that the ex­pan­sion of ac­quir­ing eight rent rolls over the years has also fur­nished the team with unique skills and in­sight.

“It’s al­ways ex­cit­ing. You don’t quite know what you’ll get un­til it ar­rives. There aren’t too many sit­u­a­tions that our team hasn’t ex­pe­ri­enced,” she says. “And that stands our de­part­ment in fab­u­lous stead to deal with a va­ri­ety of is­sues.”

As for her ad­vice to any­one con­sid­er­ing en­ter­ing prop­erty man­age­ment, Rae says sim­ply, “It’s a fab­u­lous in­dus­try. It’s a priv­i­lege to care for so many peo­ple’s as­sets.” ■


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