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Property and Real Estate Management Careers and Job Information

Property and Real Estate Management Career and Job Highlights

  • Many managers began as onsite managers of apartment buildings, office complexes, or community associations, or worked in property management firms or community association management companies.
  • Nearly half (46%) of all property, real estate, and community association managers are self-employed.
  • Those who have college degrees in business administration or related fields and have professional designations should have the best opportunities.

Property and Real Estate Management Career Information and Job Description

Most people view buildings simply in terms of their practical function—as homes, schools, offices, etc. But for businesses and investors, well-managed real estate can generate income and profits; to homeowners, it can protect and increase resale values. Property, real estate, and community association managers preserve and enhance the worth of real estate investments. Property and real estate managers see that real estate investments realize their expected revenues by managing the performance of income-generating residential and commercial properties. Community association managers supervise the common property and services of condominiums, cooperatives, and planned communities by means of homeowners’ or community associations.

Owners of apartments, office buildings, and retail or industrial properties who lack the time or knowledge necessary to directly manage their real estate investments or homeowners’ associations often hire property, real estate, and community association managers. Managers either work directly for the owner or are work through contracts with a property management firm.

In most arrangements, property and real estate managers take care of the financial operations of the property; they make sure that tenants pay their rent, and they are responsible for paying mortgages, taxes, insurance premiums, payroll, and maintenance bills on time. While members of community associations do not pay rent and handle their own real estate taxes and mortgages, community association managers still collect association dues. Asset property managers have a different function; they prepare financial statements for property owners, periodically updating them on important issues, such as maintenance needs, occupancy rates, and dates of lease expirations.

One common but important duty of many property managers is taking care of the various needs of the property. As part of this responsibility, managers negotiate contracts for various services, including janitorial, security, grounds keeping, and waste removal. For competitively awarded contracts, managers solicit bids from several contractors and then advise owners about which bid to choose. Once contracts are established, managers monitor contractor performance, investigating and resolving any complaints from residents and tenants when services are improperly provided. Managers also buy supplies and equipment for the property and contact specialists when repairs exceed the capabilities of regular property maintenance staff.

Property managers must know and obey applicable legislative provisions. These include any local fair housing laws in addition to the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Federal Fair Housing Amendment Act. Similarly, they are responsible for guaranteeing that none of their renting and advertising practices is discriminatory and that the property itself is in accordance with all local, State, and Federal regulations and building codes.

Onsite property managers oversee daily operations of a single piece of property, such as an apartment or office complex, a shopping mall, or a community association. Onsite managers regularly inspect the grounds, facilities, and equipment of the property to make sure that it is safe and well maintained. They routinely meet with both current residents to handle complaints and requests for repairs and with prospective tenants who wish to see available apartments or office space.

Onsite managers also enforce provisions of rental and lease agreements; these provisions might include rent collection, parking and pet restrictions, and termination-of-lease procedures. Other significant administrative duties of onsite managers include maintaining current and accurate financial records from property operations and providing the asset property manager or the owners with regular expense reports.

One of the main duties of property managers who do not work onsite is to serve as a liaison between onsite managers and owners. Other duties of these managers include marketing vacant space to prospective tenants (by advertising, contracting with a leasing agent, etc.) and setting rental rates that are appropriate for the current local economy.

Real estate asset managers function as the property owners’ agent, advising the owner on various aspects of the property. These managers concentrate on long-term strategies of financial planning (for instance, planning and directing the purchase and development of real estate for businesses and investors) rather than on routine property operations.

Real estate asset managers must consider numerous factors when making decisions about property acquisition, including property values, zoning, taxes, population projections, transportation, and traffic volume and patterns. After choosing a site, managers negotiate contracts for the purchase or lease of the property, always looking to obtain the most beneficial conditions for their clients. To maximize their company’s profitability, real estate asset managers conduct periodic reviews of their company’s real estate holdings, looking for properties that have stopped being financially profitable. After identifying any such properties, managers terminate their lease or negotiate their sale.

Homebuilders, real estate developers, and land development companies employ property and real estate managers to purchase land and plan construction of residential and commercial developments. These managers work with various groups—local governments, businesses, community and public interest groups, and public utilities— to build support for future projects. In reality, it can take years before a project is approved by all involved parties and, during this time, managers may need to repeatedly modify the project’s plans. After getting the green light for a project, managers may participate in negotiations for short-term construction loans and, later, long-term mortgage loans. Finally, they help choose the architectural firms and the construction companies, assisting and advising them as necessary.

While community association managers have many of the same responsibilities as property managers (conducting routine assessments, preparing financial statements and budgets, negotiating with contractors, and helping to resolve complaints), their work differs noticeably from that of other residential property and real estate managers. Instead of interacting with tenants each day, community association managers work with homeowners and other residents. The volunteer board of directors of the association hires a manager to administer the daily affairs and see to the maintenance of property and facilities that the association provides for homeowners. Community association managers also help ensure conformity to association and government rules and regulations.
Large associations, which can include thousands of homes, typically hire an onsite staff and managers to carry out significant workloads. In most such arrangements, managers will handle the associations’ finances; oversee operation of community centers, pools, and golf courses; and look after the maintenance of public and parking areas. Community association managers may convene with the association’s board of directors to address legal issues that could concern the owners. Another common responsibility is reviewing any proposed alterations or improvements by homeowners to their properties to ensure that they do not go against community guidelines.

Training Requirments and Job Qualifications for Property and Real Estate Managers

When hiring property managers, most employers prefer candidates with college degrees, particularly in fields like accounting, business administration, finance, real estate, and public administration. Applicants with liberal arts degrees arts also may qualify. In addition to knowing how to interact well with people, all property managers need good speaking, writing, computer, and financial skills.

Property managers often work their way up from lower positions. Many first worked as onsite managers of apartment units, office complexes, or community associations, or in property or community association management companies. As they gain experience under the supervision of a property manager, they may move up to positions with more responsibility at larger properties. Successful onsite managers might become assistant property managers, a position that allows them to handle a broad array of property management duties.

Onsite managers can benefit from prior experience as a real estate sales agent because of the experience of showing apartments or office space to clients. Traditionally, a solid knowledge of building mechanical systems allowed individuals with backgrounds in building maintenance to become onsite managers. This path is becoming rare, as employers increasingly want managers with excellent administrative, interpersonal, and financial capabilities.

Another change in hiring practices is the way managers gain their experience. Many assistant property managers (and similar positions) come into the field with onsite management experience. However, inexperienced college graduates with bachelor’s or master’s degrees in business administration, accounting, finance, or real estate are increasingly being hired for these positions. Assistants work closely with a property manager, learning the ins and outs of budgets, insurance coverage and risk options, property marketing, and rent fee collection. Many assistants eventually become property managers.
Property managers generally oversee several properties at a time. As property, real estate, and community association managers manage gain experience, their responsibilities and compensation will grow, and they will receive larger, more complex properties to manage. Many property managers specialize in a particular kind of property management—apartment complexes, business parks, condominiums, homeowner associations, or shopping centers, for example. A manager who has great success with marketing properties to tenants may concentrate in new property management. In contrast, an experienced manager with expertise in buildings and their mechanical systems might focus on managing older properties that demand renovation or regular repairs. Successful property managers occasionally branch out to create their own management companies.

Among the attributes needed by real estate asset managers, who typically transfer from property management or real estate brokerage positions, are good negotiation skills, excellent interpersonal capabilities, and an ability to analyze data in order to assess the fair market value of property or its development potential. Managers who focus on land development must be resourceful and creative in setting up financing.

Many employers encourage their property managers to attend brief formal training programs put on by various professional and trade associations active in the real estate field. At these programs, managers can receive advanced training in various areas: operating and caring for building mechanical systems, improving property values, insurance and risk management, personnel management, business and real estate law, community association risks and liabilities, tenant relations, communications, and accounting and financial principles, to name several. These programs can also help prepare managers for more advanced positions in property management. Moreover, sponsoring associations offer certifications and professional designations to managers who complete these programs, have related job experience, and who pass a written examination. (At the end of this statement, several organizations that offer such programs are listed as sources of additional information.) Associations often also require that their members follow a specific code of ethics. Some states require that community association managers have licenses.

Certification is mandatory for managers of public housing subsidized by the Federal Government. While not required, many property, real estate, and community association managers nevertheless choose to earn a professional designation voluntarily because it formally recognizes their achievements and status in the field. Real estate asset managers who buy or sell property must be licensed by the state in which they work.

Property Managment Job and Employment Opportunities

Through the year 2012, employment of property, real estate, and community association managers is forecasted to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations. As managers transfer to other occupations or leave the labor force, additional jobs should become available. Managers with a college degree in concentrations like business administration or real estate and with a professional designation should have the best prospects.

Job growth for onsite property managers in commercial real estate should follow the forecasted expansion of the real estate and rental and leasing industry. The country’s increasing number of residences and offices also should increase the need for property managers. Professional management is also needed for the growing number of community or homeowner associations that often accompany new home developments. In a move to increase profitability or resale value, more commercial and residential property owners will probably entrust their investments to professional managers.

The nation’s changing demographics should also generate jobs for property, real estate, and community association managers. The increasing number of older people during the years 2000-2012 will intensify the need for suitable housing options like assisted-living facilities and retirement communities. Consequently, more property and real estate managers will be needed to administer these facilities; the need will be especially strong for managers with experience in the operation and administrative aspects of running a health facility.

Historical Earnings Information

In 2002, salaried property, real estate, and community association managers reported median annual earnings of $36,880. The range of annual earnings for the middle 50 percent was from $25,470 to $56,000. The earnings of the lowest 10 percent were under $17,450, while the earnings of the highest 10 percent exceeded $86,650 a year. In 2002, salaried property, real estate, and community association managers in the industries employing the most of these managers reported the following median annual earnings:

  • Local government – $50,340
  • Offices Offices of real estate agents and brokers – $37,820
  • Offices Activities related to real estate – $35,750
  • Offices Lessors of real estate – $31,190

Some management positions typically offer benefits. The use of an apartment is often included in the compensation package of onsite association and resident apartment managers. Many managers are reimbursed for miles put on their personal vehicles, and managers working in land development are often given a small percentage of ownership for any developments on which they participate.