Lettings management – a hard job that deserves more credit

Property managers responsible for residential lettings have one of the hardest jobs in the property industry. They are in the firing line; dealing with many stakeholders, urgent tasks, tenant issues and under pressure to manage more properties than ever before.

At Rentancy we’ve seen, first hand, how hard property managers are working in today’s market. Longer hours, constant pressure, often confrontational situations. We have been on a journey ourselves, progressively expanding our outsourcing services team. In our recruitment of new team members, we have often heard common statements such as:

  • “I started with my current agency managing 200 properties, my colleagues left and I’m now left running more than 500 properties alone”.
  • “I’m constantly over-worked and struggling to take time off”.
  • “I’m not feeling listened too and not offered a pay rise to reflect all the extra work I’m doing”.
  • “There is no career progression opportunities that make me want to stay”.

Property management is a tough job: people who stay involved like the challenge that each day brings and the variety. But good property managers do have their limits. In today’s cost of living crisis it does feel like more agent owners and managers are putting staff under extra pressure to manage more units in order to operate profitably and for little or no extra wage. Plus with property sales currently subdued, more estate agents have turned towards lettings, entering the market, offering lower management fees. Driving further pressure on pricing and margins.

It is a tough spot for the industry for sure – but staff are human and property managers should not be the elastic in the chain taking the brunt of the pressure for profit.

Finding a balance

Agent managers and owners need to find a balance between pricing their management fees and the service they want to deliver. Landlords have the pick of agents in the area. Experienced landlords will know the pitfalls of going too cheap, but new landlords and new agents will chase management fees to the bottom – simply making it harder post signing to find a profit margin in the business and leaving staff overworked.

Our observations on the market are that an over worked property management department becomes a diminishing return. Another property can be added to the books but the time is not available to invest in that property. Maintenance queries lag and the open works order ticket list can grow adding to the baseline workload.

The manager or owner needs to pick a benchmark number of properties per person to manage and stick to it in order to deliver their service promise to landlords. If staff quit, replace them quickly do not put the workload on the remaining property managers. It is much better to retain a good property manager that knows the portfolio than to hire from fresh and go through the loop of re-educating about landlords, properties and handover of existing tasks.

Consider the alternatives

Often when an agent starts working with Rentancy, we hear that they have had a string of property managers leave. They know they are not delivering the service promise and so for them outsourcing is worth exploring.

At Rentancy, we start by performing an audit on a lettings portfolio. We will only work with a client where we mutually feel there is a fit and where processes can be adequately defined. Outsourcing only replaces the back-office functions of property management. Staff in the office are still needed for visiting properties, dealing with inventories or tenant issues that need an inspection.

We have also focused on ARLA Level 3 and encourage all our team to take the qualification as quickly as possible after joining. Or if we can, we will hire with preference for property managers to be Level 3 already. We think this just sets the right benchmark of understanding of the relevant regulation and processes needed to be followed. Training provider materials are excellent. We don’t understand why not all agents require their staff to complete such training.

Recommendations for agent managers and owners

In the current market we recommend the following to help your staff and to maximise wellbeing and productivity:

  1. Set a benchmark number of properties for staff to manage and stick to it even when staff leave.
  2. Review your pricing, chasing landlords to the lowest price can in some cases be counterproductive.
  3. Promote Level 3 ARLA or similar courses to property managers, this will pay for itself in reduced processing errors.
  4. Consider other options to reduce workload of your team – upgrading PMS, outsourced services, more part-time work.
  5. Perform regular reviews with staff to get their feedback. If they are not happy and you value them, don’t wait for them to resign to reward them for the work they are doing.