The Role of Property Manager is Changing: Will You Move With it or Will You be Left Behind? | National Apartment Association

The Role of Property Manager is Changing: Will You Move With it or Will You be Left Behind?

I recently had the tremendous pleasure of hearing real estate industry expert and visionary Christopher Lee speak at a conference about his new publication, “Transformational Leadership in the New Age of Real Estate”. Lee has a “Tell-it-Like-it-is” attitude that’s mirrored in his writing, and his document sets out the likely future of the real estate industry.

During this talk, Lee made several thought provoking observations, but one in particular stands out.  He predicts that in the course of the next 10 years, our industry will face an exodus of founders, senior-level executives, and experienced professionals. Lee forecasts that by 2025 more than 65 percent of present senior leaders will have left their roles. He comments that the combination of retiring Boomers and lack of young and next generation talent (Gen Xers who aren’t ready and Gen Yers who are still learning) will result in a talent vacuum. 

Surely we, the younger generation of real estate managers, don’t want to be categorized as generationally inept? I have no desire for my career and goals to be defined by a deficit among others in my generation. As a property management professional, the question to ask yourself is whether you are prepared to take that important next step. Becoming successful starts from within, by becoming the “CEO of your own career.”

As the CEO of our own careers we have more control over our professional development than we realize. Some managers will only consider promoting employees who proactively request a development and promotion plan. If an employee can’t demonstrate the drive to move their own career forward, what confidence can a manager have that they will lead others?

The role of property manager has undergone changes over the last business cycle, and these changes offer opportunities for us, as individuals to take ownership of our role. An increased emphasis has been placed on communications, and as a result, managers spend a large part of their time managing processes instead of resources. Instead of creating value from new and existing customer relationships, they’re devoting their time to collecting rents, preparing budgets and responding to enquiries from corporate offices. 

As a result of this shift, managers are somewhat perceived as “an asset custodian.” Its strategic potential to create long-lasting resident relationships and grow resident satisfaction has diminished. However, the manager function is changing again, so that in the future it will focus more on adding value rather than managing processes.

It’s predicted that in the future, successful real estate companies will generate 50 percent or more of their income from selling knowledge, access to customer bases and non-asset services in a manner similar to the way they currently generate income from management fees. It’s becoming apparent that property managers must start thinking creatively and move away from a reactive reliance on passive revenue streams. Managers will need to seek out business opportunities for building customer and stakeholder relationships.

Lee describes a change in hiring practices from the traditional focus on previous employers towards demonstration of ability in competency, motivation and cultural fit. Research conducted by Lee’s organization identified the following qualities sought by best-in-class real estate firms when hiring new employees:

1.      Knowledge of the Business
2.      Multitasking Skills
3.      A Passion for the Business
4.      Leadership Skills
5.      Career Growth Potential
6.      Data Interpretations Skills

The industry has seen great change in recent years that is undeniably set to continue over the next 10 to 20 years. If we are to survive, our functions must change to meet these challenges and maximize the opportunities we identify.


‘Transformational Leadership in the New Age of Real Estate’, by Christopher Lee. IREM Institute of Real Estate Management, 2012