The Future of Property Management
The '70s were the start of a commercial building boom (development and disco seemed a good fit). Now many of the building operators that followed are retiring. Who's going to replace them, as property management has long been been seen as career of chance rather than choice?
Luckily, that sentiment is changing among Millennials. Nods in national media have helped greatly, says Sunrise Management CEO Joe Greenblatt, IREM's 2014 president (above with friend Katie Holleback and kids Jimmy and Emily at IREM's recent conference in Arizona.) He tells us property management has made two appearances on CNN Money based on growth prospects, pay, and other factors, and a recent jobs satisfaction survey put real estate management as the second-happiest career (tied with executive chefs and surpassed only by software quality assurance engineers). "Graduates are now matriculating into a career that might have been their third or fourth venture in the past," he says.
Colleges are responding, adding property management to their real estate curricula. IREM has collaborative relationships with 14 universities to help advance real estate management through education and encourage an interest in the profession among students (who can join local chapters through a student membership level). At its recent conference, IREM members partnered with the local Greater Phoenix chapter and visited Arizona State University (above) to tell 30 undergrads and grad students about a property management career. IREM's also seen an uptick in its in-house textbook publishing biz, which furnishes IREM member-written textbooks, like Principles of Real Estate Management, to universities. (It's also a great beach read.)
One upside to the recession: It spurred more interest in the profession, says Carr Properties managing partner Rich Greninger, BOMA International's 2013-2014 chairman (above, with Boston Properties' Caroline Kruger at this year's BOMA conference in San Diego). As the industry pulled back, many service lines, like brokerage and asset management, got folded into property management. "It's a wonderful place to learn many aspects of the business and has a lot of entry-level opportunities," he says. That needs to be communicated to college students. (At DC-based Carr Properties, eight of its 13 building managers are under 30.) BOMA is also reigniting its relationship with the American Real Estate Society to broaden its reach to professors in various colleges worldwide. Orgs like ASHRAE, USGBC, and ULI have had success getting the hook in early to students that way, he says.
Four years ago, BOMA International developed a student day at its annual conference. It reached out to local colleges to recruit participants, and 27 students joined that year, increasing to 100 at last year's conference, says BOMA International VP Lisa Prats. (This year, it expanded the day to veterans transitioning back from Iraq and Afghanistan.) Students are matched with mentors from all service lines, giving them a broad overview of the profession; they then spend the day attending general sessions, participating in speed networking, and going on building tours to see property management in action. "Many of them stay in touch with their mentors," she says. It's also working in tandem with its 93 associations to help develop students locally.
Coreland Cos, which manages 10M SF of retail and office properties in SoCal, targets Millennials with customer-service and banking backgrounds, whose traits and experience gained from those translate well for its entry-level position of property coordinator. "They are the first-line presentation of our company; strength in these areas shows strength in our brand," says VP of real estate management Cheryl Todd. Coreland has also participated in student outreach programs. Recently, a student from Cal State Long Beach experienced a property inspection firsthand. She doesn't think it was his initial career choice, but after that afternoon, "the spark was lit," she says. (More than 30% of Coreland's management staff are Millennials... as a company, they must be pretty good at quoting The Simpsons.)
Cheryl's tips to those starting out: Try and offer solutions to employers, and be honest if you make a mistake. "You'll stumble from time to time, but I assure you that you'll move on." And Joe's advice: Invest time in practical and ongoing education on the job, as it's a complex career that involves financial analysis, risk management, legal issues, relationship management, and leadership skills. Align yourself with an org where you can find mentors and networking opportunities. And engage with the organization on a local level as a volunteer, "for that's the best gymnasium for building your leadership muscles." Also critical: keeping up with contemporary best practices.