‘A Candidates’ Market’: Property Managers And Other CRE Roles In High Demand
It may seem counterintuitive, but even in a downturn as severe as this one, there are some areas of real estate where there are employers who can't find the right staff.
A recent survey conducted between June 23 and June 29 found that around two-thirds of white-collar American workers are frustrated by the way they have been treated by their employers during the pandemic, and a full third of respondents said they were unhappy in their jobs before the crisis.
TopResume, which polled just over 1,000 career-driven U.S. professionals across industries, said that not quite 70% of professionals across all sectors said they would actually consider leaving their job based on how their employers have responded to the pandemic and that those in operations and management, project management, sales and business development, and construction reported higher-than-average levels of dissatisfaction. Despite tens of millions unemployed, the creators of the survey found that many frustrated employees would be willing to look for a role elsewhere — even amid a recession caused by this pandemic.
Compounding employee dissatisfaction with companies’ coronavirus response, retention might be a rising issue, as studies show remote workers prove to be harder to retain.
Meanwhile, layoffs and furloughs have torn through the industry, though some optimists say that the commercial real estate unemployment rate may not be as high as the national average. DFW-based recruiting firm Gillham, Golbeck & Associates President Rick Gillham recently told Bisnow, "I don’t think we have seen the number of layoffs that we saw back in 2008 and 2009."
Some say the rampant unemployment shouldn’t give companies a false sense of security about filling certain roles or landing top talent.
Some commercial real estate-focused recruiters think this lower unemployment rate and higher dissatisfaction could shake top talent loose. At RETS Associates, principal Kent Elliott said that particularly with senior-level positions, companies may be hesitant to commit to a hire in the midst of a downturn, but waiting too long will put them at a disadvantage — especially in certain sectors or roles.
"Right now, unemployment with industrial, big-box warehouse construction development professionals I would say it’s still negative," Elliott told Bisnow. "There are so many employers out there looking for that because that’s just the hottest sector out there. Virtually no one with that particular skill set is unemployed right now, at least in some geographical areas."
Building Careers President and Executive Recruiter Carly Glova said she is also seeing a higher number of searches focused on construction roles: “While one might think that asset management needs would spike to triage asset and rent relief strategy, we saw those hires spike about two years ago. It seems like companies anticipated a downturn in some form after such a long period of growth and were preparing to properly position their assets,” she said. “Hiring on that side of the business is currently focused on property management.”
In property management, Glova has found, turnover is lower than expected.
RETS Associates Director Erika Daniel agreed, saying that multifamily property management, in particular, has remained a candidate's market. She told Multi-Housing News in a recent interview that in part, this is because of the added demands caused by the pandemic.
“Property managers have been busier than normal due to COVID-19,” Daniel said “They have been pulled in many different directions, handling issues such as disinfecting, following social distancing protocols at properties and sourcing vendors who are willing to come to a property during the pandemic. Managers are also working with residents who may be having trouble paying their rent due to loss of income. Because of these new requirements, the virus has actually increased the need to hire top multifamily property management talent, moving the pendulum back to a candidates’ market in this sector.”
She added that there are also certain niche positions in the multifamily industry where only a certain number of viable candidates exist. “Competition remains unchanged for those very specialized positions,” she said.
TGB Real Estate Senior Vice President and National Practice Director Chris Papa said his firm is fairly busy with searches for real estate positions currently and that while property management is always a need, there are a notable number of open searches.
"Property managers feel responsible for their properties and their tenants, so to get a property manager to leave now is actually a little bit harder,” he said. “Because we’re in the middle of this storm and they want to captain this ship through that storm, which is admirable. They’re in demand more because a lot of them are feeling a little more like they need to be in their current roles until this thing’s over. To find one that will move isn’t easy."
He added that property management is a solid role and by nature, those who work in such a role are less risk-averse, and therefore, perhaps less likely to leave their job in a recession caused by a pandemic, which only compounds their inclination to see their responsibility with a certain building or certain tenants through the lens of the crisis.
Other than that, because of downsizing in CRE, he still thinks it is a client's market.
If that’s the case now, it won’t be forever. While some companies have needed to trim their staff, in the long run, a downturn may make the commercial real estate talent shortage worse, giving experienced and driven candidates even more leverage.