As I prepare to head to Las Vegas next week to facilitate a session on abandoned property, my thoughts focus on my fellow property managers.
Yes, handling tenants’ abandoned property is a challenge and a trigger for stress. But, it’s simply one of many situations a property manager may encounter on any given day. So many aspects of the daily business of property management can create stress:
- Marketing for new accounts – being competitive without giving your services away
- Securing qualified tenants for vacant properties – the owner wants it rented NOW, but may blame you if the deal goes bad, later
- Enforcing lease terms – “I’m sorry you lost your job, but the rent still has to be paid.”
- And, my all-time favorite, the midnight maintenance call. (Did you know that water heaters are predesigned to fail on holidays, weekends, and after dark?)
Over many years in this business, I’ve observed a significant pattern in the life-cycle of many a property management career – that of burnout and re-entry. Whether the burnout results in the property manager actually leaving the business for a time, or simply restructuring his or her approach, I’ve witnessed numerous instances of career metamorphosis in our industry.
The 2-Year Marker
For those who work in property management full-time, there seems to be a definite burn-out occurring among managers who’ve been in the business about 2 years. In fact, I can speak to this phenomenon first-hand! Very early in my own career I became fed up with property management, and left the industry to become a full-time bartender. (Oddly enough, the differences between the two professions weren’t as significant as one might think!)
After some time away, I found I missed the property management business. The things that attracted me to the business in the first place, were the things that called me back. This business is a great fit for real estate types who:
- Have an entrepreneurial spirit,
- Get a kick out of adopting systems and procedures, and using forms,
- Enjoy a high level of control over our work load and scheduling,
- Are good at making critical decisions on the fly, and
- Really like having a dependable income from month-to-month.
Upon re-entry into the property management business, I did things differently. I’m convinced these changes prevented future burnout, and helped me to actually enjoy my work. I’ll share a few of them with you:
First, I resolved to never take anything personally again. This may seem like a “given,” but it’s not that easy to do. To this day, I still have to occasionally remind myself that it’s not my fault the tenant’s rent check bounced, or the owner doesn’t like the repair bill.
I don’t bend the rules. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting we throw compassion and empathy out the window. They’re valuable attributes for all humans to embrace. Yet, setting standards and sticking by them is essential to avoiding risk and assuring clear communication, in the world of property management.
Speaking of communication, I quit putting off the unpleasant tasks. I can be a grand procrastinator, and this was never so evident as in my early days as a property manager. If there was bad news to be delivered to an owner, tenant, or vendor, I’d postpone that phone call as long as I possibly could. Inevitably, the situation worsened, the longer I put off the call. Now, I face those tough calls, emails, and decisions head on, as quickly as I can.
The most significant change I made in my approach to property management was as much a quality-of-life decision, as it was a business decision. Instead of trying to be all things to all people, I’ve realized the value of specialization. I’ve chosen my niche, and I stay within the parameters of my business model.
Today, I manage only single-family homes and individual condominium units, in a select geographical location. I no longer feel compelled to switch hats between residential management, commercial management, and homeowner association management. I don’t do sales, either. I refer everything out to others, except those opportunities that fit my business model.
These changes in my approach to property management have made a tremendous difference in how I view my chosen career. I can truly say, I love what I do!
What is your story? Do you know a property manager, perhaps yourself, who has experienced the phenomena of burnout and re-entry? What tips and techniques can you share for reducing stress and adding enjoyment to this business? Please share your thoughts by leaving a comment on this post. Thanks!