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Skills to Thrive in Today’s Property Management World

By Dianne Twinam, RPA, Senior Vice President

What does it take to become a successful Property Manager?  The IREM 2015 Job Analysis survey underscores the importance of the soft skills required to be effective in real estate management, the essential focus our industry must foster to advance and retain young talent with these attributes, and the importance of higher education to become successful in the property management world.

According to the industry veterans surveyed, industry-related knowledge is crucial, but cross-functional skills rank even higher in significance.  Of the top 25 knowledge statements survey respondents reported as mandatory to performing their jobs well, the top 15 (and 19 of the top 25) are people skills or “soft skills,” not industry-specific knowledge such as finance, risk management, or property operations.

The top 10 knowledge skills were:

  • Communications (verbal, written, and electronic)
  • Problem Solving
  • Interpersonal Skills (listening, diplomacy, and responsiveness)
  • Time Management
  • Customer Service
  • Critical Thinking (analysis, synthesis, evaluation of information)
  • Business Etiquette
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Leadership
  • Motivation

The term cross-functional is used in the survey because these are the skills and expertise needed to perform a variety of industry-specific duties and responsibilities. The value of these skills is not exclusive to our industry, but commercial real estate management is a sophisticated business that requires managers to leverage technology in an effort to boost efficiencies, maximize revenue opportunities, and oversee property performance.

The results of the survey reflect our roles in real estate management as a fundamentally personal service business.  It is imperative we recognize that our personal relationship with owners, tenants, and employees is equally as important as the actual operational tasks we perform.  If a manager does not manage time effectively and possess top notch verbal and written communication skills and the ability to solve problems quickly and to the satisfaction of different perspectives,  it does not matter how well they enforce the policies and procedures in place at their property.  They simply will not succeed if their soft skills are not stellar.

With this in mind, the survey notes the following breakdown of the survey respondent’s ages:

  • 20-29: 6%
  • 30-39: 18.5%
  • 40-49: 25.8%
  • 50-59: 31.8%
  • 60-69: 17.3%
  • 70+: 1%

The age demographics clearly illustrate the critical need to focus on the development and guidance of our young talent, especially as it relates to these skills.  Over 51% of the respondents were older than age 50 and more than 77% were over 40.  The mentors in our industry today must take a primary role in creating tomorrow’s leaders and focus on the retention of the best communicators, problem solvers, and critical thinkers we can find.

Around 25% of the respondents say they developed their cross functional skills during their formal education.  Nearly 60% of the professionals surveyed hold either a bachelor’s or a master’s degree.  The survey also revealed it is critical to identify individuals with these skills early on in their careers, because another 70% said they developed their soft skills within the first five years on the job.

When looking to fill your next entry- or mid-level property management position, remember to focus on and talk to the candidates about their communication, problem solving, and customer service skills.  Many hiring managers want to find someone that already has experience in our industry to fill their open positions, but it’s important to remember that operational skills can be taught.  As the IREM 2015 Job Analysis publication demonstrates, it is the cross-functional skills that really matter to thrive in this dynamic commercial real estate industry.


Dianne Twinam2As Senior Vice President, Dianne is responsible for the successful transition of properties to our managed portfolio. She also provides formal training sessions to our property management teams on a regular basis and serves as a quality control resource to review budgets, re-forecasts and monthly reporting tasks specific to each client’s set of policies and procedures.


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