Property management career guide

Date Published : Jan-02-2020

Written By : Phillip Livingston

A qualification or apprenticeship are two of the common entry points into the property management industry. Apprenticeship schemes are usually looking for someone who’s driven and hard-working with reasonable academic skills and a willingness to learn.

It’s useful to have an outgoing personality because you’ll spend a lot of time communicating and liaising with different people. Whether it’s over the phone, through in-person meetings or online.

You could also start out as a leasing consultant or a leasing agent to learn the ins and outs of property management. Some of your responsibilities in this capacity will include collecting rent, sending out late notices, taking care of maintenance, etc.


Qualifications and Training

taking notes

Most onsite property managers get most of their training on the job. Property managers who handle commercial projects and contract management and finances typically hold a degree in accounting, business administration, real estate management, and finance. This often makes up for the practical experience side of things and gives you a foot in the door.



It’s imperative for a property manager to hold a Certified Property Manager (CPM) qualification. It’s an internationally recognized qualification that’s offered by the Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM). The entry requirements into the program include three years’ experience in managing a property portfolio and you must take a management ethics course prior to taking the CPM exams.

Other beneficial courses that will help you advance your career as a property manager include the Residential Management Professional (RMP), whose requirements include holding a real estate broker’s license and managing at least 100 units for two years prior to your application.

The next step would be to take the Master Property Manager (MPM) course which comes after the RMP and qualifies you to become a Certified Residential Management Company.

Those who are still starting out are advised to acquire an Accredited Residential Manager (ARM) qualification because it has a relatively low requirement of 12-month real estate management experience. There’s also the Certified Apartment Manager (CAM) qualification which qualifies you to manage apartment rentals.

These credentials are offered by the National Association of Residential Property Managers (NARPM), an international consortium that’s made up of real estate professionals from around the world.


What does it take to be a property manager?

Here are some of the most important qualities and prerequisites you need to become a property manager:


  • Problem-solving

Problem-solving means that you’re able to use the resources at your disposal to work efficiently. Something as simple as Google can really come in handy when it comes to helping you figure things out on your own without leaning on managers or superiors.

This doesn’t mean that you’ll be an encyclopedia that knows everything overnight, because the real estate industry is incredibly complex. But, it means being able to figure things out on your own without constant supervision.


  • Experience

Experience is another important indicator of success for a property manager, especially when it comes to specific types of real estate. For instance, you may want to manage a luxury complex or a retirement village. You need specific kinds of experience in that niche in order to be a success.

This requires years of dedicated focus and putting in the hours in that particular niche or a similar property category.

One of the best ways to acquire work experience as a property manager is to work in an estate agency for a couple of years. Here, you’ll get first-hand experience of how to manage residential properties so you can get the fundamental skills needed, such as learning how to communicate with tenants, landlord liaison, resolving problems, etc.

The best way to get your first job is to put yourself out there and prove that you can get the job done. You could opt for apprenticeships, on the job training and many other opportunities at your disposal.


  • Sales

It’s also important to have strong sales skills because you must be able to close lease sales when necessary.


  • People skills

The real estate industry is a people business. You must deal with prospects, board members, maintenance and sometimes even residents. This is where people skills can come in handy.

Keep in mind that as a property manager it’s people who make the property run. So, whether you want to start your own management firm or join an existing company, you need to surround yourself with a great team and work well with others.


  • Accountability

Report-writing is quite important in a property management career. This requires attention to detail because you need to be responsible for the final report that goes to the client. This means you must be organized, take responsibility and be accountable for what you’re doing.


  • Networking

Get involved and meet people in the industry. Read trade information, speak to your customers because they’ll let you know what type of property manager is needed in the market, and you’ll get valuable feedback that you can then apply to your career. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date because it can be a great resource to meet new people and make valuable connections.


  • Service first

it’s important that you come into this industry with the right attitude, a customer service attitude. The property industry could definitely use more people with a customer service approach. This means having a willingness to communicate with customers and being humble enough to keep learning as you go along.


  • Self-awareness

Self-development is important in any industry, particularly in property management. It helps to be self-aware, specifically of your impact on others and managing perceptions, especially if you want to future-proof your position. 


Different types of property managers

The real estate industry is experiencing an upswing so there’s a huge demand for highly skilled and trained property managers. Now, property managers typically fall into different categories including employee managers, residential managers, and independent property managers, etc.


  • Employee managers

This is someone who is an employee of a corporation or a company and whose management duties involve dealing with one or more properties.


  • Independent property manager

Independent property managers handle properties individually or with the assistance of employees. They manage real estate for more than one owner and have agency duties for each client that they represent.

The responsibility of a property manager is to maximize the value of their clients’ assets. Clients are looking for someone who’s able to maintain their property in a certain standard. This means that the property should look attractive and operate efficiently in order to increase its resale value over time.


  • General Property manager

A general property manager usually takes on a lot of responsibility on behalf of the client. Part of their list of responsibilities is to oversee the asset’s financial operations. This includes making sure that rent, HOA dues, and outgoing expenses are paid on time. This includes maintenance bills, payroll, reserve fund savings, insurance premiums, and taxes.

Some property managers may also assist in financial statement preparation. They will also report to the property owner or investor on a regular basis with regards to lease expiration dates, occupancy rates, maintenance status, etc. The property manager may also advertise the property to fill vacancies.

It doesn’t end there. A property manager may also negotiate contracts on behalf of the association or investor, with service providers such as trash removal, landscaping, security, and janitorial service businesses. Moving forward, the property manager needs to monitor contractor performance and resolve resident and tenant complaints that may arise.

A manager also needs to buy equipment and supplies required for repairs, and arrange special repairs for maintenance tasks that cannot be done by regular maintenance staff. A property manager must understand and apply the latest relevant legislation in order to run a property efficiently. This includes legislation such as local fair housing laws, the Federal Fair Housing Amendment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, etc.

These laws are meant to guide the property manager in ensuring that they manage the property according to Federal, State, and local laws.


  • On-site property manager

An on-site property manager is different from an off-site property manager in that the former is usually focused on managing a single property. The property could be a community association, a shopping center, an apartment complex or even an office building. Their responsibilities include keeping the property safe, regularly inspecting communal equipment, facilities, and grounds. They must also organize and oversee maintenance and repairs when required.

An on-site manager must meet with prospective tenants when showing vacant units, and ensure that residents follow rental terms or lease contracts. This includes adhering to pet restrictions, parking restrictions, rent collection, and lease termination processes. It’s also important for an onsite manager to maintain updated and accurate income and expenditure records as well as expense reports.


  • Real estate asset managers

Next, you have real estate asset managers who operate on behalf of property investors or developers to buy, sell and develop real estate. Their role is to oversee the long-term financial and strategic planning as opposed to daily operations.

Real estate asset managers are valued for their ability to consider multiple factors when deciding on a property acquisition. They’ll take into consideration current property values, population growth, zoning laws, taxes, and even transportation variables. Upon choosing a site, the manager will negotiate a lease or purchase contracts in order to secure favorable terms for the investor.

The real estate asset manager must regularly review the investor’s real estate holdings to identify stagnant properties. They can then use this information to either reinvigorate the property or organize its sale. If the latter option is selected, the asset manager will then be responsible for terminating the lease on said property, advertise and negotiate its sale.


  • Community association manager

A community association manager is hired by an HOA board of directors to manage the community’s day-to-day operations, to facilitate communication with residents and oversee property maintenance. A community association manager is very similar to an onsite manager in that they’re responsible for collecting monthly assessments, preparing the association’s budget and financial statements, facilitating complaint resolution, and negotiating with contractors.

It’s imperative for a community association manager to be well-versed in local, federal and state regulations in order to ensure that the community operates in a way that complies with said regulations.

Note that certain associations are so large that they have thousands of homes or units, which is why they require onsite managers and support staff. The community manager is also tasked with the responsibility to maintain the community’s administration. This includes overseeing access to communal areas such as the community pool and gym, golf courses, parking areas, and landscaping.

The community manager will also meet with the association’s board of directors on a regular basis in order to discuss any legal issues that may affect residents. They may also have a responsibility to review unit improvement requests from residents to ensure that they comply with the HOA guidelines. In some instances, the community manager may also deal with long-term planning duties.


Work Environment

Most property managers work from a physical office and use that as their administrative base. But, this doesn’t mean that you’re limited to work from an office for your entire career. It depends on the type of manager you choose to become. For example, an onsite manager spends most of their time working outside of their office, liaising with maintenance staff, showing apartments or investigating tenant disputes.

Similarly, a real estate manager spends most of their time on the road looking for new opportunities. On the other hand, general property managers must communicate with residents and the HOA board on a regular basis. Since they’re responsible for preparing the annual tax and financial reports, they have to put in overtime during tax season and before annual general meetings.


Hands-on property managers must constantly be available to residents and HOA board members in times of emergencies. While you may not be required to work on weekends, you may need to show apartments on weekends or public holidays.


The challenges of being a property manager

Probably one of the most challenging aspects of managing property is the fact that it’s a never-ending job. Your clients might buy or sell buildings with ease, but they’ll always need someone to manage new acquisitions for them.

People management and dealing with difficult situations might also be challenging, especially when you consider that the person you’re interacting with might be dealing with issues that you’re not aware of.


How much does a property manager earn?

The average property manager’s salary is about $57,040 annually. In addition to their salaries, onsite property managers will also get free lodging.




Property management is a very lucrative and rewarding career path. Property managers are hired by landlords, investors, and HOAs to operate planned communities, investment assets, cooperatives, condominiums, and large properties such as office blocks and shopping malls.

We hope our guide has provided you with all the information you need to start your path as a property manager.

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