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Property Manager

The Real Poop

There comes a time in every young person's life when he or she dreams of moving out of Mom and Dad's basement and into an overpriced, roach-infested apartment the size of a sardine can. But who do you rent that apartment from? Who ignores your complex’s vermin problem? Who claims the black mold in your tiny bathroom has healthful properties?

Property managers have been around in some form since at least the time of the ancient Greeks, when men were hired to collect rents on city-owned property and repair any columns or statuary that the toga-wearing tenants might have damaged. The lords of feudal Europe were their era's version of property managers, since all land belonged to the Crown.

Today's property managers, however, have moved beyond feudalism, and work for private individuals or corporations. You can find property managers in charge of single-family rentals in the 'burbs, duplexes or triplexes, large apartment complexes or high-rise condominiums, and commercial buildings.

So, what is it that property managers do, besides pretending that they never got your complaints about your neighbor's distressing tendency to blast death metal at two in the morning? So glad you asked. Property managers:

  • Collect da rent moneyz and keep track of a property's financial performance
  • Take action against delinquent renters
  • Inspect the property and ensure that it isn't collapsing around the tenants' ears
  • Hire, train, and supervise staff
  • Handle tenant complaints, questions, disturbances, and violations
  • Schmooze with potential tenants in an effort to bring them over to the Dark Side…er, get them to rent
  • Deal with leasing, administrative, and financial paperwork
  • Comply with local, state, and federal laws and regulations

While an undergraduate degree isn't necessarily a requirement for this position, it can be helpful, especially if your degree is in communications or business—you're going to talk to a lot of people and add up a lot of numbers as a property manager. More importantly, you're going to need work experience, and lots of it. Potential employers will expect you to have worked, for example, as a leasing consultant or in some kind of sales/marketing position in the real estate industry. It's also likely you’ll be required to have worked as an assistant property manager, especially if you're trying for a job managing a large apartment complex or high-rise.

You need a variety of skills—in bookkeeping, communications, customer service, and computer literacy—to be a successful property manager. You need to be able to put up with people. Seriously. If you can’t handle someone complaining to you without bursting into tears, then this is not the job for you. Time management and organizational abilities are also musts for this career.

You're probably not going to become rich as a property manager: Pay varies depending on what part of the country you live in, but the average salary in the most expensive cities in the U.S. doesn't exceed $64k. You might, however, be eligible for free or reduced rent on a unit at the property you manage. Furthermore, this isn’t the kind of job that eats your life: You'll take home a decent paycheck and be able to spend Friday nights on the couch, eating McNuggets and watching The Hunger Games.

An important thing to understand is that, for most property managers, this job is just a job, not a dream career…which is why it can be frustrating to put up with the more difficult aspects of property management. You may have the word "manager" in your title, but you will not be the person with the final say on what happens at your property: That's what corporate is for…and, frankly, corporate probably doesn't care at all about your tenants.

Because many property management firms have reputations as evil, soulless, faceless corporate behemoths, you—as an employee of an evil, soulless, faceless company—will have to work hard to prove to your tenants that you care about your job, your property, and the people who rent from you.

And then, of course, you will have to accept that a certain proportion of your tenants are going to be flat-out freakin’ crazy. Every property manager has to deal with tenants who play their music too loud, or work on their cars in the communal parking lot, or drink beer by the pool, or turn disaster into a YouTube sensation. Every property manager has to deal with tenants who can't get their rent in on time to save their lives. But there will also come a day when you have to handle a gang of guys fighting in a common area, or a domestic dispute, or a secret meth lab in someone's bathroom.

Are you sure you don't just want to go and sell fuel-efficient cars to well-off hipster types instead?