To be a top commercial real estate property manager you need to have solid market knowledge but you also need a comprehensive set of personal skills to match the needs of the property and the clients that you work for.
Many managers will graduate from ‘residential’ property, and move into ‘commercial’ property as part of growing and expanding their career. Whilst the idea is good, there are many factors and issues involved in changing property type. Commercial property is very different and much more complex than residential property; the knowledge base required of a person providing management services is far more extensive.
I do not want to scare you away from commercial property management as a career; but I do want you to respect the skills and knowledge that you will need in the role. The fee for managing a commercial property is substantial, but with that comes the requirement for personal skill and property control on the part of the manager and the agency.
In talking about this, I am not at this time specifically bringing into the discussion retail property. Retail shopping centre management is even more complex than commercial management. The fees in retail property are for this reason generally higher than that which applies to managing commercial property.
Here are some other main skills required of the property manager in performing their daily and weekly duties.
- Negotiation skills will always feature as part of the job specification. Negotiations will be diverse across many different situations including property leasing, contracts and negotiations, maintenance contractor’s, tenants, solicitors, accountants, and landlords. The commercial property manager needs to have professional skills and suitable training when it comes to these diverse negotiation requirements.
- Leasing situations will arise continually from the managed properties. The larger the portfolio, the more frequent the leasing requirement. In my opinion the property manager should be well skilled in leasing structures and or leasing negotiations. In this way they can help the landlords that they act for as part of selecting a new tenants for the managed investment property.
- Lease documentation will vary greatly from property to property. This then says that the property manager needs to understand the differences in leases, how to bring them about, and how to interpret them. Rent reviews, rental structures, maintenance, option terms, refurbishment requirements, and tenant covenants are all unique situations that require specialist review with each and every lease in a managed portfolio. Critical dates will arise from every lease document as part of the management process. Many an inexperienced property manager has overlooked critical dates in the leases only to find that the landlords position has weakened considerably as a direct result.
- Income and expenditure analysis will occur throughout the financial year for a managed property. The income needs to be optimized, and the expenditure needs to be suitably controlled. The difference between the two is the net income and that will have a direct impact on the value of the property for the landlord. It is the property managers duty to ensure that the best outcome is achieved given the prevailing market conditions.
- Tenant communications should be well maintained throughout the year. When tenants are overlooked or ignored by the property manager, relationships soon sour, hence this exposes the property to unstable rental and or vacancy factors. Keep in contact with all tenants on a regular basis. Record all communications in writing so that the necessary evidence is available if any lease situation becomes the subject of a dispute.
- Landlord reporting and controls will be unique to the particular landlord. Whilst most agencies have some form of income and expenditure controls and specific reporting processes, it is up to the property manager to interpret the reports and provide the necessary recommendations. Every monthly report produced for the managed property should be carefully checked as part of the month end process.
- Maintenance controls will involve essential services and maintenance contractors. The age of the property will have some impact on the strategies behind repairs and maintenance. The complexity of the property and the tenancy mix will also have impact on the maintenance activity. Every lease should allow for the permitted use relating to the tenancy. Maintenance may be part of that process and certain maintenance costs may be applied to the tenant or the landlord depending on the particular lease situations. I go back to the point that each lease needs to be fully understood by the property manager.
Property performance is achieved through a fine balance of all of the above issues. That is why special skills and knowledge are part of the job specification for a commercial property manager.