How the Property Management Industry Can Solve Its Labor Shortage

COVID-19 seems to be the gift that keeps on giving, and we can add the severe global talent shortage to the ever-growing list of trends not triggered, but accelerated by the pandemic. Understaffing is so widespread that, once again, “we’re all in this together”. And no vertical is spared. Whether you are a restaurant, a pharmacy, a medical practice or even a property management company, you have felt the effects.

But there are solutions, or at the very least, for property managers, there are bases for lasting solutions. Let’s take a deeper dive into the problem at hand.

Specific to our industry, AppFolio recently partnered with the National Apartment Association (NAA) in a survey of over 1,000 property managers to assess the impact of the shortage on their businesses. The results were revealing. When asked what their greatest post-pandemic challenges were, more than 50% of respondents placed HR, staffing and recruitment at the top of the list.

Unsurprisingly, in a game of dominoes in the workplace, the talent shortage has been driving the other two most significant challenges: operational efficiency and revenue maximization. And it’s no surprise that no business has been immune, regardless of size. Companies managing portfolios of all sizes put people first. Also, unsurprisingly, the top solutions for survey respondents revolved around compensation, with signing bonuses, a pay rise and better benefits topping the list.

Discover the advantages

The talent shortage is getting worse every year as the commercial real estate population ages. (The National Association of Realtors, in 2018, said its members were on average 60 years old.)

But there’s a particular irony when it comes to property management, in particular, its talent issues are at least partly due to the very perks of the profession. We’re flying way under the radar, certainly in positive press, as well as in public perception. The profession doesn’t garner the million-dollar headlines that brokers, developers, and investors often enjoy, and because of its relative stability, it’s too often seen as irrelevant. And there are still those who equate property management only with maintenance.

This goes against the reality that property management is a dynamic and challenging field, which informs the strategies of investors and developers. It’s an intensive, people-oriented career that changes every day. And yet, despite all this change, it is relatively stable and practitioners can count on the reliability of their income, regardless of economic conditions.

IREM recently launched a series of blogs highlighting our promising members. We call it “Building the Future”, and one of the benefits of a career in property management that our interview subjects highlight is the range of opportunities they are exposed to, touching on other disciplines. such as brokerage, asset management and construction, to name a few.

And yet, the light of property management remains hidden under the basket of the broader commercial real estate industry.

Solutions will take time

IREM has, of course, tackled this problem head-on, but there is no silver bullet. It is a question of increased awareness. To raise the profile of the profession, we have for years run campaigns in conjunction with local colleges and universities, and we are seeing the steady growth of property management as an accredited program.

But it is an initiative that should not reside only at the national level. As an example, I point to Mayra Ramirez, CPM, the subject of a recent “Building the Future” blog and president-elect of the IREM chapter of Orange County, California. Largely at his instigation, the chapter today has a memorandum of understanding with Cal State Fullerton to promote IREM, its courses and certifications. The fact that the initiative was due in part to the efforts of a young professional should not be lost on anyone.

The message here is obvious. It takes both a national and local effort to increase the visibility of the profession and raise awareness of the many benefits of this often hidden, yet highly impactful industry.

In a sense, we all promote the industry every day, simply by pursuing our careers with the highest ethical best practices and keeping a close eye on the needs of all of our diverse constituents. But we can do more. I urge every member, every chapter, to analyze their outreach potential, follow the example of Orange County and other chapters that are spreading the word of property management.

By doing so, we can do our part to help solve the talent crisis we all face.

Chip Watts is the 2021 President of the Institute of Real Estate Management. Additionally, he is President and CPM Director of Watts Realty Co., Inc. in Birmingham, Ala.