The Many Faces of a Property Manager

by Michelle McClelland on Thu Feb 2020
The Many Faces of a Property Manager

Take a walk in our shoes, as our wonderful Team Leader, Michelle McClelland, enlightens you with an insight into our lives as property managers. We wonder if over the next 10 years, whether the nearly 100-year old title of “Property Manager”, will be replaced by titles far more reflective of the role?

Property management is not about managing properties, it is all about managing people, which can be a challenge on a daily basis. When you have been in the game for a while, we think we have just about seen it all and then something else comes up that makes us question, “What is wrong with this world?”.

The job makes for an interesting career and not everybody can cope with the constant negativity. Unfortunately, this is the path and course of the job. People come into the industry with the right attitude and a pre-conception of the position being easy - we just collect rent and fix the odd leaking tap after all, right?

Wrong! The results of a survey completed by property managers in New Zealand a few years ago, showed the average life of a property manager is around 18 months - "burnout" being the biggest catalyst. The constant negativity, and thankless job, can and does, turn even the strongest person into a downwards spiral until eventually they have to leave, as they can’t cope anymore.

This leaves our owners and tenants restless and untrusting. They wonder what is going on and why is there such a high staff turnover all the time? Owners become concerned about their investment - can we manage the property properly? Which is fair enough, but of course we can. A good property management company has the right people at the top. From the business owners to the team leaders and senior property managers, there are people out there that absolutely love the job and thrive on the day to day happenings of property management – it’s not all doom and gloom!

I have always found it interesting when people say to me, “I don’t know how you do it, I couldn’t cope with it”. Property managers get treated, at times, like substandard human beings and are often brought to tears. It costs nothing to be nice and at the end of the day, nobody comes to work to do a bad job - we are all only human.

Unfortunately, it happens across the whole industry, and I doubt it will change anytime soon.  As more and more pressure is applied around complying with the upcoming Healthy Homes Bill, some tenants and owners’ expectations will increase and may become more unrealistic.

Maintaining the right team will always be a challenge.  For any business, the team are the biggest asset but also the biggest liability. We are really lucky, our team and office culture are second to none. We generally laugh a lot of the time, don’t take ourselves too seriously, work hard and are damn good at what we do. There is a lot of experience in the office and with the latest in property management software and tools at our fingertips, we pride ourselves on being leaders in our industry.

If you’re not on-call to answer the urgent after-hours maintenance calls, you’ll still find the phone calls, emails and text messages just keep coming 24/7. We need to switch off at the end of the day, get the monkey off our back and leave it at the office for the next working day. The temptation is always there to just quickly check your emails or answer the 8.36pm phone call that involves a blown light bulb or an oven that's set to timer and won’t work. Of course, this is all a matter of national importance! This can ruin one's night relatively quickly and turn into a sleepless night, at times it can be pretty hard to switch off. Being able to do so has to be learnt and becomes an extremely valuable tool in a professional property manager’s arsenal.

Time off, supportive partners and family time is vitally important. Our mantra is we work to live, not live to work.

It's extremely important that any issues are talked about and aired quickly, otherwise the rot can set in very quickly and there is nothing more tiring. This is where “burnout” begins - a word I mentioned earlier and one that is unfortunately commonly used in the property management industry.

We thought it would be nice to see how our team really are feeling and find out how they feel about property management in general. We have had an extremely busy start to the year, with 85 student groups moving out and moving in. There is probably no better time to ask!

  • What do they love the most about the job?
  • What has been the biggest challenge over the past week?
  • What do they like about our office?

When asked, “What do they love most about the job?”, it became apparent that all the answers were the same.


That's what we do, the adrenaline of helping people find their home, it never goes away. There is nothing better! Emotions are running high, and the smiles are wide. This would be the best part of being a property manager. It never gets old.

What has been the biggest challenge this week? You’re kidding, right?


It never ceases to amaze us. The expectations! The parents!

Currently we are working through 85 student outgoing bonds and ingoing tenants. It never ceases to amaze us that at the start of the tenancy, they whinge and complain if a property isn't “up to their standard” and then at the end of the tenancy, pack only a portion of their personal effects, and burn off into the sunset. No cleaning done, leaving rubbish and discarded belongings behind. Who do they think is going to clean that up?

Oh, it’s okaythe property manager will sort it! 

This on top of the time and energy we’ve spent on them all year already? With not paying rent on time or leaving some homemade contraption on the coffee table (that we’re not sure whether they smoke it or insert it) left out just for inspection time purposes, or not even cleaning the toilet for three months between inspections, or how about the footprints on the ceiling…now there's a head scratcher! Maybe they have a spider pig too?

It is seriously frustrating, especially when the “expectations” were so high at the start. So, we pull out our well-honed negotiation and conflict resolution skills to ensure all parties are happy in times such as these. Everyone's interpretation of “reasonably clean and tidy” are completely different, and this is where property managers come into their own, with trying to solve problems, negotiate a way forward and keep everyone on the same page, whilst in the midst of it all, trying to retain some sort of sanity.

Good news is we get to do it all again next year!

And so finally, our team was asked, what they like about working in our office.

The hounds! Environmentally and typically a property management office can have a negative vibe, obviously this is not something that's intentional but it's there never-the-less. So, we have been really lucky to be able to bring our two young pups to work.

This has changed the dynamics of the office substantially, as puppies make people happy, this is a welcome distraction. No matter how bad the day getsgo play with the puppy for five minutes, and guaranteed, you'll be smiling. Every morning is met with an enormous welcome and zoomies around the office by the pups. One pup is small enough to be on your desk, even the most testing phone call is welcomed with a lick and a waggy tail.

Our customers are greeted, sometimes a little too enthusiastically, by the pups, but it's adding humility to the environment. Who doesn't love a puppy?

And lastly our office banter and humor has been noted as an enjoyable part of the role by our team.

Our 4pm Friday drinks and social events bring the team together outside of the office. We have a great team and we are all good mates. We are there for each other and have each other's backs. You can't ask for anything better than that.

New staff coming into the environment are politely asked to bring a crash helmet and crayons because they are in for one hell of a ride.

I guess in essence it's about taking care of us as people because property management to some is just a job, but to the hardened, tried and true, it’s a career that is full of ups and downs. An emotional roller coaster, where at times your left wondering why some people behave the way they do? It's about finding that happy medium, where coping becomes an art and trying not to sweat the small stuff becomes a habit.

We are called Property Managers because “Badass Miracle Worker” is not a job title – yet…

Michelle McClelland