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How To Become a Property Manager

How To Become a Property Manager

If you have an interest in real estate and the drive to become a property manager, then starting your property management career will require some planning and perseverance on your part. While there are certainly a host of requirements to start and be successful in real estate and property management, it may not be as difficult as you think.

Once you decide to take the plunge as a property manager, you’ll find your career choice to an interesting, challenging and rewarding experience. There is an expected 4% growth in the $81B real estate management industry so if you think you have what it takes, following the steps below can help you put you on the path towards a satisfying career as a property manager.

Table of Contents

What Is A Property Manager?

A property manager (sometimes called a real estate manager) is a person or firm charged with the day-to-day management of a real estate property in exchange for a fee when the owner is unable to personally attend to such details or is not interested in doing so.

As of 2018, there were estimated to be more than 270,000 Property Management companies in the US employing more than 815,000 property managers and other employees associated with real estate or property management. Property managers are focused on rental properties only and do not buy or sell a real estate, that is solely the domain of a real estate agent or Realtor.

What Does A Property Manager Do?

Property managers are more than people that simply collect the rent for a landlord or make sure their apartment is renting out regularly. They wear many hats and take care of everything related to the property for the owners including:

  • Advertising the property for rent
  • Showing the property to prospective residents
  • Maintaining consistent and current communications with owners and residents via portals or email
  • Screening new applicants
  • Providing ongoing tenant customer service
  • Collecting rent and setting rental rates
  • Lease renewals and tenant retention
  • KPI and property status reporting
  • Move In/Move Out Inspections
  • Dealing with problem tenants
  • Managing the eviction process
  • Community maintenance
  • Coordinating maintenance & repairs with contractors (electricians, plumbers, HVAC, pest control, etc.)
  • Performs basic accounting duties
  • And can even act as a salesperson in some cases

[Learn MoreGetting Started in Rental Property Management: Top 7 Considerations]

As such, a manager can manage different types of properties for their clients, since Property Management can be broken into three main property types:

  • Residential/Multi-family.
  • Commercial/Industrial.
  • Retail/Flex Spaces.

What Are The Minimum Qualifications To Become a Property Manager?

In order to become a professional property manager, there are a handful of minimum qualifications that must be met. Unlike many other professions, the requirements are straight forward.

  • Must be 18 Years of Age or Older (some states require applicants to be at least 21 years old)
  • A High School Diploma or GED
  • Be a Legal US Citizen or Have Permanent Residency
  • Complete the Required Real Estate Pre-Licensing Coursework if Required by Your State
  • Pass Your State Real Estate Licensing Examination (most states require this)

What Skills Do Successful Property Managers Need?

Successful property managers are flexible and effective managers of their time and people, relying on their natural ability to communicate and achieve results in a dynamic environment. Some skills you’ll want to develop to be successful are:

  • Strong communication
  • Responsive customer service
  • Excellent organizational skills
  • Basic marketing skills

[Additional Reading: 5 Skills That All Property Managers Need]

Do Property Managers Need To Be Licensed?

Red binder with property manager licensing rules and regulations

Most state governments do require property managers to be licensed. In fact, only six states in the US do not require licensing for property management activities.

However, as an entry-level employee, you will likely be working under the supervision of someone with either a real estate brokers license or property managers license. Most states do not require a license for entry-level activities performed under supervision by a leasing agent.

[Additional Reading: Service Animals vs Support Animals: The Definitive Guide To The ADA For Property Managers]

Do Property Managers Need To Be Certified?

While licenses are issued by your state government, certifications are issued by nationwide real estate and property management industry professional associations and trade organizations like NARPM® or IREM®. Property Managers are not required to be certified but it is advisable to pursue a few different designations like the NALP®, CAM®, CPM®, and MPM® as you progress in your career.

You should also take advantage of your Property Management company's training programs wherever possible, these are often free and an invaluable resource for someone new to the industry or even experienced managers. Not only will these programs give you the needed skills for your day-to-day tasks, but they may prove very useful once you seek further formal certifications.

What Types Of Certifications Should I Consider?

The first two certifications below (NALP & CAM) are likely the ones you'll want to focus on early in your career, with the third (CPM) being a certification you'll need to progress in your career. The last certification (MPM) is really the highest designation a manager can achieve and is usually attained to distinguish you from your competitors while being a helpful certification for starting your own Property Management Company.

1. National Apartment Leasing Professional (NALP)

A leasing professional is often the first people prospective renters meet and may be referred to as Assistant Property Managers. The National Apartment Leasing Professional (NALP) certification is intended to teach new property managers the skills they need to become more proficient and effective at their jobs. In order to obtain the NALP certification, all candidates must complete the following:

  • A minimum of 6 months of onsite property management experience in a leasing role.
    • You can actually obtain your onsite property leasing experience while being enrolled in this course.
    • You will be issued a provisional certificate until the time requirement has been met.
  • The successful completion of seven NALP courses which includes the Market Survey course for a course total of 25 credit hours.
  • Meet all other exam requirements within one year of enrolling in the course.

2. Certified Apartment Manager (CAM)

Once you’ve gained experience as a leasing professional managing properties and had time to learn other aspects of property management, you may want to consider the Certified Apartment Manager (CAM) certification. This certification is targeted at onsite managers who are often the only property managers apartment residents will deal with on a daily basis. You will be the onsite authority of your management company and the representative of the community owners and investors. In order to obtain the CAM certification, all candidates must complete the following:

  • A minimum of 12 months of onsite property management experience in a management role.
    • You can actually obtain your onsite property management experience while being enrolled in this course.
    • You will be issued a provisional certificate until the time requirement has been met.
  • The successful completion of all CAM courses which includes the for a course total of 40 credit hours.
  • Meet all other exam requirements within one year of enrolling in the course.

3. Certified Property Manager (CPM)

The Certified Property Manager (CPM) designation is the mark of distinction for property managers.

  • A minimum of 36 months of qualifying real estate management experience in a management role. You must have achieved 36 months of consecutive employment in real estate management before being enrolled in this course.
  • Hold a real estate license or verification that you are not required to hold one in your current position.
  • Meet all other exam requirements within one year of enrolling in the course
  • The candidate must meet the minimum of a managed portfolio of rental properties as follows;
    • Residential: 200 units at 1-4 sites or 100 units at 5 or more sites.
    • Commercial: 120,000 square feet at 1 site or 80,000 square feet at 2 or more sites.
    • Industrial: 200,000 square feet at 1 or more sites.

The candidate must meet the minimum of a Functions Requirement for at least 19 of 36 activities and/or functions in order to qualify for credit towards the CPM certification. Top 10 activities or functions required;

  1. Hire, manage, and evaluate site personnel and/or off-site property management staff or contracted real estate management firms, directly or through others.
  2. Identify staffing requirements and develop, or approve, job descriptions and/or develop and monitor, or approve, human resource policies, training and development plans, and diversity outreach initiatives.
  3. Identify, implement, and monitor, or approve, sustainable practices; including but not limited to energy use/conservation programs for the property.
  4. Determine which items or services are to be purchased for the property, prepare specifications, solicit and evaluate bids for contract services, negotiate or approve contracts, and monitor contracts.
  5. Oversee operation of building systems, supervise employees or monitor contractors who perform routine maintenance and repair work, and/or oversee the planning and construction of tenant improvements and interior design.
  6. Design, implement, and monitor or approve, routine and preventive maintenance programs for the property.
  7. Establish or maintain and enforce the property's operating policies and procedures and occupancy/usage guidelines.
  8. Establish, maintain, and monitor adherence to, or approve the property's record keeping system.
  9. Identify, analyze, and implement, or approve, capital improvement or replacement programs, including but not limited to maintenance or remodeling programs, resident/tenant improvements, and amenity enhancements.
  10. Perform regular property inspections and take appropriate action in accordance with established policies and procedures.

4. Master Property Manager (MPM)

The Master Property Manager (MPM) designation is the highest distinction for property managers.

  • A minimum of 60 months of qualifying real estate management experience in a management role. You must have achieved 60 months (5 years) consecutive employment in real estate management before being enrolled in this course.
  • Hold a real estate license or verification that you are not required to hold one in your current position.
  • Meet all other exam requirements within one year of enrolling in the course

The pre-requisites for this certification will largely be satisfied by the prior criteria of the CPM certification. With the additional requirement of:

  • The candidate must meet the minimum of a managed portfolio of rental properties of 500 residential units at 1 or more sites or 100 units at 5 or more sites.

How Much Do Property Managers Make?

Money house made of dollar bills on wooden background

According to salary.com, a person entirely new to real estate and property management with a high school diploma can expect to earn around $30,000 per year.

A certified property manager with a college degree coming in at an entry-level earns approximately $41,000 per year according to payscale.com.

And for the more seasoned and qualified managers, Salary.com says the national average salary for a Certified Property Manager is around $57,092 per year. What you earn will depend on a few factors;

  • Where you are located in the US, such as property values, rental values, rental property types, and rental property sizes.
  • The level of competition in the rental market where you are.
  • Your level of education; Someone with a high school diploma will likely have to start at an entry-level position, whereas someone with a college degree in business would have more bargaining power when negotiating their salary.
  • The Property Management certifications you have attained.
  • The number of years you have been in the industry.
  • Additional skills you have acquired such as relevant industry tools like Propertyware or Realpage.
  • If your compensation package includes commission, profit sharing and/or bonuses.

How and Where Do I Start?

market vacant properties

You'll most likely have to apply with a real estate broker or property management company for an entry-level position such as a leasing agent working under the supervision of a property manager. Some points to be aware of;

For these entry-level positions, a high-school education is adequate and most won't require a college degree. However, if you have a bachelors degree in business administration, real estate, accounting, public administration or finance, the likelihood of you being hired and subsequent compensation improves dramatically.

Your state will not likely require you have a real estate license when you are starting out in your career as a leasing agent since you will be working under the broker's license of your employer. If you eventually qualify as a certified property manager, it is very likely you will then require a state real estate and/or property management license. This varies greatly state by state.

So what are you waiting for?

We’ve looked at the career path of a potential property manager and the requirements coming in, from absolutely no experience or for to possessing a college degree with some prior work experience. If you have the patience to learn and build your career over time, the career path is not only clearly laid out in front of you but the potential to have a genuinely satisfying and lucrative career that meets all of your professional and personal goals is there for the taking.

Please note: While every attempt has been made to provide accurate and up-to-date information, this article is for informational purposes only and isn't intended to replace the advice of qualified professionals and/or your own due diligence from official sources like your State licensing office.

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