A property manager needs to wear a number of hats:

  • They have to work with property owners, lawyers, and real estate agents
  • Oversee superintendents and maintenance workers
  • And serve as a bridge between tenants and landlords.

So, what makes a good property manager?

A good property manager has strong communication skills, to start. They’re also highly organized and self-motivated.

In addition to these basic skills, it's essential for property managers to stay current on their knowledge.

Real estate laws and regulations are constantly changing, and you need to stay on top of those changes.

But that's just scratching the surface.

Let’s take a closer look at what a great property manager looks like, along with seven essential skills you’ll need for the job.

What does a property manager do?

A property manager manages the everyday operations of one or more rental properties.

Some prop managers work on a solo basis, but most work for a property management company helping manage the company's portfolio.

The duties of a property manager can include:

  • Advertising vacancies
  • Screening potential tenants
  • Collecting rent
  • Handling accounting
  • Overseeing property maintenance
What makes a good property manager?

7 Essential Skills for Property Managers

There's a big difference between a good property manager and a mediocre one. But what really makes the difference?

Here are seven essential skills you’ll need to develop:

1. Communication is key

As a property manager, great communication skills are something you'll want to hone over time.

That's because you’re the key point of contact for everyone involved with the property.

  • When a tenant has a problem or complaint, they call you.
  • If a maintenance person needs approval to perform a major repair, you’ll be the one doing the approval.
  • When you need to set up or update your insurance policies, home warranties, etc– you're the one to contact the relevant companies.

And those are just a few examples. You’ll have to deal with all kinds of people, from attorneys and real estate agents to the owners, maintenance crew, and other staff.

A breakdown in communication can lead to unnecessary conflict. As the go-between for all of these parties, a property manager must have strong diplomatic skills.

They need to be able to see things from different perspectives and find solutions that work for everyone involved.

Communication skills aren’t just important for working on your properties, though. They’re a powerful tool for networking and finding new clients as well.

2. Get organized

A good property manager also needs strong organizational skills.

The more organized you are, the more prepared you’ll be to handle whatever the day throws at you.

Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Make contingency plans for foreseeable problems (equipment failures, evictions, etc.). Preventative maintenance is big here.
  • Create a communications protocol. For example, use phone calls for emergencies, and emails for everyday communications. Or, better yet, use property management software like DoorLoop that brings everything together onto one convenient platform.
  • Be intentional about how you keep your records.
  • Outsource administrative tasks and focus on high-value activities.

Technology can also be a game-changer for property managers and especially property management companies.

According to a recent survey, more than 90% of managers use accounting software to simplify their jobs. 81% accept electronic payments, and 78.5% use dedicated property management software to help with a variety of tasks.

3. Hone your multitasking skills

A property manager’s job responsibilities fall into two broad categories: the property and the people. Great property managers know how to balance both properly.

This can be a challenge in today’s always-connected world. With email, smartphones, and social media, you’ll always be reachable. This means you’ll always have to be prepared to switch tracks.

For example, you may be in the middle of going over the property’s tax statement when a tenant calls to complain that their hot water is out. You have to switch immediately from an analytical state of mind to human relations.

Because of this, it's easy to become overwhelmed. Voicemails go unanswered, and tenants get frustrated.

One approach is to deliberately split your time between fieldwork and office work. When you’re in the field, leave your phone on vibrate and focus on logistics and maintenance.

When you’re in the office, answer your phone and voicemails and catch up on administrative work.

It also helps if you have an assistant manager to keep an eye on the office for you. They can handle everyday issues, tenant communications, and make sure you get the most important messages.

4. Properly screen your tenants

If your property owner is hounding you about a vacancy, it could be tempting to accept the first renter who applies.

But that would be a big mistake.

Before approving a tenant, always check their credit history, rental history, evictions, background, and more if possible.

This has a number of benefits, including:

  • Reduced turnover
  • More reliable rent payments
  • Reduced evictions
  • Higher-quality tenants with fewer issues in general

5. Inspect your units regularly

A property manager is responsible for the condition of the property. One of the best ways to do this is to inspect the property routinely.

The first thing you should do is create an inspection checklist (or simply download a template like the one here).

The checklist will show you everything that you need to look for during the inspection and make it fast and easy.

Each item should have a space next to it to write down any notes. For example, you might write “knob missing on top right cabinet” during a kitchen inspection.

Most property managers will perform a minimum of two inspections: one each at move-in and move-out.

The purpose of this is to see if the tenant left behind any damage from the point that they moved in to when they moved out. If they have, you’ll be able to take the cost of the damage out of their security deposit.

That said, there are some good reasons to conduct more frequent inspections, whether that be bi-annual or quarterly depending on your preference.

Reasons include:

  • Identifying maintenance issues early on
  • And ensuring that tenants are following the terms of their lease agreement (i.e. a “no pets” policy for example)

Keep in mind that state and local laws may limit the frequency of apartment inspections.

There are also likely certain laws regarding how much notice you need to give your tenants before entering the premises, again depending on your state.

6. Keep up to date on your knowledge

A property manager needs to be able to appraise the owners of their financial performance.

This means always knowing the current budget, expenses, and accounts payable. Be prepared with a thorough report, and make sure you’re familiar with it.

A property manager also needs to be intimately acquainted with the physical status of the building.

  • What are the current maintenance needs, and are they being met?
  • How many vacancies are there?
  • And what is being done to fill those vacancies? 

Finally, a good property manager needs to stay up-to-date with current laws and regulations and changes in the property management industry.

If you manage properties in multiple jurisdictions, it can mean staying current on multiple sets of regulations.

That way, you ensure that your properties, or property owners, don’t make any legal missteps.

7. Maintain a positive attitude

This might sound basic and a little tired, but it can't be overlooked– and it's easier said than done.

Property management is a challenging job, and you never know what it will throw at you on any given day.

You have to deal with difficult tenants, unexpected repairs, and demands from the property owner.

A positive attitude can help you not just:

  • Get through the most stressful workdays, but also
  • Present your best self to your tenants, clients, and contractors

It’s also essential for managing tenant-landlord disputes.

In those situations, tempers can flare, and it’s up to you to keep both sides from doing anything unreasonable.

The last thing anyone needs is for the property manager to lose their cool.

Do I need a degree to become a property manager?

In the United States, you don’t need a college degree to become a property manager.

Property Management Degree

Some property management companies require a college degree, but in most cases, all you’ll need is a high school diploma and the relevant state licensing.

As a matter of fact, there’s no such thing as a college degree in “property management.”

That’s not to say you shouldn’t get a college degree, though. Degrees in business, real estate, and accounting are just a few that could be directly applicable.

What else do I need to become a property manager?

The exact requirements to become a property manager will vary from state to state.

In almost every state, you’ll need to have a real estate broker’s license. Alternatively, you may be able to qualify if you have a real estate license that’s hung with a broker.

Many states also require property managers to obtain certification via a state-recognized property management training program.

Even if getting your certification isn’t mandatory, it’s not a bad idea. All things being equal, getting certified will make you more desirable to potential employers.

Check out more property management resources from the DoorLoop blog

Want to supercharge your property management business?

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David is the co-founder & CMO of DoorLoop, a best-selling author, legal CLE speaker, and real estate investor. When he's not hanging with his three children, he's writing articles here!