CareerExplorer’s step-by-step guide on how to become a property manager.
Is becoming a property manager right for me?
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Take challenging math classes. Property managers need to prepare financial statements and negotiate contracts.
Enrol in an accounting course. This will give you a head start on a subject which is a universal requirement for any business major.
Develop computer skills. Spreadsheet and bookkeeping software will prove to be particularly relevant and useful.
Build strong reading and research skills. Property managers interact with individuals from all walks of life; the ability to read about and understand at least the basics of anything from plumbing to real estate law is invaluable.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, most employers seek applicants who have earned a Bachelor’s degree. This is especially true for managers of commercial properties. The following are among the most common degree programs pursued by aspiring property managers:
Real estate / property management
These degree programs may also comprise internship opportunities to acquire experience in the field.
As most degree programs do not address all components of apartment management, students wishing to enter this sector may wish to complete a certificate program in apartment management in conjunction with a Bachelor’s. Certificate program courses may cover topics like fair housing and lending regulations; multi-tenant apartment management; and general maintenance.
Licensing requirements for property managers are enforced by both states and local jurisdictions. Most states require property management companies to have a real estate broker license. Property managers listed as working under a managing broker may only need a salesperson’s license. Managers who are involved in renting and selling on behalf of clients typically need a real estate license.
While not all property management positions require applicants to have previous experience, many do. Many new graduates in the field, therefore, choose to gain knowledge by working as assistant property managers. This allows them to shadow experienced managers and learn the practical skills needed for the job.
While certifications in the property management field are not mandatory, obtaining voluntary credentials broadens expertise, demonstrates professional competence and commitment, and potentially increases marketability and earning potential.
The Certified Property Management (CPM) credential is a professional certification awarded by the Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM). It is one of the more difficult certifications to earn. Candidates for the CPM designation must hold a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in real estate or property management or complete seven IREM courses (www.irem.org). The seven IREM courses cover topics including real estate terminology, valuation, and investment; financial reporting; marketing and human resources; and property maintenance.
The IREM has implemented a three-step process for property managers to become certified:
Establish candidacy by submitting a complete CPM application and pledging to maintain the IREM code of ethics
Complete education requirements of provide proof of other accepted certification
Pass management, ethics, and certification examinations
In addition to the CPM designation, the property management industry offers other voluntary certifications:
Residential Management Professional
This certification, created by the National Association of Residential Property Managers (NARPM) is one of the more highly recognized industry certifications. To earn the RMP credential, candidates must hold a valid real estate license, have a minimum of two years’ experience, and must have managed at least twenty-five units.
Certified Manager of Community Associations
This certification was created by the Community Associations Institute and is currently awarded by the National Board of Certification for Community Association Managers. Certified members receive updates on local laws and are required to undergo continuing education to maintain their membership.
Certified Apartment Manager
This certification, awarded by the National Apartment Association, is best suited for individuals who work in larger apartment buildings or for larger companies with a portfolio of buildings. To be eligible to write the CAM exam, applicants must complete designated training modules, complete a related project, and have at least a year of apartment management experience.
Joining local, regional, and national realtors’ and property managers’ associations typically leads to very worthwhile professional connections and opportunities to participate in ongoing training seminars and workshops.
Master’s Degree (optional)
A Master’s degree may further brighten career prospects, particularly in roles that involve the development and management of income-generating and investment properties.
How to become a Property Manager
Increasingly, employers seeking property managers prefer to hire college graduates. This is especially true for offsite positions, which typically involve managing property finances and/or contract management. Almost invariably, a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in business administration, accounting, finance, real estate, or public administration is required to manage a commercial property. For some positions in the field, a real estate license may be viewed as a particularly valuable asset. For entry-level positions, some employers may consider job candidates with only a high school diploma. Typically, though, these new-hires would undergo vocational training provided by the employer.
Licensing requirements for property managers vary from state to state. In addition, different rules may apply to different sectors of the industry. For instance, managers of government-subsidized public housing are usually required to obtain special credentials. Depending on the jurisdiction in which they practise, property managers may be mandated to take additional training in the areas of real estate development and management; risk management; personnel management; urban planning; liabilities law and regulations; tenant relations; and real estate finance.
The property management industry offers voluntary certifications which demonstrate advanced training, a high level of commitment, and professionalism. To earn these designations, it is necessary to submit an application, complete specific education requirements, and pass an exam or series of exams.
The following are examples of specific kinds of property managers:
Community or Homeowner Association Managers These managers work on behalf of homeowner and condominium associations and cooperatives. They manage buildings’ services and common property – any part of the land and buildings shown on the strata plan that is not part of an individually owned strata lot.
Onsite Property Managers Onsite property managers oversee the day-to-day operations of a single property, such as an apartment complex or office building.
Property and Real Estate Managers These professionals manage the operation of income-generating commercial or residential properties and ensure that real estate investments achieve their projected revenues.
Real Estate Asset Managers These property managers plan and direct the purchase, sale, and development of real estate properties on behalf of businesses and investors.
Property managers may find permanent or contractual work with a variety of businesses and organizations that manage condominiums, office towers, shopping malls, warehouses, and other buildings. Among potential employers are:
Property management firms Real estate brokerages Government agencies (at all levels of government) Corporations (including condominium corporations) Individual property owners Investor pools and real estate investment trusts Apartment buildings and large, multi-unit office buildings