10 Essential Skills Needed by Commercial Property Managers Today

A commercial property manager is a skillful person and particularly so if they manage the larger office towers and or retail shopping centers.  It should be said that the skill mix for a property manager is not the same as that of a commercial sales and or leasing person.  The jobs are very different.

So, why the difference?  The relationship with the client can evolve for many years across different disciplines and challenges; a smart, intelligent, and knowledgeable person is needed to make that client relationship happen.  If the property manager is comprehensively good at their job the fee opportunities will likely be many and frequent.

What are the essential skills?

The property manager is working with a client for the long term on a variety of complex things.  They may be working on a number of issues for months if not years in the case of property upgrades, renovation and refurbishment works.

So what skills should a good commercial property manager have?  Here’s my thoughts:

  1. Ability to understand complex issues – Commercial property matters today are quite complex. They cover the bigger picture across financial, physical, lease, tenant, and documentary factors. One decision or action can impact another so property choices made should be looked at in the broader scheme of things, and with an understanding of just how any single direction will impact the asset or the investment physically and financially over time.
  2. Financial analysis – You can break property performance and financial analysis down into a number of important categories such as income (net and gross), outgoings, expenditure, budget performance, capital expenditure, and cash flow forecasting. Any medium to large asset to cope with this should have a business plan supported by financial strategies, tenant, and lease decisions.  Ultimately the value of the property and the net income should be enhanced over time by well-considered property and financial decisions.
  3. Lease negotiation skills – Leases are always being shaped and negotiated for investment improvement. Knowing how to negotiate a lease in a positive way given current market conditions is a real skill; in a property with lots of tenants in the mix some key factors of tenant placement and permitted use also come into the equation.
  4. Detailed reporting – All landlords should be provided with an accurate and detailed property report in a timely way, be that weekly or monthly. At the end of the quarter and each year there will be strategic financial reports to be structured.
  5. Landlord contact – All landlords like to be contacted regularly to help them understand just how the property is functioning and performing. An informed landlord will generally be a ‘happy landlord’.
  6. Tenant control – Some tenants need special attention and control. The lease document will contain plenty of covenants for compliance and monitoring; a property manager must know how to control the legalities of lease documentation and how to interpret a lease document in difficult property situations.
  7. Risk management – In a commercial property risk will evolve from many different sources and occur in different directions. Property use, tenant operations, and customer access will all impact property risk and the daily operations of the common and tenant premises.  Most buildings will have a risk management plan including special considerations such as fire, emergency, bomb, and personal threat or injury responses.
  8. Maintenance controls and facilities management – Repairs and maintenance events happen at any time. Some of those issues will be routine whilst others will be major in cost or property impact.  Understanding how to handle those things in keeping with the investment and facility management plans of the landlord can be a challenge.
  9. Property documentation – Leases are the backbone of a property investment. The leases should be optimized for income and return, whilst protecting the investment in an overall way.  Some tenants can bring difficult or dubious business operations to properties that then threaten property occupancy or safety.  That is where the property lease documentation and controls are really important.
  10. Personal organisation – Many property managers will well know that their average working day is complex and busy; spare time is in short supply and care is required in time management planning and commitment. A typical property manager will have 20 to 50 things active at any one time across their property or property portfolio. Some of those things will progress very slowly and take weeks to resolve.  A property manager will thereby need a good diary and record keeping system to keep things under control.

You can likely add your version of skills to this list.  These 10 simple factors of property manager control or skill clearly show that the work load is large and demanding.  Only special people with a high level of property skill and knowledge should embark on a career in this part of the property management industry.

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