When most people think about how to become a property manager, they don't think about having to do much more than collecting rent. However, truthfully, a good property manager does everything from screening renters to handling the eviction process. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, they also made a median salary of $58,760 for the privilege in 2019.
With that in mind, if you think being a property manager could be the career path for you, below is your guide on how to get started. Read it over to learn more about what a property manager does and what steps you need to take to start this new career path.
What does a property manager do?
Before you can start down the road to become a property manager, it's important to understand what a property manager does. As the name suggests, property managers manage the day-to-day operations of real estate and rental property on behalf of a landlord.
However, that is only a surface-level explanation of what a property manager does. In reality, these professionals have a myriad of responsibilities to contend with on a daily basis. Below is a list of the duties and responsibilities you can expect to encounter if you do end up deciding that becoming a property manager should be your next career path.
- Setting rental rates for the property.
- Marketing and advertising the property.
- Showing the property to prospective tenants.
- Vetting prospective tenants to see who will be the best fit.
- Overseeing lease agreement signings and lease agreement renewals.
- Conducting move-in/move-out inspections.
- Handling emergency maintenance issues for the property and coordinating with contractors.
- Providing ongoing customer service for the building's tenants.
- Collecting rent as well as any tenant’s security deposit.
- Staying on top of the property's budgeting and bookkeeping.
- Generating KPI and property status reports.
- Dealing with problem tenants.
- Handling the eviction process.
How to become a property manager: A step-by-step guide
Now that you know more about what might be expected of you when you become a property manager, we can get into the step-by-step process of how to achieve this goal. In truth, since this process is often governed by state regulations, it may be a little bit different for everyone. However, below is a general guide to how the process works.
Step 1: Review your state's requirements
Like most landlord-tenant affairs, the process for becoming a property manager is regulated by your state, which means that the specific requirements you face may vary, depending on where you live. That said, most states require the following:
- You must be at least 18 years of age (in some states the requirement is 21).
- You must have a high school diploma or an equivalent GED.
- You must be a U.S. citizen or have permanent residency.
Beyond that, there's usually some sort of educational requirements. While the vast majority of states require that you get your real estate broker's license, some -- including Montana, Oregon, and South Carolina -- require a specific property management license instead. Finally, a few states -- including Idaho, Kentucky, and Maine -- have no certification requirement at all.
For those states that do have a certification requirement, the last step is usually to pass the appropriate licensing exam. In some cases, you may also be required to work a certain number of hours in the real estate industry before you can sit for your exam.
Step 2: Follow your state's real estate education requirements
After you have a firm idea of your state's requirements, your next step is to follow through with getting the required education. Most of the time, this boils down to taking a certain number of hours worth of classes either in person or online. Once you're ready to take the exam, there are also courses to help prepare you for the test.
However, even if your state doesn't have a specific education requirement, it's still a good idea to educate yourself on the real estate industry. You can do this by going to school to get a four-year degree in real estate, business administration, or a related field; getting your real estate license; or getting on-the-job training by applying for an entry-level position in an agent or broker's office
Step 3: Obtain any specialty certifications
As mentioned above, some states require specialty certifications in addition to or instead of general education requirements. There are four main special certifications that a property manager can obtain. We've laid them out for you below. Read them over to see which ones might be best for you to consider going forward.
- National Apartment Leasing Professional (NALP): The NALP certification is one that many property managers are likely to focus on in their early careers. It teaches prospective property managers the skills they need to be proficient and effective at their jobs. It also combines coursework with on-the-job training (which you can get while enrolled in the course) to ensure that you have all the skills needed to excel in your next position.
- Certified Apartment Manager (CAM): a CAM certification is another good option for early on in your career. However, this one is geared specifically toward those who only want to focus on managing apartment communities. It's meant to teach you how to become the on-site representative for your management company and how to interact with residents. Notably, this specialized certification also mixes on-the-job training with coursework.
- Certified Property Manager (CPM): Once you are a little bit further along in your career, the CPM designation is considered by many to be the mark of a successful property manager. This specialized certification combines even more hours of experience with its course work. In addition, you must be able to attest that you've been responsible for specific job duties, like hiring and managing personnel.
- Master Property Manager (MPM): Finally, the MPM certification is the highest distinction that a property manager can achieve. In order to be a candidate for the certification, you need to have at least five years of experience in the industry and have managed a portfolio of at least 500 units.
Step 4: Find your next job in property management
By the time you're done with your minimum requirements and any certifications you've chosen to pursue, you likely will have already had a job as a property manager or leasing associate. That can be a huge advantage because you'll already have your foot in the door in a very competitive industry, and you'll have a network of contacts that you can tap for leads when you're ready to look for your next job.
However, if you're starting from scratch, there are a couple of different career paths you can follow:
- Working for an established property management company: Working for an established property management company is a good route to choose if you want the stability of a nine-to-five job. In this case, you'll be an employee and you'll receive a salary for your work.
- Market yourself as a property manager: If you choose to go this route, you'll set up a property management company and a website, which you'll use to market yourself to landlords in your area. In exchange, you'll charge them a fee for your services. Over time, you should be able to build up a stable portfolio of clients.
- Manage your own properties: This method involves getting a real estate license, purchasing property, and managing it yourself. It is essentially the equivalent of setting up your own business and may very well have the greatest level of risk and reward.
Step 5: Stay up-to-date
The truth is, even after you get your property management license, you're still likely going to need to keep on top of your education. Most states have specific continuing education requirements you'll need to fulfill. However, if not, it's still important to keep up with industry news in your state. Landlord-tenant laws change all the time, and it's crucial for your business that you remain compliant with any changes that occur.
Is becoming a property manager right for you?
Becoming a property manager may not be right for everyone. In order to be successful in this industry, you need to have great communication and customer service skills, you need to be very organized, and you need to know a little bit about basic marketing tactics.
That said, if you think that this job could be a good fit for you, use this post as your guide on how to get started. Armed with this knowledge, you should be able to know what next step to take on your journey toward becoming a successful property manager.