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Have you got what it takes to be a property manager? - featured image
By Lauren Day

Have you got what it takes to be a property manager?

API goes behind the scenes and takes you through a day in the life of one of the hardest jobs in the property industry.

Jayne Nancarrow is a psychologist, a plumber, an electrician and an accountant.

She’s a friend, a carpenter, a receptionist, a police officer and a peacemaker.

Oh, and she also happens to work fulltime as a senior property manager in the eastern suburbs of Sydney. Sydneysuburbs 496037222

It’s a job that requires huge amounts of multi-tasking, negotiating and communication in an industry where the hours are often long, the criticism often unfair.

But on the upside, it can be rewarding, challenging and, like most things to do with property, extremely interesting.

“I love the people contact,” Jayne explains.

“I love matching the property to the client and improving the asset for a client. I love looking at the client’s trajectory of a three, five or 10-year period and how they’re going to get there.  I love the journey.”

Most investors also love the journey, and may well be thinking about working in property management or focusing on a career in the property industry.

But could you really work in what’s often considered to be one of the hardest jobs in the industry?

Would you be willing to stand up to demanding landlords, negotiate with tenants and handle 10 requests in the space of five minutes?

Let’s find out what it takes to look after hundreds of homes, tenants, landlords and mini retirement nest eggs around the country.


Property management always has something different and it’s always busy.

Take a long lunch and the piles of work will quickly mount up, Nancarrow warns. 

“If you commit words to an owner then you should do what you say you’re going to do,” she says.

“Even if that means you have to call at 8pm at night.”

Most property managers have a list in their head of things they need to do.

Nancarrow has it down to a fine art – she spends her day working in 30-minute time slots, which enables her to get most things done.

But it’s not a nine to five job.

Nancarrow works five days a week and also spends Saturday mornings taking potential tenants through open homes.

She might get the occasional afternoon off but at the moment her company is trying to build its client base, so down time is out of the question.

“It’s an industry that’s not for the fainthearted or someone who has ego issues or soft skin,” she says.

“You need to be bulletproof, because sometimes you’re in the firing line from every direction – tradies, property owners, tenants and even internal.”


Property managers will quickly learn the ins and outs of being a property investor.

They’ll also learn to be confident and street smart, Nancarrow says.

She has dealt with all sorts of people from all walks of life in western Sydney, the inner west, the north shore, Noosa and now the eastern suburbs of Sydney, but no matter how exclusive or tiny the property, all landlords and tenants rely on a good negotiator. Puzzle Pieces01

You need both people skills and patience, because sometimes the owner is right, other times the tenant has the upper hand.

Property managers also need to be open minded and non-judgmental because tenants often care about the fact that they’re renting, Nancarrow observes.

“Most people are renting for a reason.

They can’t afford to buy or they’re going through a separation or about to get into a marriage. Sometimes the reasons are negative but you have to turn it into a positive experience for them,” Nancarrow says.

“They don’t want you to think they’re only a renter and they can’t afford to buy, because there’s a stigma with renting.

They want you to know about their earning capacity and what they’re capable of.”

Nancarrow knows more about most of her tenants than what she does about her best friends. 

She has all the info about their account and passport details.

“That’s valuable information but it can also be very damaging information if it’s in the wrong hands so you have to be very careful with people’s information,” he says.

“You’re in a very powerful position and you can’t take it for granted.”


Most property managers start on a wage of about $35,000, according to Nancarrow.

A senior property manager will earn between $75,000 and $85,000 plus commission.43009653_ml

That’s roughly what Nancarrow earns at the moment with 15 years’ experience.

Some can earn up to $100,000 per year but the problem is many juniors expect that sort of wage straight away.

They get frustrated if it doesn’t happen so they end up moving into sales.

Nancarrow has been asked countless times if she’d like to cross over into sales but remains in management, as this is the area she feels most passionate about.

I wouldn’t be a property manager if I didn’t love it,” she says.

“For me, it’s about servicing an industry that’s underserviced.  It’s not a fast track to earning a million dollars and its definitely the grunt end of the business.”

However, Nancarrow says good property managers who do their time well eventually be given the opportunity to manage larger portfolios and prestigious properties.

Referrals are your best friend and that’s why every client should be treated with the same amount of respect and importance.

A property manager can look after up to 100 to 120 properties with minimal assistance, provided there’s an accountant in the office who can do all the paperwork each month.

“If you have to do repairs, accounts, end of month statements, unless you’re superwoman, it’s just not going to happen.

You’d be working until 10pm every day,” Nancarrow says.



Thinking of becoming a property manager but have no idea how to go about it?

Well, it’s best to get onto your state’s Real Estate Institute and enrol in the course.

Property managers are required to have a real estate certificate of registration and/or a real estate licence, which can be done through the Real Estate Institute in your state or territory.

You’ll need proof you completed the training in the form of a certificate and you’ll also need to pay some fees upfront, which range from $600 to $1,300, depending on the state or territory you live in.

You can usually obtain accreditation through classes, online courses or distance education.

You’ll need to complete the registration course and get a statement proving you’ve done so, plus complete and submit your registration certificate application to the Office of Fair Trading.

You don’t have to be employed in the real estate industry in order to undertake a course.

You can simply enrol and complete your training, then apply for registration. 

But you have to be 18 years old or over. buying a property extra costs

The Real Estate Institute of Queensland says students are assessed using open-book assessments after attending the course, which involves seven units or topics, and it’s recommended would-be property managers also complete an additional four units, offered as the property management three-day course.

Real Estate Institute of New South Wales chief executive officer, Tim McKibbin, says you need a certificate or registration as a minimum in NSW.

The course costs $695 and is run over five days.

“There are four units in the certificate of registration.  If you want your licence, there are 24 units and that takes 26 days.”

The latter certificate allows you to open your own business as a real estate agent, but you can’t be bankrupt or less than 18 years of age.

If you just want to be an employee, you only need the certificate of registration.

On the other hand, the Real Estate Institute of Victoria’s (REIV) course only involves three units of training to become a property manager, as opposed to seven in Queensland and four in NSW, and the course is run over five days.

It’s known as the Certified Agent’s Representative course and is $795. It allows a person to work as a property manager, salesperson, auctioneer or trust account administrator.

But there’s further training of 21 units of study, knowns as Certificate IV Property Services, which also allows a person to use the title ‘certified estate agent’. keys-rental-house-buy-home-property-agent

“Should the certified estate agent course be undertaken, that is, an additional 21 units of study, the individual can operate in the more senior role of estate agency director,” REIVs Robert Larocca says.

So, while the states have various levels of training and services, you certainly don’t need a university degree.

You do, however, need ongoing training and education and to be abreast of changes to legislation and the industry.

So, what happens once you’re done and dusted with the books?

Well, you’ll have authority to collect the rent, hold open homes, inspect or appraise property for rent and advertise property, as well as represent clients at a tribunal and prepare and sign lease documents.

Lots of property manages do eventually move into sales and this isn’t a bad thing, according to Nancarrow.

She believes it makes them a better salesperson because they might have dealt with the same client for years and years, rather than just over a six-week sales period.  The ongoing relationships property managers experience teaches them to be a better negotiator, she says.

“If your goal is to be the best in your field then how will you get there? If you don’t know how you’ll get there and if you’re not committed to training and excellence you’ll be just like everyone else.”

First National senior property manager Sandie Hope says property managers can start out as letting consultants, move into property management and go on to become senior property management.

You can also end up starting and running your own real estate business if you want to.

If you decide to climb the ladder in property management, rather than move into sales, there can be exciting opportunities to publicly speak at industry events.

Nancarrow is incredibly passionate about property management.

She has presented at national conferences, conducted seminars at local libraries and been handed countless awards.

They include the 2010 Australasian property manager of the year for the LPMA network, the number one Australian property manager for Raine and Horne in 2008 and number three for NSW and ACT for the same network.inspect property

She was also voted as a member of the elite Raine and Horne chairman’s club of top performers.

“You’re either sinking or swimming,” she says.

“It’s easy to drown in property management. There’s so much to do that if you’re not organised it can get on top of you.  You have to be meticulous and you have to have a lot of follow through and constantly check up on yourself, work, repairs and maintenance.

“You have to constantly be on your game and wake up every morning and say, ‘here is my list, these are my goals, short-term and mid-term, and these are the things I want to achieve’.”

McKibbin adds there are opportunities for hard workers.

“There are some people who come in and believe it’s easy and they’ll be successful with minimal work,” he says.

“At the end, they realise it’s not easy, it does require a high level of service to consumers. As a consequence, there are some people who misunderstand what a competent agent actually looks like and unfortunately, some of those people go through the system.  But there are great opportunities if you’re prepared to dedicate your energy to it.”


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While some landlords can stretch out every cent, others can be very generous.

Nancarrow recalls receiving some lovely bottles of wine and champagne over the course of her career.

She has been entertained in restaurants.

She’s met all sorts of interesting people and has also been able to work and live in exotic locations, such as Noosa and Palm Beach.

Hope agrees and says there are lots of positive emails and ‘thank you’ cards.

‘People give me praise for what I do, that’s worth more than my pay packet because I know I’m doing a good job,” she says.

“I can go out whenever I choose and I get to meet some absolutely wonderful people.”

Hope adds she learns something new every day.  For example, she recently learnt that property managers can’t discriminate against people but owners can.

“I met one owner who hates smokers.  She said, ‘have you thought about smoking and non-smoking?’ (on applications) and it got me thinking, because under legislation we can’t ask that question,” Hope explains.  First-home-buyer

More recently, Hope learnt that legislation is all about interpretation, especially when it comes to the rights of landlords and tenants.

For example, a fixed-term tenancy or break lease requires a Real Estate Institute form.

Incredibly, this isn’t recognised by the court – Hope discovered the legal system will only acknowledge a Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act notice to leave form.

Hope also gets the chance to continually educate property owners and teach them more about their investment.

“A lot of owners have no clue. For example, smoke alarms have to be checked every time a new lease is signed, not just annually.”

She’s alarmed at the number of landlords who don’t pay for landlord insurance, even though they’d never go without insurance for their own principal place of residence.

Essentially, Hope helps investors learn how to protect their investment.


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Not all landlords are reasonable and not all tenants are friendly, Nancarrow has seen the good, the bad and the downright seedy, quite literally.

She recalls having tomatoes thrown at her when she started out as an eager 22-year-old property manager during an eviction for a tenant.

She has walked in on couples in the bedroom and dealt with people’s affairs, marriage breakdowns and “complicated lives”.

Once you tell a landlord or tenant you’re their property manager, they’ll instantly expect you to be on call 24/7, Nancarrow says.

You’ll get phone calls when you’re at dinner, while you’re playing sport or at 2am in the morning when someone’s toilet is blocked.

There’s always a blocked toilet somewhere and someone wanting it fixed urgently.

It’s frustrating when people call with “ridiculous questions.

“They’ll ask, ‘isn’t that something strata would look after because it’s a lock on a door?’

So, you need to have the answer. ‘Why is it that I’ll be charged for a light globe?’

You need to explain if someone electrocutes themselves, the liability is on the owner.

You need to know the legislation inside out.”  tired work stress

Some situations go beyond an angry phone call and are seriously frightening.

Nancarrow once had to go to the tribunal when a tenant physically threatened both the landlord and the property management team.

“I had to step in and have police presence when we went to the property,” she says.”

“The tenant was really unsavoury. He got all his mates and they were saying things I would never repeat.

They also had cannabis on the property although it’s always difficult to prove these things.

We eventually got them out of the property but it was three months of sheer hell.”

Unprofessional or inexperienced colleagues have also made life difficult and even put clients and colleagues at risk of serious injury.

“You have to be safe and if that’s not the case, you have to do something about it,” she says. businesswoman-having-stress-in-the-office_1098-906

“It doesn’t matter how much it will offend a person.”

At the moment, Nancarrow is dealing with a difficult case where one party has taken an apprehended violence order out against the other, but only one party is on the lease.

Situations can be complicated but as a property manager, Nancarrow always tries to be fair and look for the best outcome for both the landlord and the tenant.

“You’re putting yourself in people’s lives and sometimes their lives are complicated,” she says.

“You can’t make a judgement or pretend to understand their difficult situation, you just have to try and hear both sides of the story.”

Jayne Nancarrow shares a diary entry of a typical day in the eastern suburbs of Sydney

  • 8.30am to 9.30am:
    The weekly team sales meeting starts, where one member of staff speaks about something they feel the team can benefit from. I spoke about my win this week, where I had leased two properties in Bondi, listed two new managements in Vaucluse and joined the gym. The topic of training this week was “the how, the what, the when and the why?” of achieving your goals.
  • 9.30am to 10am: 

    I speak to one of my tenants who has confided that he has an AVO (apprehended violence order) out on him by his liv-in girlfriend complicated. I listen to his story and try and help him understand his position in a lease break situation and his responsibilities to the owner.
  • 10am to 10.30am:
    I receive a call from the girlfriend who took out the AVO and explain that she’s not on the lease and therefore can’t enter the property without permission.  I confirm that her ex-boyfriend has changed the locks and that she needs to contact the police to gain access to remove her furniture.  I explain that if she enters the property without consent or permission she may be up on a break and enter charge and probably needs to produce photos to prove the furniture belong to her, before residing in the property.
  • 10.30am to 11am:
    I prepare bond lodgements and final changes to leasing documents for a new tenant and apartment in Bondi, in readiness for the signing of these documents at 11.45am.
  • 11am to 11.30am:
    I commence reference-checking applications received for a new management in Vaucluse that was only loaded on the internet at 7pm the previous evening.  Two applications have been received by 10am this morning in advance of the first inspection this afternoon.
  • 11.30am to 12.15pm: 39808802 L
    I meet with the client for the Bondi apartment in the boardroom to sign leases, bond lodgements, go through the ingoing condition report and hand over the keys.  It’s only a three-day transition from the prior tenant vacating the property.For the second part of the meeting with the client, I called in one of our buyer’s agents to discuss our services, because this client previously disclosed that they were potentially in the market to purchase additional properties.  You should always be knowledgeable about all aspects of your business, not just your own portfolio!  The meeting was very successful, the client and buyers’ agent exchanged details and we confirmed that any properties purchased would also come across as managements.  Win, win, win.
  • 12.15pm to 12.30pm:
    Time for a cup of tea, take a breath and talk to the owner of the property where the tenant as the AVO issued against him. I talk through a strategy for relisting the property, discuss the lease break procedure, confirm the next steps and agree to touch base again in a couple of days.
  • 12.30pm to 1pm:
    I call the owner of a split-level apartment I opened on Saturday to discuss the application received. The tenant is contacted to confirm that they have been approved and to arrange for the deposit transfer.  The internet listing is updated to reflect the property is under application.
  • 1pm to 1.30pm:
    More reference checking for applicant number one for the Vaucluse apartment. The frustration is that you can’t always get a hold of referees and you may leave multiple messages prior to actually speaking.  I answer incoming emails and action minor items as needed.
  • 1.30pm to 2pm:
    More reference checking for application number two for the Vaucluse apartment. I contact two personal referees, two employment referees, one residential referee and copy documents.
  • 2pm to 2.30pm:
    I contact the owner of the Vaucluse apartment to discuss the applications and weigh up the merits of both, ahead of the 5pm inspection. I also discuss possible lease length, a tax depreciation schedule and the removal of the rental furniture.
  • 2.30pm to 3.30pm: 39184663_l2
    I call the owner of an apartment in Bondi, where I complete a routine inspection. I confirm a new lease has been signed by the tenants, a rent increase has been agreed and the property is in good order.  I scan a copy of the new lease and email this to the owner.
  • 3.30pm to 4pm:
    It’s time for another cup of tea and piece of fruit to keep up my energy levels for the afternoon ahead.
  • 4pm to 4.30pm:
    I write my diary for the day (for the purpose of this story).  Wow, who knew that I didn’t have time for lunch or stopping today?  Most other property managers I suspect!
  • 4.30pm to 4.45pm:
    I back up the computer system and return any emails in my inbox since I last checked.
  • 4.45pm to 5pm:
    I drive to Vaucluse to show the apartment that had received two applications.
  • 5pm to 5.30pm:
    I open the apartment in Vaucluse for clients. I spend half an hour talking through the positives and answering any questions in relation to the apartment and location.  I lock up the apartment and head to the gym for my first boot camp session.
  • 5.30pm to 6pm:
    I find parking, then front up for my first session. Oh no what have I signed up for! dream-clock-time-business-man-life-motivation-happy-dream
  • 6pm to 6.45pm:
    I proceed to warm up, train and re-engage muscles that have long since forgotten how to perform some of the tasks I am presented with.
  • 6.45pm to 7.30pm:
    I pack up and drive home to start prepping dinner, which my flatmate and I will share. I enjoy a well-earned wine, a healthy salad and answer a few quick emails from clients.
  • 7.30pm to 8pm:
    Dinner and another glass of wine because some days you just need two!
  • 8pm to 8.30pm:
    I clean up and prepare to contact my Vaucluse owner to debrief him on the afternoon inspection.
  • 8.30pm to 9pm:
    I listen to my 25 voicemails and contact a tenant who has reported three blocked toilets.  Every property manager I know has a blocked toilet story, just add this one to the long list!
  • 9pm to 9.30pm:
    I respond to my last couple of emails for the day and it’s lights out.

Editors note: This article has been republished for the benefit of our new subscribers. It was written by Lauren Day and originally published in 2104 in Australian Property Investor Magazine and has been republished with their permission. 

About Lauren Day Lauren Day is the former deputy editor of Australian Property Investor Magazine and an avid property investor.
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