The Top 10 Descriptions of a Property Manager

Asking PM’s themselves to define what they do

When asked to define “property manager,” most people will say something along the lines of, “Er, well… it’s someone who manages properties.” Some people would continue into a more detailed description, maybe listing the different obligations that most property managers (PM’s) have or talk specifically about what kinds of real estate they manage and for whom. With the profession constantly expanding and the industry evolving, who knows better about property managers than themselves?

Well, first — what does Google have to say about this?

A quick Google search brings you a few definitions, all somewhat similar but definitely not the same.

Wikipedia defines it as “a person or firm charged with operating a real estate property for a fee, when the owner is unable to personally attend to such details, or is not interested in doing so.”

Investopedia utilizes a more detailed definition: “Property management is the overseeing of residential, commercial, and/or industrial real estate, including apartments, detached houses, condominium units, and shopping centers. It typically involves the managing of property that is owned by another party or entity. The property manager acts on behalf of the owner to preserve the value of the property while generating income.”

While these definitions are succinct and hit most of the bases, they do not really provide the insider perspective that encompasses what PM’s handle on a day-to-day basis. That is why we got some answers from the experts.

How do property managers define themselves?

When prompted by the request to provide definitions of their jobs, a vast array of PM’s responded with answers on every end of the spectrum. Some of the responses were a bit more tame and serious, with actual definitions of their job:

1. “One who oversees and controls the rental process in a systemized and objective manner.” -David

David’s reply is concise and to-the-point, focusing primarily on what PM’s actually do, but it remains broad enough to cover all of the bases. If there were a footnote attached to this definition specifying the nuances and responsibilities of being a PM, it would probably take up half a page.

2. “A property manager is a person in the real estate profession that maintains real property investments for a fee while reducing the investors risk through experience and knowledge of the industry, codes, laws, and governmental regulations.” -Bart

Bart’s definition is just as commendable as David’s, but it provides more context into the effects of a PM’s efforts. If you combine the first and second answers, you would create a pretty solid description of the job and how and why people do it.

3. “Adult babysitter.” -Victoria and Tara

This was a popular, hilariously true answer among property managers. Sometimes it really feels like you’re nurturing a bunch of full-grown adults. Think about it: you’re listening to their complaints, ensuring that they’re following the rules, and, most of the time, the real estate isn’t yours. I don’t know about you, but that sounds kind of like babysitting to me.

4. “Best definition I’ve heard was from another PM friend: The CEO of many different clients’ real estate ’empires’.” -Nathan

Yes! This is great. I don’t know how you could describe it any more accurately—

5. “I like this definition but I feel that it’s more than that. You’re the CEO, COO, and often the CFO. Your clients are buying a board of directors in a box essentially.” -Andrew

Andrew’s addition to Nathan’s definition practically made it perfect. As a property manager, you do handle the executive, operational, and financial aspects of the properties—and some PM’s even function as the CMO, handling the advertising sector as well. It really is like buying a board of directors in a box. Never before has it been so easy to organize a board meeting where each member is free.

6. “I actually prefer the term community manager, and I would say this is due to the fact that you aren’t just managing property—you’re managing so many different relationships that really are encompassed in a community! Be it your coworkers, your superiors, your owners, or your residents, we all make up said community!” -Erik

This definition is great because not only is it accurate, but it also erases the line separating you from those with whom you work. When you have to deal with people on a daily basis (or maybe weekly… or maybe just more than once or twice), it is nice to foster some sense of comradery with them. Everybody should aim to be a community manager!

7. “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.” -Fernando

Let’s hope that Fernando is talking about the kinds of things that property managers handle instead of the professionals themselves. If he is talking about PM responsibilities, then he couldn’t be more correct. It’s definitely not all sunshine and rainbows every day (or most days, for that matter), no matter how much we wish it were. On the other hand, if Fernando is actually describing PM’s, then… ouch. That’s cold.

8. “Warden. My tenants smile when I walk by, but after I pass, the hushed tones and the note-passing begins.” -Michele

Most property managers know the feeling, especially if you have had to deal with tenants that are peeved about you enforcing the rules (Rules are rules—you signed the contract, you have to follow them!).

9. “Rent collectors, negotiators, maintenance coordinators, paralegals, therapists with a real estate license…” (-Trish), “…marriage and divorce counselor, people-pleaser, Mommy, debt collector, boo-boo curer, wailing wall…” (-Andrea), “…insane multitasker, human resources, maintenance guru, miracle worker, property-juggling wizard.” (-Tiffany)

Yes, I combined three responses, but for good reason. Trish, Andrea, and Tiffany all provided great (and funny) descriptions of everything a PM has to handle, and the list flawlessly embodies the fact that each day is a new day in real estate and with it can come anything. As a PM, you manage properties and people, and by now we all know that people do things that are unexpected.

10. “Let’s look at the word… ‘Property Manager’… ‘Pro’ is short for professionals. Next comes ‘per,’ meaning ‘for,’ and ‘ty,’ meaning ‘thank you.’ So we’re ‘professional flatterers.’ ‘Manager,’ the second word, can be broken into ‘ma,’ like mother, ‘nag,’ like an irritating complainer, and ‘er,’ meaning to be mistaken. Add it all up, and we get ‘professional flatters who are often wrong caring for complaining owners.’” -Scott

Scott took a different approach and dissected each syllable of the term itself, and boy, was it correct! The only thing that would make it a little more accurate is adding “tenants” to the end, because real estate investors aren’t the only people with whom we deal, and they’re definitely not the only ones who complain!

As you can see, each PM has a different definition, and there are so many words that could be used to describe the profession that the “property manager” section in a thesaurus would probably be a mile long!

Now that you’ve read some other PM’s definitions, how would you define “property manager”?

Gita Faust

About the Author

Gita Faust has over 30 years of accounting experience in the real estate and property management industry, Gita Faust is more than just a real estate investor; she is also popular for her work as an accountant, consultant, mentor, speaker, QuickBooks Top ProAdvisor, QuickBooks Solution Provider, member of Intuit’s Trainer/Writer Network, and, of course, author. Gita is well-known for her exemplary leadership and advisory skills. In fact, she even helped pioneer the adaptation of QuickBooks to suit the needs of professionals in real estate and property management. To share her knowledge she has written a series of courses titled Simplified Accounting Solution, which provides step-by-step guidance for those working with QuickBooks.

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3 Responses

  1. I own an apartment complex with a property manager handling things for me, but I want to improve our leasing efficiency soon since we had quite a lot of student tenants last year who graduated recently and plan to move out soon. it’s good that you elaborated for us that it’s the role of a property manager to oversee real estate properties and manage them on behalf of the owner to preserve their value while generating income. I’ll take note of this while I look for a marketing company to contact about centralized leasing soon to help my property manager.

  2. My property manager manages my apartment complex, however I want to increase our leasing efficiency as quickly as possible because last year we had a large number of student renters who graduated and intend to move out shortly. I like your explanation of how a property manager’s job is to supervise and manage an owner’s real estate holdings in order to maintain their value and make money. In order to assist my property manager, I’ll keep this in mind when I hunt for a marketing firm to speak with shortly on centralized leasing.

  3. My property manager manages my apartment complex, however, I want to increase our leasing efficiency as quickly as possible because last year we had a large number of student renters who graduated and intend to move out shortly. It is beneficial that you clarified for us the responsibility of a property manager, who acts as the owner’s representative in managing and maintaining real estate properties to maximize revenue while preserving their value. To assist my property manager, I’ll keep this in mind when I hunt for a marketing firm to speak with shortly on centralized leasing.

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