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What Even is a Property Manager, Anyway?

How to define one of the broadest professions in real estate

Insane Multitasker, Human Resources, Maintenance Guru, Miracle Worker, Juggling Property Wizard.

If you were asked to provide a detailed explanation of a property manager (PM) and what he or she does, what would you say? Better yet, if you’re a PM, what would your clients or tenants say? When you search for the definition of “property manager,” the answer is slightly different everywhere you go. Since technology, the economy, and the real estate industry are continuously expanding, the duties of each professional are evolving and the definition of each profession is changing as well. So how exactly do we define an occupation that seems to constantly vary?

Well, what are a property manager’s duties?

Before we get into the technical wording of what a PM does, it is important to first step back and take a look at the list of responsibilities maintained by each of these professionals. Of course, these responsibilities revolve around the management of properties (duh!), but from the outside, that sounds like it could be anything.

In reality, most PM’s lists of duties contain the same things:

  • Setting rent rates, and doing so by researching the area, determining any necessary repairs, and assessing whether the property allows pets or smoking
  • Advertising the unit to prospective tenants and negotiating terms on the leases
  • Identifying good, reliable tenants and performing screenings
  • Collecting rent and managing the overall finances for the properties
  • Handling any maintenance and repairs
  • Managing tenant move-outs or evictions
  • Acting as a liaison between the tenants and the property owner when necessary

Of course, the list goes on and eventually diverges for each unique PM, but you get the idea. So, now that we have an idea of what a PM does, that begs the question…

What even is a property manager?

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.”

Now, given these two definitions, we can pull out some key factors:

  • PM’s are paid to operate and oversee real estate
  • They can manage several different types of real estate
  • Typically (this is an important word), they oversee properties on behalf of somebody else (a.k.a. the owner)

Now, when asked to define their job, many real estate investors will roll their eyes, maybe laugh a little, and blurt something along the lines of “adult babysitter” or “residential prison warden.” Someone even said that a PM is just a “board of directors in a box.” While these definitions might be funny, they actually provide some more insight into what a property manager does:

  • They handle complaints and relay messages for other people, including both tenants and property owners
  • They enforce rules and regulations (whether it be specific to their units or governmental)
  • They handle almost all aspects of a property—operations, finances, marketing, and so on

The facts we have gathered thus far are more than enough to compile a worthy definition. In fact, there is so much information that it might even be hard to condense it, but let’s give it a go anyway:

A property manager is a person or firm paid to oversee and operate various aspects of a real estate property, typically on behalf of another person or persons, and their tasks usually include the financial, marketing, client relations, and, of course, managerial functions of property maintenance.

Our definition mentions the more specific tasks of a PM, something that was not included in any aforementioned definition, but it remains broad enough to encompass any other qualities that an atypical professional might have.

Now that you have seen our definition as well as several others, how would you define a 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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