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Train To Manage

Industry knowledge and solid training in several skills is needed to become a successful property manager, writes Anél Lewis.

The way a property is managed has a direct and significant impact on its long-term value, so it stands to reason that having certain sought-after skills and knowledge will enhance a career in this dynamic field.

Neil Gopal

Neil Gopal, CEO of the South African Property Owners’ Association (SAPOA), recommends executive courses in property development and commercial property management. There are also short courses, covering topics such as real estate finance, that provide the skills needed. While most property management companies require a matric certificate when considering a candidate for a position, having a university qualification would certainly “carry weight”, says Gopal.

SAPOA partners with several universities for real estate courses to ensure that the content is “relevant to industry and internationally recognised, allowing graduates to readily find top positions with good companies”. Gopal adds: “The educational efforts of SAPOA are aimed at increasing knowledge and skills of the property industry among employees and ensuring that the content of programmes or workshops and other educational interventions are aligned to industry needs.”

SAPOA also offers numerous webinar sessions on relevant topics. Often, “experience is more important than education”, says Heinrich Ehlers, managing director of Devmark Property Management. Attributes such as tenacity and problem-solving will certainly count in a candidate’s favour when applying for a position as a property manager, he explains. “We like to look for someone who has experience in maintenance or construction on a senior management level as we have found that many property managers are lacking when it comes to the management of utilities and maintenance.” A candidate with excellent communication skills and who can obtain the best results from suppliers and contractors will also have an advantage, he adds.

Heinrich Ehlers

 Online, short, diploma and degree courses

That being said, some institutions are offering excellent courses in property management, says Ehlers, who recommends online options such as UCT’s GetSmarter short course in property management. Wits University also offers short courses in commercial property management, via the Wits Commercial Enterprice unit, and it is the only university outside of America to offer the internationally recognised Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM) commercial property management (CPM) certification.

The University of Pretoria offers BSc Real Estate, which includes a property management module, while the University of KwaZulu-Natal includes property management in its BSc in Property Development. Unisa also offers an undergraduate diploma in real estate that ensures students understand property management. IREM has a strong relationship with Wits, which also offers degrees and diplomas in real estate.

Tumelo Ramushu, president of IREM South Africa (Gauteng Chapter 123), says that 20 years ago there were very few formal qualifications available to pursue a career in property. The property industry was dominated by people with qualifications in accounting, engineering and even law. “Property was never recognised as a separate discipline.”

IREM South Africa Gauteng Chapter, established in 2018, recognises property management as a distinct field, aimed at enhancing the proficiency of the real estate management sector with qualified, regulated property professionals. Skills required for property management include finance, law, and an understanding of the built environment, as well as credit management, client services and communication. “It is a multidisciplinary career,” adds Ramushu.

While a degree will certainly “propel” an aspirant property manager up the career ladder, especially when it comes to middle and senior management, it is not enough to guarantee success, says Ramushu.

A combination of qualifications and experience is recommended. IREM supports ongoing professional development by encouraging members to complete short courses in an array of subjects, from communication skills to professional etiquette. “When a person is continually enhanced, they learn more to manage better,” concludes Ramashu.

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