There has been a bit of talk recently about the current state of the Canberra rental market, with some people concerned there aren’t enough tenants looking for homes. And at first glance, the ACT vacancy rate seems to reflect this – at the end of October it was sitting at 4.2%. We’ve seen property managers scramble to find a justification for these figures, pointing to government cutbacks, a lack of tenants or an oversupplied market… but if you really want to find out what’s going on, you need to look at the standard service offered by most property managers and understand how it stacks up against industry best practice.
We spoke with Norm Honey, Managing Director of Independent Property Management to get his thoughts on the matter, and he believes there are actually plenty of Canberrans who are looking for rental properties; it’s just a matter of finding them. “We currently manage over 3000 homes and our vacancy rate at the start of November was only 0.85%, which is a big difference compared to the ACT average. The reason is most property managers in the ACT, and in the real estate industry in general, have to do everything themselves.”
Most property managers have to split their time between managing their existing properties, pitching their services to property owners, organising marketing for vacant properties, opening exhibitions, processing applications from potential tenants, following up on approvals, performing inventory and condition reports and signing tenancy agreements. That is a huge amount of work for one person to handle on their own, and by doing all that on their own, it means they’re only allocating a fraction of their time to actually looking for tenants. It essentially boils down to one of those ‘jack of all trades, master of none’ scenarios.
“What they really should be doing,” reveals Norm “is re-examining the way they structure their business and their services. You see it more and more these days, in nearly every industry we’re moving towards more specialised roles, and the property management industry is no exception, it’s just that some are adapting faster than others.”
According to Norm, the future of the property management industry lies in teams with dedicated roles. “This is actually something we realised some time ago. We made the decision to change the way we operated so we could provide our clients with a better service. So now we have a team of new business consultants who look for new clients, property managers to take care of the day to day needs of the properties and leasing consultants whose full time job is to find tenants. We run exhibitions 5 days a week, along with private appointments for tenants who can’t make regular exhibition times. We’re currently holding over 900 exhibitions, and attracting over 1000 prospective tenants, every month. All our leasing consultants are also contactable 24 hours a day. If other property managers are finding it hard to attract tenants, part of the reason is probably because they just don’t have the time or manpower they need.”
Of course, being accessible to tenants isn’t the only thing that needs to improve. The way most property managers approach marketing also needs to be considered. Attracting the right tenants for a property takes effort and planning. It’s not as simple as throwing up a For Lease sign and expecting tenants to come to you.
If you’ve ever sold or bought a home, you’ll know making a property look appealing is vital to a good marketing campaign, and we’ve already talked about how important quality photography is when you are selling, but it’s just as important for rental properties. “What often happens,” says Norm “is Property Managers will take their own photos, but they haven’t had any specialised training, and beyond knowing how to press a couple of buttons, they don’t really know what they’re doing. If they want their marketing to have a bigger impact, they’d be much better off using a professional photographer.”
Take a quick look at some of the rental listings on allhomes and you will quickly get an idea of the difference a professional photographer can make. It’s easy to see when a property manager has just pointed their iPhone at a kitchen, taken a quick snap and moved on. A professional photographer on the other hand will actually take the time to stage the kitchen properly and work out the best lighting and angles to make sure the kitchen is as inviting as possible. And it works – the more appealing a property looks, the more potential tenants will come to exhibitions.
There’s really no reason people should be struggling to find tenants. You just need to make it easier for tenants to find and view your rental property. By connecting with tenants on their own terms, being accessible and making things easier for them, you make it easier for everyone. You just have to be willing to put in the effort to do things right.