Property and Real Estate Manager Career

Property and real estate managers plan and supervise the activities that affect land and buildings. Most of them manage rental properties, such as apartment buildings, office buildings, and shopping centers. Others manage the services and commonly owned areas of condominiums and community associations. Approximately 361,000 property and real estate managers are employed in the United States.

Property and Real Estate Manager Career History

Real Estate Manager CareerThe first property managers, in the early 1900s, were real estate agents who earned additional income by collecting rent and negotiating leases. During the 1920s, the job became a menial position that was necessary in a real estate brokerage firm but was not considered a full-fledged part of the business. After the collapse of the financial market in 1929, banks, insurance companies, and other mortgage holders found themselves owners of multiple properties because of foreclosures. These new owners had neither the skills nor the inclination to manage the properties. Suddenly, the position of “rent man,” which had been denigrated in the 1920s, became more respected and in greater demand.

The new importance of the property manager, together with a corresponding increase in industry abuses, led to the formation of a professional association for property managers, the Institute of Real Estate Management. The new members quickly set out to establish industry ethics and standards, professional designations, and industry education and seminars.

The Job of Property and Real Estate Managers

Most property and real estate managers are responsible for day-to-day management of residential and commercial real estate and usually manage several properties at one time. Acting as the owners’ agents and advisers, they supervise the marketing of space, negotiate lease agreements, direct bookkeeping activities, and report to owners on the status of the property. They also negotiate contracts for trash removal and other services and hire the maintenance and on-site management personnel employed at the properties.

Some managers buy and develop real estate for companies that have widespread retail operations, such as franchise restaurants and hotel chains, or for companies that build such projects as shopping malls and industrial parks.

On-site managers are based at the properties they manage and may even live on the property. Most of them are responsible for apartment buildings and work under the direction of property managers. They train, supervise, and assign duties to maintenance staff; inspect the properties to determine what maintenance and repairs are needed; schedule routine service of heating and air-conditioning systems; keep records of operating costs; and submit cost reports to the property managers or owners. They deal with residents on a daily basis and are responsible for handling their requests for service and repairs, resolving complaints concerning other tenants, and enforcing rules and lease restrictions.

Apartment house managers work for property owners or property management firms and are usually on-site managers. They show apartments to prospective tenants, negotiate leases, collect rents, handle tenants’ requests, and direct the activities of maintenance staffs and outside contractors.

Building superintendents are responsible for operating and maintaining the facilities and equipment of such properties as apartment houses and office buildings. At small properties, the superintendent may be the only onsite manager, reporting directly to property managers; at larger properties, superintendents may report to on-site managers and supervise maintenance staffs.

Housing project managers direct the operation of housing projects provided for such groups as military families, low-income families, and welfare recipients. The housing is usually subsidized by the government and may consist of single-family homes, multiunit dwellings, or house trailers.

Condominium managers are responsible to unit-owner associations and manage the services and commonly owned areas of condominium properties. They submit reports to the association members, supervise collection of owner assessments, resolve owners’ complaints, and direct the activities of maintenance staffs and outside contractors. In some communities, such as planned unit developments, homeowners belong to associations that employ managers to oversee the homeowners’ jointly used properties and facilities.

Real estate asset managers work for institutional owners such as banks and insurance companies. Their responsibilities are larger in scope. Rather than manage day-to-day property operations, asset managers usually have an advisory role regarding the acquisition, rehabilitation, refinancing, and disposition of properties in a particular portfolio, and they may act for the owner in making specific business decisions, such as selecting and supervising site managers, authorizing operating expenditures, reviewing and approving leases, and monitoring local market conditions.

Specialized property and real estate managers perform a variety of other types of functions. Market managers direct the activities of municipal, regional, or state markets where wholesale fruit, vegetables, or meat are sold. They rent space to buyers and sellers and direct the supervisors who are responsible for collecting fees, maintaining and cleaning the buildings and grounds, and enforcing sanitation and security rules. Public events facilities rental managers negotiate contracts with organizations that wish to lease arenas, auditoriums, stadiums, or other facilities that are used for public events. They solicit new business and renewals of established contracts, maintain schedules to determine the availability of the facilities for bookings, and oversee operation and maintenance activities.

Real estate firm managers direct the activities of sales agents who work for real estate firms. They screen and hire sales agents and conduct training sessions. They confer with agents and clients to resolve such problems as adjusting selling prices and determining who is responsible for repairs and closing costs. Business opportunity-and-property-investment brokers buy and sell business enterprises and investment properties on a commission or speculative basis. They investigate such factors as the financial ratings of businesses that are for sale, the desirability of a property’s location for various types of businesses, and the condition of investment properties.

Businesses employ real estate managers to find, acquire, and develop the properties they need for their operations and to dispose of properties they no longer need. Real estate agents often work for companies that operate retail merchandising chains, such as fast food restaurants, gasoline stations, and apparel shops. They locate sites that are desirable for their companies’ operations and arrange to purchase or lease them. They also review their companies’ holdings to identify properties that are no longer desirable and then negotiate to dispose of them. (Real estate sales agents also may be called real estate agents, but they are not involved in property management.) Land development managers are responsible for acquiring land for such projects as shopping centers and industrial parks. They negotiate with local governments, property owners, and public interest groups to resolve issues that emerge for their companies’ developments, and they arrange for architects to draw up plans and construction firms to build the projects.

Property and Real Estate Manager Career Requirements

High School

High school students interested in this field should enroll in college preparatory programs that include classes in business, mathematics, speech, and English.

Postsecondary Training

Most employers prefer college graduates for property and real estate management positions. They prefer degrees in real estate, business management, finance, and related fields, but they also consider liberal arts graduates. In some cases, inexperienced college graduates with bachelor’s or master’s degrees enter the field as assistant property managers.

Many property and real estate managers attend training programs offered by various professional and trade associations. Employers often send their managers to these programs to improve their management skills and expand their knowledge of such subjects as operation and maintenance of building mechanical systems, insurance and risk management, business and real estate law, and accounting and financial concepts. Many managers attend these programs voluntarily to prepare for advancement to positions with more responsibility.

Certification or Licensing

Certification or licensing is not required for most property managers. Managers who have appropriate experience, complete required training programs, and achieve satisfactory scores on written exams, however, can earn certification and such professional designations as certified property manager and accredited residential manager (which are offered by the Institute of Real Estate Management) and real property administrator and facilities management administrator (which are offered by the BOMI Institute). Such designations are usually looked upon favorably by employers as a sign of a person’s competence and dedication.

The federal government requires certification for managers of public housing that is subsidized by federal funds. Business opportunity-and-property-investment brokers must hold state licenses, and some states require real estate managers to hold licenses.

Other Requirements

Property and real estate managers must be skilled in both oral and written communications and be adept at dealing with people. They need to be good administrators and negotiators, and those who specialize in land development must be especially resourceful and creative to arrange financing for their projects. Managers for small rental or condominium complexes may be required to have building repair and maintenance skills as well as business management skills.

Exploring Property and Real Estate Manager Career

If you are interested in property and real estate management, participate in activities that help you develop management skills, such as serving as an officer in an organization or participating in Junior Achievement projects. Part-time or summer jobs in sales or volunteer work that involves contact with the public would be good experience.

You may be able to tour apartment complexes, shopping centers, and other real estate developments and should take advantage of any opportunities to talk with property and real estate managers about their careers.


About 361,000 people in the United States are employed as property and real estate managers. About one-third work for real estate agents and brokers, lessors of real estate, or property management firms. Others work for real estate developers, government agencies that manage public buildings, corporations with large property holdings used for their retail operations, real estate investors, and mining and oil companies. Many are self-employed as developers, apartment building owners, property management firm owners, or owners of full-service real estate businesses. More than half all property and real estate managers are self-employed.

Starting Out

Students who are about to graduate from college can obtain assistance from their career services offices in finding their first job. You can also apply directly to property management firms and check ads in the help wanted sections of local newspapers. Property and real estate managers often begin as on-site managers for small apartment house complexes, condominiums, or community associations. Some property managers begin as real estate agents or in another position in a real estate firm and later move into property management.


With experience, entry-level property and site managers may transfer to larger properties, or they may become assistant property managers, working closely with property managers and acquiring experience in a variety of management tasks. Assistant managers may advance to property manager positions, in which they most likely will be responsible for several properties. As they advance in their careers, property managers may manage larger or more complex operations, specialize in managing specific types of property, or possibly establish their own companies.

To be considered for advancement, property managers must demonstrate the ability to deal effectively with tenants, contractors, and maintenance staff. They must be capable administrators and possess business skills, initiative, good organization, and excellent communication skills.


Managers of residential and commercial rental real estate are usually compensated by a fee based on the gross rental income of the properties. Managers of condominiums and other homeowner-occupied properties also are usually paid on a fee basis. Site managers and others employed by a management company are typically salaried.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, annual earnings for all property managers in 2004 ranged from less than $27,190 to $89,840 or more. The median annual average for property managers in 2004 was $39,980.

Property and real estate managers usually receive such benefits as medical and health insurance. On-site apartment building managers may have rent-free apartments, and many managers have the use of company automobiles. In addition, managers involved in land development may receive a small percentage of ownership in their projects.

Work Environment

Property and real estate managers usually work in offices but may spend much of their time at the properties they manage. On-site apartment building managers often leave their offices to inspect other areas, check maintenance or repair work, or resolve problems reported by tenants.

Many apartment managers must live in the buildings they manage so they can be available in emergencies, and they may be required to show apartments to prospective tenants at night or on weekends. Property and real estate managers may attend evening meetings with property owners, association boards of directors, or civic groups interested in property planned for development. Real estate managers who work for large companies frequently travel to inspect their companies’ property holdings or locate properties their companies might acquire.

Property and Real Estate Manager Career Outlook

Employment of property and real estate managers is expected to increase about as fast as the average for all occupations through 2014, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Job openings are expected to occur as older, experienced managers transfer to other occupations or leave the labor force. The best opportunities will be for college graduates with degrees in real estate, business administration, and related fields.

In the next decade, many of the economy’s new jobs are expected to be in wholesale and retail trade, finance, insurance, real estate, and other service industries. Growth in these industries will bring a need for more office and retail properties and for people to manage them.

In housing, there will be a greater demand for apartments because of the high cost of owning a home. New home developments also are increasingly organized with community or homeowner associations that require managers. In addition, more owners of commercial and multiunit residential properties are expected to use professional managers to help make their properties more profitable.

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