The apartment market continues its recovery during the second quarter. As a result of surging rental rates and occupancy, demand for multifamily professionals stood strong. In this edition of NAAEI’s Apartment Jobs Snapshot, job openings in the apartment industry consisted of more than 37.0% of positions available in the real estate sector, surpassing the 5-year average of 33.2%. Property management, leasing and maintenance job openings declined year-over-year, yet administrative positions increased by 1.1%. Dallas, Los Angeles, Washington, DC, Denver and Seattle ranked highest for apartment job demand. For the student housing sector, job openings were most prevalent in Austin, Columbus, Gainesville and Tallahassee.
Sydney Jamieson, Vice President of Operations for the iLS Network, shares her journey working in the apartment industry.
“For someone who is new to the apartment industry, my biggest piece of advice is to master your current position, and always look for opportunities to level up.”
I started my first job in the restaurant industry as a bus boy, and eventually transitioned into serving. It was definitely a fast-paced work environment, and I never left without breaking a sweat. I always cared more about providing great service than about how much I made in tips. Six years in the industry gave me a solid foundation for doing so. Although forever grateful for the experience, I decided to pursue a more career-minded profession after graduating the University of Arizona with a business economics degree.
A friend who had just started working in the industry referred me to residential property management. My friend described the mix of sales, service, and business analysis that went into the profession. I thought it would be a good fit given my service background and business degree. Going on my fourth year in residential property management, I can say I was right.
I am an assistant community director for Weidner Apartment Homes in Tucson, Arizona. My day-to-day functions include leasing, answering phones, responding to emails, working on resident files, doing bank deposits, reconciling move out charges with security deposits, monthly resident event planning, and assisting the director as needed. My attention to detail, and always my desire to help makes me a great residential property management professional. I am always happy to do something extra if I know it will make someone else’s work easier. I take pride in being organized, which is important if you want to work efficiently, and effectively. With all the phone calls, emails, service requests, side projects, and residents stopping in, it is easy to miss things if you are not organized.
Getting to help residents, whether it is in the form of answering a question, or putting in a service request, is the most rewarding part of residential property management. Residents are not just customers that pay rent; they are people you get to know and connect with. There are so many little things you do each day, that all add up to a quality apartment home living experience. Prospects sometimes will tell you stories about places they lived where maintenance was ignored, things were not taken care of, and their concerns were not recognized. I know when they move into our community that will not be their experience. There is a tremendous amount of knowledge that comes with the profession, and there is always room to grow, to learn, and to improve. With each step there is opportunity to pass on knowledge, and help others on your team grow. Each day brings new challenges, and is never the same.
Having started my fourth year in residential property management, I have gained a good understanding and appreciation for what goes into making an apartment property run, I signed up to be a residential property management ambassador to share my insight to help guide others considering a role in the industry.
If you know someone who would make a great RPM Careers ambassador, email Sarah Levine
The saying goes, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” When I found a career in the residential property management (RPM) industry, this sentiment turned into reality, and it can become your reality too. As a national maintenance trainer for the 13th largest property management company in the U.S., I get to travel the country and work with different maintenance teams, pursuing my passion for teaching.I began my journey in the RPM industry as a groundskeeper in 2006 after returning from deployment while in the Marines. While I was working as a groundskeeper, I was also pursuing a criminal justice degree to become a police officer. At that time, I didn’t know that RPM would become a lifelong career.
I decided against pursuing a path in police work because I was building skills in RPM and felt such satisfaction from helping residents with their maintenance needs. Being able to solve complex problems brought me extreme pride. What also drove me to stay in RPM was my competitive spirit and desire to do the more technically challenging work that I saw my supervisor doing: using oxygen and acetylene torches, fixing broken waterlines, and completing appliance repairs. I looked up to the people with these skills and even envied them. I knew that I wanted to achieve their level of knowledge and saw the National Apartment Association Education Institute’s continuing education opportunities as the compass that could guide me down the road of success.
The industry gave me the tools and opportunities I needed to grow into a rewarding career. I wrote down all my goals and began pursuing maintenance credentials to help me achieve them. I earned the Environmental Protection Agency’s Universal Certification and became a certified pool operator and certified apartment maintenance technician (CAMT). I rose through the ranks in the maintenance field — from groundskeeper to maintenance technician, maintenance supervisor, regional maintenance supervisor, and then my current role as a national maintenance trainer — always looking toward new learning opportunities that could take my career to the next level. Over 12 years, I was promoted 12 times across the maintenance field, even crossing over to the vendor side as an HVAC project manager. I pursued my certified apartment manager and certified apartment portfolio supervisor credentials and became an instructor for NAAEI after attending its advanced facilitator course. From there, my career skyrocketed.
In RPM, people who work hard, learn, and improve are rewarded for their success. Throughout my career, I’ve been recognized for my commitment to the industry and success in maintenance roles. In 2019, I was named the National Apartment Association CAMT of the Year, and I was recognized as the Texas Apartment Association Maintenance Professional of the Year in 2018. Earning recognition in RPM helped me stand out from the competition when applying for jobs and helped me gain financial freedom over the years due to promotions. If you’re a goal chaser, then this is an industry for you.
My biggest recommendation for anyone considering a career in RPM is to ask themselves one question: “If money weren’t an object, what would I want to do for the rest of my life?”
My answer is simple: Travel, and help others develop their skills. I get to do that every day with my RPM career. The RPM industry offers unlimited opportunities, and it landed me my dream job. Don’t wait!
It’s so nice to “virtually” meet you all! I am honored to be partnering with the National Apartment Association Education Institute as an RPM Careers Ambassador. I just began my fifth year in the residential property management industry. So far, I’ve worked as a leasing consultant, assistant manager, and property manager with Bell Partners in Greenville, South Carolina. I’m eager to use this platform to tell the story of how I started in this industry, my keys to success, and the speed bumps I’ve overcome. I also look forward to giving recognition to my mentors and sharing the small ways I choose to pay it forward each day!
Before 2016 — which now feels like a previous life — I was a wildlife biologist specializing in wildlife management. After college, my goal was to secure the most adventurous, exciting career in wildlife management that I could find. I had unforgettable experiences doing hands-on mountain lion and black bear research during my undergraduate studies. And I have literally been face-to-face with more wildlife than most people ever get to see from a distance. (Steve Irwin, a famous wildlife expert and my childhood hero, would have been so proud.) People often ask me if I miss my adventures in wildlife biology or if I plan to go back to that field someday. They ask what changed that led me to “settle for an office job.” I would have asked myself the same questions a few years ago. Although I never imagined being so satisfied with an indoor office job, I am so proud of the career I’ve established and that I get to have such an impact on the lives of so many people every day. I can’t imagine doing anything else now. I do sometimes miss the excitement of being hands-on with wild animals. But, to be honest, my job in RPM has just as many crazy experiences and surprises around every corner. As a bonus, my maintenance team always calls on me when they run into an unruly snake, raccoon, or possum in an apartment or on the property, and I get to save the day and put my degree to good use! 😊
Looking back over the past several years, I am astonished at the route my professional career has taken. My employment in the RPM industry was meant to be only a temporary deviation. I’m sure some of you can relate to that! After the birth of my son, I needed a job with convenient hours, and I saw an open leasing position at an apartment community with great hours. I also had the ideal combination of sales, service, and management work experience, so I applied and thought to myself, “This gig will give me the chance to get back on my feet and a steady paycheck while I look for wildlife jobs that I want to do. And the rent discount is pretty sweet too!” The last thing I expected was to launch full speed into a career that I would be as invested in and appreciative of as I am today. What I didn’t know at the start was that I would take that small opportunity and invest all my energy into being the best I could be. By surrounding myself with amazing people who would nurture my growth, I landed on the fast track to positions of influence in which I have the honor of sharing my passion with my community and peers. I never knew that with property management I would have the ability to double my income in a few years with minimal training expenses and earn incredible benefits.
My story is not unique. The people I work with each lived a different life before they got into this business. And, yet, we all found the same “home” in RPM. Our previous jobs in areas such as customer service, education, public service, retail, management, sales, engineering gave all of us the skills we need to be excellent in our positions and even better as a team. We thrive in a setting where we are all feeding off each other’s energies, sharing knowledge and skills, and working toward a common goal: delivering the best possible living experience for our residents. I am most fulfilled when I have the opportunity to train and mentor others, which is why I serve as a mentor with my company. I appreciate getting a call from a colleague where they feel comfortable enough to share their struggles or ask for help solving a problem and I can serve as a sounding board or lead them to find a solution. We are all stronger together when we can rely on each other and be humble enough to ask for the help we need. That’s where we grow and gain the confidence to be our best.
There are so many people in this world who are perfect for work in this industry but haven’t discovered the right opportunity. As an RPM Careers Ambassador, I want to encourage people to explore careers in on-site management, maintenance, or vendor services and show them how to forge their path to their version of success. I want to contribute to improving our industry’s diversity and inclusion by bringing people with bright minds and rich backgrounds to the forefront. If you are not in this industry yet, or if you are considering in which direction you want to go, my biggest advice is to get started. Find a role that uses your skill set and a company that you will be proud to be a part of with core values that match yours and mentors willing to help you grow. Don’t be afraid to start from the bottom. You may end up with the career of your dreams.
The views and opinions expressed in this blog post belong to the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of any employer.
There are an estimated 11,000 new residential property management (RPM) jobs every year, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. These jobs require talented new hires, which is why the National Apartment Association Education Institute (NAAEI) works to inform the public about RPM job opportunities and the great benefits of an RPM career.
We do that through this website, social media and other digital channels, and partnerships with colleges and organizations. But we also reach these audiences, and the general public, with “media tours.”
During one media tour, conduced on a single day in May 2017, former NAAEI President Stephanie Puryear Helling was interviewed by 19 radio stations and networks. Helling, who is senior director of operations and real estate strategic services at Greystar, used those five- to 10- minute interviews to highlight the benefits of working in the growing RPM industry.
These interviews aired more than 1,400 times on radio stations and networks with a combined audience of 47 million. (Listen to Blog Talk Radio’s “Life Lessons” to hear one of these placements.)
In July, we scheduled an internet media tour, lining up for interview for Helling and Jeremy Lawson, an NAAEI board member and the reputation manager for Fogelman Properties. This blitz generated more than 2,000 placements in online, radio, and TV outlets with a combined audience exceeding 158 million. (Examples of these placements include an online article in Inquisitr, which averages more than 1 million visitors a day, and in Farmington Patch, a hyperlocal platform in Michigan.)
As important as the exposure is what listeners and readers learned. The media tours emphasized these key facts:
- The number of apartment community residents has sharply increased over the past decade, and all signs point to the boom continuing – providing job opportunities and job security.
- In the U.S., nearly 39 million people live in a total of 20 million apartment homes.
- Lifestyle trends, homeownership patterns, and changing demographics point to demand for 4.6 million new apartments by 2030.
- The industry generates about 11,000 new property management positions every year.
- NAAEI provides training for people who want to join the industry and continuing education for people looking to grow in their RPM careers.
As Helling said in her interview with “Life Lessons,” RPM companies “hire for attitude, train for skill – so we’ve got a little something for everyone.” Part of NAAEI’s job is to make sure everyone gets the message.
Residential Property Management Careers Week
In 2021, we will be celebrating RPM Careers Week from July 12-16!
RPM Careers Week is a great time for hiring personnel, whether they are onsite managers or corporate human resources managers, to evaluate incoming talent more effectively by exploring core competencies rather than just looking for previous apartment industry experience.
NAA and NAAEI will also be celebrating Apartment Onsite Teams Day on July 14 in conjunction with RPM Careers Week to celebrate the dedication and contributions of apartment housing staff.
Who can participate in National RPM Careers Week?
Anyone can. Apartment community staff, apartment management companies, hiring personnel and NAA affiliates are all encouraged to participate in creating awareness about careers in the apartment industry.
Are You In?
Great! Here’s how you can make the most of RPM Careers Week:
- Share RPMcareers.org—the careers website of the National Apartment Association Education Institute, designed to attract qualified candidates to explore our industry
- Promote awareness through social media using #RPMcareers
- Download the media kit
- Download RPM Career Week brochures and other materials
For more information, contact Sarah Cozewith.
Ten years ago, Betsy Kirkpatrick left college and started working as a loan processor and underwriter. Then the mortgage industry collapsed, and she needed a new career. She worked short stints at the Boys and Girls Club, in phone retail sales, and in church management before entering the residential property management (RPM) industry.
“If anything prepared me for RPM, it was the Boys and Girls Club,” Kirkpatrick says. Without realizing it, the skills she acquired while supervising rambunctious 14-year-olds, along with other experiences, would easily translate to her positions as assistant manager and then property manager. “Candidates don’t need RPM-specific experience,” she says. “Companies can train them, as long as they have related skills.”
Now as national director of recruiting at BG Multifamily Staffing, Kirkpatrick offers this advice for people seeking jobs in RPM:
- Make your experience relevant to RPM.
- Looking to work as a leasing consultant? Highlight your sales and customer service experience. Perhaps you’ve worked at a cosmetic counter, cellphone store, or in restaurants. Your experience is relevant to RPM, so translate that on your resume and during your interview.
- Looking to work as a manager? Experience in the accounting or mortgage industries, among many others, is easily transferrable to RPM.
- Looking to work as a maintenance technician? Experience in hotels, the military, and with HVAC systems can be adapted to RPM.
- Always act like you’re interviewing.
Kirkpatrick wanted to work in the RPM industry, but she didn’t know how get there. One day, the property manager for a local apartment community came into the store where she was working. They had a conversation at the register, and she asked Kirkpatrick to come in for an interview. It turns out Kirkpatrick’s non-RPM experiences provided unique qualifications for the industry. She switched to RPM the day after her interview and never looked back.
- Be prepared, but be yourself. When interviewing, you should dress like you’re going to work, bring a copy of your resume and a pen, be calm, don’t talk badly about former employers or offer too much personal information, and have a good attitude and open mind. Most important, be yourself. “A lot of people go in trying to copy another person who is successful — it’s going to look fake,” says Kirkpatrick. “Find what your sales style is and let that shine through.”
- Be ethical beyond a doubt.
“I have seen so many people over the years who’ve tried to skirt the system. But it always bites them in the butt,” says Kirkpatrick. “Your job is not worth it. Be as ethical and straightforward and truthful as possible.”
- Hustle because you need it. Hustle because you believe it.
When you’re in RPM, you’re a part of someone’s story. Whether it’s people who are getting married, going to college, or dealing with separation — you have an impact on their lives. Share your passion for the RPM industry and the things that drive you on a day-to-day basis. “When hiring for someone as a director in a market, I want to find someone who will hustle because they need it and hustle because they believe it,” Kirkpatrick says.
Your interviewer wants to see the real you, your translatable skills, and a positive attitude that would boost the team and the company. “We don’t need experienced people. I look for attitude first and foremost — that this person wants a career, has the drive needed to do the job,” Kirkpatrick says. “If they have the basic building blocks, I can train them for any position.”
Explore careers and apply for jobs at RPMcareers.org.
This year’s prime leasing season has spurred strong demand for multifamily professionals. In May’s edition of NAAEI’s Apartment Jobs Snapshot, the number of available positions in the apartment industry amounted to more than 14,600 job openings. The highest concentration of job postings was in Kansas City, Portland, Raleigh, Houston and Dallas. This month’s spotlight highlights maintenance managers and supervisors. The demand for these positions was more than 3 times the U.S average in Seattle. The top specialized skills employers are looking for included HVAC, plumbing, repair, property management and carpentry skills.
Apartment companies think outside the box to protect staff from COVID-19.
By Bendix Anderson
Apartments companies across the U.S. have worked hard to keep residents safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. But they have been just as focused on protecting employees—even as growing business activity brings their leasing professionals and maintenance teams into contact with residents or prospective residents.
“As the colder seasons approach and the pandemic continues, it will be critical that team members remain vigilant about safety practices,” says Mike Brewer, Chief Operating Officer of the RADCO Companies.
Many apartment companies are now sending staff members back to leasing offices that operated with skeleton crews during the height of the pandemic. Others are beginning to engage with residents in person and sending maintenance crews into apartments to address the backlog of problems that have piled up since the pandemic began.
“Most amenities and leasing offices were closed over the summer,” says Demi Sterling-Kinney, Vice President of Operations at Aspen Heights Partners. “We have since reopened many of these with policies in place that support social distancing.”
Leasing Offices Gradually Reopen
Numerous apartment communities closed their leasing offices to residents and potential residents in the first few months of the pandemic.
“Our existing technology gave us confidence that closing our leasing offices would not unduly interrupt business continuity,” says Brewer. A skeleton crew of property managers still showed up to work behind the closed doors of the leasing offices at RADCO’s communities, he says. They did the basic business of keeping the apartments safe and habitable, communicating with residents through phone, email and the internet.
“We remain closed to the public,” Brewer adds. “We have since returned to fully staffing our leasing offices with appropriate social distancing and personal protective equipment protocols in place.”
Apartment companies typically decide what their staff members can and cannot do by following the regulations set by local health officials to the letter. But some companies have gone beyond what local regulations demand to help keep their staff and residents safe.
“We began taking steps to ensure safe operation nationwide two weeks before the national emergency,” says Patrick Appleby, President of WinnResidential.
Experts now largely agree that COVID-19 often spreads through the air, especially indoors in spaces with weak ventilation where viral particles can hang in the air for as long as three hours. For safety in the pandemic, health experts recommend a tough standard of six to nine air changes per hour in rooms where people gather—at least twice the standard required by many building codes.
Apartment managers also have followed the level of infection increases in their areas. “Our local managers and their teams have followed infection rates closely as well to decide on a property-by-property basis if there were adjustments that needed to be made… in advance of and addition to local regulations,” says Elie Rieder, Founder and CEO of Castle Lanterra Properties.
Leasing Continues Despite COVID
These apartment companies have had to continue to lease new apartments—while keeping their employees safe—during the pandemic. They quickly learned how to conduct as much business as possible through the internet.
“Virtual or contactless leasing techniques will be an important option for everyone for the foreseeable future,” says Appleby. They include virtual tours and online applications. Many companies are also experimenting with self-guided tours.
Some companies had already planned to allow potential renters to lease an apartment largely online. The pandemic simply sped up their plans. “RADCO moved to 100 percent virtual or video conference-style leasing within days of pandemic-related closures,” says Brewer. The company hired its first digital leasing consultant two years ago, when the company first included virtual leasing tools in its technology innovation road map.
A virtual tour can be as simple as a video posted to an apartment community’s website. More complex virtual tours allow website visitors to explore a three-dimensional apartment model, similar to the three-dimensional environment of a computer game.
Apartment companies are also using “smart apartment” technologies like electronic door locks and online ID verification to let potential renters arrange a tour of an apartment through the community website and enter the apartment without ever seeing a leasing agent.
These technologies are likely to be important for apartment companies long after the pandemic is over. “Self-guided tours of apartments will become a more significant part of the sales process,” says Castle Lanterra’s Rieder.
Potential renters seem to have already gotten used to the new process. “Once our teams were past the initial learning curve, our same-store leasing and occupancy statistics began outpacing prior-year results,” says RADCO’s Brewer. “Consumer acceptance of virtual leasing signals that this is a trend that will continue.”
Virtual leasing tools will also give property managers more time to provide residents with new kinds of services. “In the near future, as technology takes more of the administrative burden away from frontline staff, we expect resident service menu to expand,” says RADCO’s Brewer.
Virtual leasing is also an important option for cautious potential renters. “There is a lingering reluctance for in-person leasing in the hard-hit markets, with a great deal of enthusiasm for virtual leasing techniques,” says Appleby. “Our priority through year-end is wooing reluctant consumers back into the leasing market.”
Maintenance Workers Take Extra Care
In the first months of the pandemic, many apartment companies sharply limited how often they would send maintenance teams into apartments to make repairs.
Spending a significant amount of time in someone’s home—long enough to fix a sink, for example—could be one of the riskiest things a person could do during a pandemic, if the resident happened to be infected with the coronavirus and the worker didn’t have access to the right protective gear.
“We limited in-unit work orders to emergencies only,” says Winn’s Appleby. More recently, Winn’s maintenance teams have been more productive—with the proper protective gear. “Our maintenance teams are at full strength, working hard to catch up on work orders and capital projects,” he says. “We have asked them to maintain the same vigilance about safety even as conditions have improved.”
These same issues have made it difficult to complete inspections. “RADCO had several properties in due diligence during the pandemic,” says Brewer. “That typically includes access to occupied units for inspection,” says Brewer. “Navigating the competing demands of buyers, sellers and residents requires open-minded collaboration.”
Some of the same technologies that have made contactless leasing possible—including simple video calls—were also helpful for some inspections during the height of the pandemic.
“The reliance on and performance of virtual tools has been incredible for inspections,” says Rieder of Castle Lanterra.
The Future of Work in Apartment Communities
Many apartment companies also shut down their corporate offices, sending workers home to work with their colleagues through email and video calls.
These companies have adopted new tools to help employees stay productive. “Our monthly virtual town halls have been exceptionally well-attended,” says Rieder. The company-wide intranet Castle Lanterra created in March, she adds, also continues to serve as an effective clearinghouse for the sharing of knowledge and techniques among employees.
Most of these companies expect to have staff eventually return to the office. “I am surprised by the growing expectation that companies will completely capitulate to a work-from-home model,” says RADCO’s Brewer. “I expect to see a new hybrid operations model, but not a full-blown forfeiture of the traditional in-office experience.”
In particular, Brewer looks forward to joining meetings in person. “The biggest lesson is that ‘Zoom fatigue’ is a real thing,” he says. “In-person meetings are 10 times more valuable in terms of moving the business forward.”
Bendix Anderson is a freelance writer.