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'Concerning' shortage of experienced property managers

Last Updated Dec 7, 2015 at 9:39 am PDT

FILE PHOTO (iStock Photo)

Former strata property agent isn't surprised at the shortage of qualified managers, says it's a challenging job

LOWER MAINLAND (NEWS 1130) – Homes across the Lower Mainland were battered by the storm that blew through over the weekend and, as we brace for the next weather system, the folks who deal with that damage and other issues for condos and townhomes are in very short supply.

What’s being called a “concerning” lack of experienced property managers is only getting worse, as more people retire and not enough young people consider entering the field.

“We are a dying breed,” says Patricia Lee, a former strata property agent who has turned down two job offers in recent weeks from companies trying to lure her back into the industry.

“There is a shortage of very good people. My definition of a strata agent is one of the chosen few who do the impossible for those who need the help. Or, if you want, who do the impossible for the ungrateful,” she tells NEWS 1130.

Lee isn’t surprised at the shortage of qualified strata property managers, calling the position one of the most challenging jobs she has ever had.

“I have conflict resolution skills, which were my saving grace. We have to think on our feet in emergencies. If you don’t, it could cost thousands of dollars,” says Lee.

“We need to be a jack-of-all-trades, to know the functions of the building. It is a very demanding job, with some companies requiring you to be on call 24/7. You always have to pick up the phone because it could save a life.”

She describes days where 200 emails would hit her inbox and she would need to reply to each one within 24 hours.

“It’s like doing triage in an ER. We treat the buildings like babies and take pride in our work.”

The Strata Property Agents of British Columbia says the shortage in property managers is due to a very competitive job market and the demographics of an aging workforce.

“Like many industries, we seem to have more people leaving than are entering,” says SPABC president Cory Pettersen.

“We have over 25,000 strata corporations in BC. A lack of qualified property managers to assist homeowners in the very complicated administration and management of their strata should be a major concern for everybody.”

Pettersen says it is a position that requires experience and hard-won wisdom to do well.

“Those older individuals who have been in the industry for a while are very sought after and we are not refreshing our job market.”

While the job can be very demanding, Pettersen feels that can also make for an interesting career.

“There’s no doubt the job requires a high level of understanding in a large arena of topics. You have to be on top of ever-changing legislation, and there is more and more work and responsibility. This labour shortage is a challenge that I think only higher salaries can overcome in the long term.”

And he admits there can be very tough days.

“You’re dealing with people’s most important, high-valued asset — their home. It can be an emotionally charged situation. As far as attracting individuals, we are doing what we can but we need to do a better job.”

Pettersen says people considering a career in real estate may not know much about being a strata property agent, which he feels can be rewarding in terms of potential salary and autonomy.

A university degree isn’t required to become a strata property agent, although many people in the field do have post-secondary education, however you do need a license under the Real Estate Service Act.