The Real Estate Institute of Queensland (REIQ) launched the Property Management Support Service in January 2015 – a free service to REIQ members. Gina McClement sat down with REIQ CEO Antonia Mercorella to find out more about the service and how it’s benefiting members.
Gina: Thanks for your time, Antonia. First off, can you tell us a bit about the Property Management Support Service?
Antonia: As the name suggests, the service provides information, guidance and advice specifically tailored to property managers. Our members can call through to the service between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday and have all their property management related questions answered. We receive about 450 calls per month. Members can also email their questions through.
There’s also a monthly Property Management Support Service newsletter, which goes out to approximately 11,000 subscribers.
The service allows us to tailor the way we deliver information, training and services to property managers – and it’s been really successful.
Where did the idea for the service come from?
The REIQ has a long history of providing agency support advice to our members and, for many years, we provided that advice via a single Agency Advisory Service. Members would call us with their questions and no matter what area of practice they were seeking help with, they would come through to the same service.
The world of real estate is complex – and becoming more so every day. We knew that a large proportion of the calls coming through to the Agency Advisory Service were property management related. We also recognised that property management is an area which can be particularly difficult to navigate, so we started to offer more property management specific training and events.
What we began to see was an incredible demand for more training and events – property managers have an insatiable appetite for knowledge and learning. Because of this, we started to think about other ways we could support them – and the idea for the Property Management Support Service was born!
So who do members speak to when they call the Property Management Support Service?
We wanted to ensure our members would always be receiving the most accurate, relevant and up-to-date advice. So rather than having a single, dedicated person answering calls all day every day, we decided to use a group of practising property managers. When a member calls through to us, they know they’re going to speak to someone who understands what they’re going through – someone who’s ‘in the trenches’ with them.
We now have five practising property managers working on rotation. It’s one of the things that makes the Property Management Support Service such a valuable service. Members are not only getting the right advice, they’re getting it from someone who is living and breathing the same issues as they are, so there’s also a level of empathy there.
Providing the right advice to your members is critical. How do you ensure the knowledge of the property managers who are taking the calls is up to date?
Yes, it’s absolutely critical that our members are receiving accurate advice. We ensure they’re well trained and they attend all our relevant REIQ events. When they’re not taking calls, they’re busy doing research, putting together best practice documentation, drafting articles and reading Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal cases. We share information about legislative changes with them and ensure their knowledge is always up to date.
REIQ is also fortunate to have a close working relationship with the Residential Tenancies Authority and QCAT, which means we have access to all their resources.
What sort of questions can your members ask when they call?
Basically, anything that’s property management related. They might have a question about a section in the legislation. They might want some guidance about how to deal with a particular situation that they’re faced with. Or it could even be as simple as the fact they need to vent to someone!
Property managers are often the ‘meat in the sandwich’. They have the difficult task of managing competing interests – the tenant wants one thing, the landlord wants another and they’re stuck in the middle. They have a tough job. It helps to be able to talk things through and the service provides a friendly ear.
While we don’t provide legal advice, if a member has a question of a legal nature we refer them to Carter Newell Lawyers, who we have a relationship with. They can then provide the member with free legal assistance up to a certain amount of time. It’s another benefit of REIQ membership.
You mentioned that a newsletter goes out each month. What part does it play in the Property Management Support Service?
The newsletter has been really well received. It’s jam-packed with so much great information and terrific tips – it’s really become a bit of a property management ‘bible’.
Each month we look at the types of questions members are asking. This gives us a good idea about the areas members might be struggling with, or if there’s a high level of misunderstanding about a particular area of practice. We use these insights to build the content for each edition of the newsletter. But more than just that, we feed the insights back into our training program and look at what training and professional development we can build to help members.
The newsletter is an important piece of the puzzle. We find that lots of agencies pass it around the office and also use it as a tool for their own internal training. It’s a handy reference tool that property managers can go back to over and over again to find the answers they need.
What’s next for the Property Management Support Service?
What’s exciting about the service is that we have a dedicated team who are talking to members all day every day, and can give us feedback about what REIQ needs to do and where we need to improve. It means we can stay ahead of the curve, identify emerging issues and nip them in the bud. If we start to get more than a few calls about a particular issue, we can see that something is wrong or something is missing. We can then adapt or update our training to suit, or write an article for the newsletter.
Based on feedback, we’re currently updating quite a number of our template forms and agreements. We’re also creating some new template forms and documentation to make life easier for our members.
What has the feedback from members been like?
Our members love the Property Management Support Service. They enjoy talking to our team of property managers and appreciate the fact that the person at the other end of the phone actually understands and cares about what they’re going through. The response has been phenomenal. We receive wonderful emails from members telling us that it’s the best thing REIQ has ever done!
The Property Management Support Service is a free service that is exclusive to REIQ members. Go to www.reiq.com.au to find out more.