IRPM Membership: What the bosses think

Strong growth in leasehold property (which made up 43 per cent of all new build registrations with the Land Registry in 2015, compared with 22 per cent in 1996) will drive demand for residential property managers. We’ve asked leading employers about what IRPM membership means to them when it comes to recruitment and staff development, and what else they look for in a residential property manager.

Residential property management is a relatively new occupation.  Not many children dream of being a property manager and few will have heard much about it from the careers advisory service. Yet it offers the potential of a rewarding career path to people with all sorts of educational backgrounds,skill sets and employment experience.

Lots of residential property managers will confess that they ‘fell into it’. For them and all those who have made a conscious decision to pursue a career in residential property management, the IRPM offers a structured development path and independent accreditation of their professional skills.But what do employers make of it? How do they rate IRPM membership when it comes to recruitment and training? And what other qualities do they look for?

While IRPM membership is not prescribed for most entry level positions, employers almost certainly expect new recruits to study for and acquire appropriate accreditation and many require it for  property managers.

Joaquim Fillola, Managing Director of Encore Estate Management, says

“While IRPM membership is not essential for all new positions we value it highly and encourage all relevant staff to undertake the level of qualification that is right for them... (and) achieving IRPM is certainly a pre-requisite of career progression within the company. Some of our most experienced and talented estate managers joined Encore without the qualification, but regardless of how experienced they are, we would still encourage IRPM.”

In 2015 Encore acquired a property management company based in Berkshire employing 40+ staff including 17 property managers. Despite trading for more than 20 years, none of their staff were IRPM qualified because it was not something the company was prepared to support financially. Since becoming part of Encore, around 20 staff from that office have undertaken IRPM training and one has already qualified. Senior Encore staff run lunchtime seminars in order to help them. 

Richard Scott, Head of Human Resources at HML, explains:

At HML, IRPM membership is virtually mandatory for all roles. "We look out for the level of qualification that  applicants have because this gives us a good indication of their level of knowledge. This level of knowledge coupled with their experience are critical factors which help us decide on the candidate we wish to engage and/or promote. Currently we do not stipulate certain qualifications on our job advertisements but it is certainly our plan to do so.

We are reviewing our recruitment strategy alongside our learning & development strategy and developing a robust development framework, underpinned by IRPM qualifications for each level within our organisation. We also plan to use IRPM for our ‘raw’ new starters, such as apprentices, who have no experience in our industry.”

Stephen Stidworthy, Head of Block Management at Hamways takes the view that:

“If a candidate tells me they have experience and are asking for a higher salary, then I would expect them to be qualified to the appropriate level - AIRPM or MIRPM.  And if they are not, then I’d ask them at the interview why they have not completed their exams.”

A sign of commitment and a benchmark of competence

Phil Hubbard is Training and Development Manager at Trinity Estates

He succinctly sums up the appeal to employers of IRPM membership. “It clearly suggests an individual is evidently committed both to the industry sector and to their own development.  Membership also provides us, as an employer, with an accurate benchmark for an individual’s level of competence.”

Bernadette Oakey, Head of Support Services at PREIM

"I expect that an employee with IRPM membership “should be able to hit the ground running in terms of understanding the managing agent role”.

 Property management is complex with legislation constantly changing and IRPM membership helps professionals keep up to date.

James Biley, Marketing & Communications Director for Countrywide Estate Management

“An employer can be confident that an IRPM qualified colleague will be equipped with the necessary tools to deliver professional customer service. Equally, the client can be confident that their property manager has a sufficiently in-depth understanding of the sometimes  contradictory demands of the law, the lease, the landlord and the leaseholder to be able to advise and guide them effectively in their decision making.”

James also points out that IRPM qualification can give members the confidence to clearly and concisely enlighten the client as to what can and can’t be achieved.

“All property managers sometimes have to use the word ‘no’ but an IRPM-trained and qualified individual will be able to explain with reason and propose practical alternatives.”

Most employers are willing to invest time and money in IRPM qualifications.

Pier Management runs revision workshops to help staff prepare for their IRPM exams. Encore is happy to support employees by covering the cost of examinations and subscriptions as well as providing them with study leave. This year Encore will spend around £7,800 on IRPM memberships with 26 members of staff currently working towards various levels of qualification. 

 HML encourages staff to become qualified and financially supports them. Richard Scott is even looking at bringing IRPM courses in house to further support staff in gaining their qualification.

All Welcome

IRPM membership is not just for property managers. Lots of companies also encourage employees from other departments to undertake professional training. James Biley at Countrywide explains: “IRPM qualifications set strong standards and as a company we actively promote and support the achievement of these standards among all our staff, not just the property managers. Our administration and support teams are equally encouraged to become accredited and many have chosen to do this, seeing it as a positive enhancement to their own careers”.

Similarly, Bernadette Oakey at PREIM, says that all staff are expected to at least become Associate members, whether they deal with finance, credit control or block management.

 “We operate a tutorial study approach in the office to support home study. This way we can ensure that we offer a  professional service to customers whereby all staff are well informed and can give intelligent and relevant responses on all aspects of block management. Promoting the IRPM qualification together with our own in- house training programme is central to our professionalism and to our integrity as managing agents. We believe this distinguishes us in the market place.”

Personal qualities that employers seek

A common theme is that successful residential property management is as much an art as a science. Solid technical knowhow must be combined with the ability to relate to people and develop good working relationships with clients, customers and suppliers.

For Pier, Daniel Harrison, Head of Portfolio Management comments

Organisation is really key. “We like to see staff who are able to prioritise their workload while maintaining a friendly and communicative approach with leaseholders. We also look for staff with a passion for the industry and an understanding of the entire sector from lease extensions to purchasing yields. Because we are affiliated to a large freehold investor we also like our property managers to be commercially minded.” 

Daniel Potter, Director of Property Support Services, Mainstay Group

Property management is a people business. “When recruiting property managers we look for people who can place customers at the centre of everything they do. Showing timely empathy and understanding when managing buildings and resolving estate issues positively are key ingredients which will help fulfil a property manager’s career ambitions.”

Chris Wiles, Director at Realty Management Limited, puts it like this:

“Property management can be taught both internally and externally but the ability to communicate well and meet customers’ expectations is more about a person’s personality. As such we would rather teach property management to recruits with exceptional people skills, than hire people who have technical knowledge but poor communication skills.”

James Tarr, Head of Leasehold Management, Andrews Leasehold Management agrees.

“As the role of the property manager can be quite generic I’ve employed excellent people with backgrounds in services, project management and marketing background. It comes down to how a certain individual will fit into the property management team and balance with other skills. The number one quality is to be an effective communicator; this is a service industry so excellent customer service skills are the key.”

Most employers double check a candidate’s membership with the IRPM. It is easy to do on the IRPM website

Richard Scott at HML always checks. “We use the IRPM website as an ‘integrity check’ on potential employees. If a candidate stipulates on their CV or at interview that they are qualified we cross check via the IRPM website. On occasion, we’ve found that individuals have stated they are qualified but in fact we’ve found that they are ‘working towards’ a qualification. Naturally, this calls into question their integrity and makes us re-think about hiring such an individual.”