What was the expectation for your role as President of the Real Estate Institute of Victoria?
As only the fourth female REIV President in about 80-90 years I wanted to take away some of the stigma that comes with real estate. Throw in a pandemic there was lots of compliance, policy and restrictions to navigate over my two terms, so that was a surprise.
But I think that helped me thrive – the more you throw at me, the more efficient I am.
What were your key goals for the presidency?
I really wanted to put property management on the map. During my almost 30 year career, property management has always been seen as the “stepping stone to sales.” I hope throughout my presidency I’ve given greater insight into the world of property management and why real estate professionals shouldn’t treat it as a sidelined service.
Legislation changes and the work and training that came with that showed that property management is absolutely vital in the real estate sector.
What was the most impactful contribution by the REIV?
Navigating lockdowns and government restrictions was tough. The Victorian Government had its own agenda when it came to establishing restrictions and had little consultation with industry stakeholders. Real estate equates to almost 46% of income to the state, so we felt quite disappointed by the lack of consultation.
Our Locked Down and Locked Out campaign aimed to articulate ways the industry could operate in a COVID-safe manner. Housing is an essential service and we wanted the government to know real estate could operate safely to get Melbourne back into homes.
Tell us more about the Locked Down and Locked Out campaign
It was a very contentious decision. I remember saying to my husband that this was going to make or break my presidency.
I’m proud to say it didn’t break it!
There was a lot of public interest (many people calling me, personally) for purchasers and renters trying to get back into the property market and this really drove the need for the campaign further.
How did Metro PM change during your presidency?
Upon reflection, in the early days I felt as though I had stopped providing day-to-day attention to my team. Some people embraced the challenges that the pandemic provided and I’m proud to say our team did this. Metro PM trialled ideas such as introducing Facebook Live inspections. Metro PM was a test bunny for a lot of industry change and adaptation as I shared our findings with other Directors. Coming out of lockdown, we still use the Facebook Live function to continue providing multiple solutions for renters and landlords.
Embracing tech in the real estate sector – what’s holding us back?
Fear of technology replacing agents’ roles. The pandemic forced us to rely on technology to sell and lease property and we are now embracing a hybrid approach to real estate functions such as auctions – providing online and street options.
How can the industry develop better trust relationships with the public?
I took away the “wanker” aspect of real estate. I don’t wear the pin-stripe suit, the navy suit or the black suit. I created personality to the space, to the industry. Whether that was doing a Zoom in my dining room or doing an on-camera piece with Channel 7 on a Sunday morning from my young son’s cricket game. It created personality and broke down the level of perception that sometimes people think they are better than what they are. Bringing the realness develops much better relationships with your staff and future clients.
How can we improve and support the experience of property managers?
Our industry lost 20% of PM’s at the end of 2020. We lost experience, skill and talent. Whilst this shows a lack of support and value for property management I do believe as an individual, if your passion is to become a top quality PM, you need to create a pathway to grow and progress. Find a mentor, save money for training and plan ahead. Directors and supervisors also have an on-going responsibility to train and support their staff.
I love the saying, “if you train people they leave.” But the response also has to be if you don’t train them and they stay, isn’t that worse? There has to be more training and goal-setting for property managers.
I would also mention to customers and clients – stop trying to get everything for free! PM’s go through plenty of training and bring a lot of expertise to the table – respect that. If you want your biggest asset protected, pay for it.
Are the new changes to rental legislation forcing principal’s to think differently about their property management talent?
We need to figure out what the challenges are, where our staff need further assistance and provide training for our property managers. If you don’t create the training opportunity, they will leave. It’s up to us to prioritise our property managers.
Can you tell us more about your exciting new venture, Leah Calnan Consultancy?
After my presidency I had many people asking me whether I was going to take a break and have some down time.
Anyone who knows me knows that’s not the case!!
I’ve always had training in my background. I really see the opportunity in further development for Directors within their businesses. I had to learn a whole lot of technology in the last few years… In order for me to support my team I need to know what I’m doing. Getting directors to understand the needs for their team is important. That’s where Leah Calnan Consultancy hopefully comes into the piece.
Currently at Metro PM we are setting personal goals for the first 100 days of 2022 as part of our training/support. As a Director I’m asking how can I help my team achieve these? Maybe it’s negotiating work hours? These are all things I want to assist Directors to navigate within their own team.
If we make property management better, it’s a win/win for everyone.
What do the next 2 years look like for Metro PM?
Embracing tech! Making sure our team is across the software we have recently implemented to move forward.
We’re working on leveraging our unique business concept – we are a different business because we lease and manage properties across Melbourne. Seeing the change in the property market across metropolitan Melbourne is really interesting and the insight we get from that sets us apart in the industry.
Right now is a great opportunity for investors coming back into the market to partner with a PM team that is focused on the current rental market.
We also want to continue finding some work/life balance for 2022 and beyond.