A brief history of property management

Posted Saturday, December 7, 2019


Property managers – who do you think you are?

Let’s take a brisk walk through history because Property management hasn’t always been around as a defined career. It first evolved in the mid-19th century, was usually undertaken by homeowners themselves, and by the time the early 20th century hit, the role was taken on by individuals known as ‘Caretaker Managers’.

These days, a property manager has to fully embrace the added role of ‘investment protector’, as the focus becomes more and more on the subject of fees. Asset and investment protection seem to govern peoples’ decisions about which property to purchase. So, to understand the role of the property manager, let’s take a brief journey back in time.

In the beginning…

The population was expanding mid-19th century – especially in cities and large towns. With this came the need for more homes and owners of large properties began to subdivide their property up to rent out, usually as single occupancy rooms. These rooms were usually not kept in the best condition and had little or no facilities – at best shared by the entire property. As demand grew, so did competition – landlords who supplied services were clearly more desirable. By the end of the 19th-century tenants were becoming decidedly picky, and so emerged the ‘Caretaker Manager’. Their role was to essentially collect the rent from tenants, but also, to listen to the individual tenant’s concerns, answer questions, and liaise between tenant and owner (sound familiar?). As time went on the Caretaker was tasked with additional duties such as minor repairs, the role began to expand.

Gradually, tenants’ demands became more defined, and the Caretaker had to source specialist contractors, such as plumbers and electricians. With the birth of specialist tenancy blocks emerging, including car parking areas, now landscaping the outside was also required, as well as the need for more and more facilities such as fitted kitchens, better heating, and plumbing. Clearly the Caretakers had to do more than they bargained for, and soon began to appoint specialist tradesmen to carry out regular duties, and so began property management.

So, Property management isn’t new!

The role of a property manager has become vital in the upkeep and maintenance of housing estates, apartment blocks, and commercial buildings. Without a managing agent (who employs property managers), certain areas of an estate or building simply would not be looked after.

Let’s look at new developments

Many new property purchasers or leaseholders do not know that the development or estate has appointed a managing agent to look after things like lifts in apartment blocks or play park areas. The first they may hear about it is either by receiving an invoice or by grumbling neighbours, you know the ones who don’t have any grassy areas directly outside their new house but see an itemised bill for ‘upkeep of green areas’. So, it’s perfectly reasonable that this scenario ends up in frustration and misunderstandings.

Of course, said newbie homeowners or tenants should be fully informed right from the moment they step into a sales office. In an ideal world, prospective buyers would be told that as part of the estate has common areas or internal common parts (such as stairwells and lifts), these need to be maintained to keep them clean, safe and looking nice.

It seems that the importance of education has never been fully appreciated, and in some cases has been completely side-stepped. How has the industry reached this state? Perhaps we need to go back to the beginning and remember that a vital role we deliver is the collection of rent, and that going door to door as the humble Care Taker would have done, is as important now as it was then. Obviously, we cannot collect rent by stomping along vast corridors, but surely with all of the communications tech available, we still need to pick up the phone, go onsite and be a visible presence to our customers.

The same issue the Care Taker had to deal with is still present today; people who are not informed have questions – lots of questions! They want to know why they have to pay for the service charge when surely, they pay the council for the upkeep of grounds and roads? They are puzzled as to why they have to pay for lift repairs when they live on the ground floor. They are even shocked to discover that they have to pay for the play park that they don’t use because they don’t have any children.

The answers to these questions (and more) are provided in our next blog, aimed at all homeowners and residents, to give them the answers they’ve been looking for to… “Why do I have to pay?”


Back to news headlines