Let’s talk about the “R” word – Remuneration (Agency Directors, look away now)

I’ve had many discussions in the last few years, and more notably in the last month, with Property Managers who are being left behind in the income stakes and some who – quite frankly – have been taken advantage of by their directors in terms of their pay.

The majority of Property Managers are underpaid – some severely so. This isn’t just my personal view but also the view of other senior industry figures, members of the public an some of the regulators with whom I talk regularly; if we were in the financial services industry for example, and managing assets of the combined value that most rent rolls get to, the base for a Property Manager would be well into 6 figures.

It’s my view, and also that of the others I’ve mentioned, that there is no place for an “award” to be used as a way to pay someone the minimum possible for a complex job which requires a vast skillset; and here’s a distillation of some of the advice I’ve given both recently and going back some years.

As Property Managers we’re great at following process, so here are several steps to follow in the process of increasing your salary – I’ve also got a list of things “not” to say which I can make available by email if you want them…

Pick your moment

Asking for a pay rise when your director feels receptive will increase your chances of getting a positive result. Several factors will influence their receptiveness, including:

  • The business’ financial position: if the company (and you personally if it’s part of your role) is bringing on new managements and maybe hiring new team members or upgrading tech to handle the increase in business, the financial health of the agency is most likely very good, and this will make the chance of success far more likely.
  • Look at their workload: a director with a stable workload (yes, I know this is real estate..!) probably has more time to focus on you and your request than one who is busy juggling appraisals and
  • The time of year: if your office has regular salary reviews, these meetings are the ideal time to discuss salary, and the beginning of a new financial year (now just around the corner) provides another excellent time for discussion.

Your recent achievements: recent achievements, such as regularly beating your KPIs or consistently getting great testimonials will reinforce your value to the agency.

Research salary trends

Researching salary trends allows you to know the salaries of other professionals in similar roles. The internet is a treasure trove of PM job ads and comparative salaries, one of the job sites also will give an indicative range alongside most ads so use this but be careful to compare your role properly with these, and remember that location will also be a factor in income.

Schedule a meeting with your director

Arrange a private appointment for the meeting, in virtually every occasion, these should be done in person rather than over zoom or teams, best advice here is to ask for a 30-minute meeting to chat about your performance, rather than mention your salary directly, as there are some principals who would rather avoid discussions about finances. It doesn’t have to be a formal meeting, you might even suggest a coffee shop somewhere close to the office as an good venue to take the pressure out of it.

Prepare and rehearse it.

Whether it’s a loose or more formal one, having some form of script for the conversation will help you feel more in control and confident during your meeting. The key here is preparation, and depending on your confidence you might want to have bullet points or something more comprehensive, but try to avoid reading rigidly from the script to allow yourself some flexibility within the conversation. As with any good presentation, you should have it set up in three key parts:

An introduction: which is where you state your purpose for calling the meeting.

The body: you should state your ideal salary, how you arrived at that figure and the reasons why you feel you deserve a pay rise. Make very clear note of what your role was when you either started or at the last salary increase, what your role involves now and what your key achievements have been over the year, and how you’ve contributed to the overall value of the rent roll. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want, this is about having confidence in yourself and the improvements you’ve made to the rent roll and the company as a whole over the time you’ve been there.

And a conclusion: reinforce and summarise your strengths, again state your preferred pay increase and ask your principal for feedback.

Remember though, that this is about you as a professional, and the discussion should not be based on your personal circumstances. Your principal mostly acts in their own and the company’s interests rather than yours, so pointing out your value and benefit to the business are highly persuasive. Use confident words and clear facts rather than emotional words such as ‘believe’ and ‘feel’, which can sound uncertain. I’ve got a script that I devised a while ago, and if you’d like a copy of it, let me know and I’ll email it to you.

Dress like you mean business

I heard a saying years ago, that we will be taken the way we dress – so if you want the meeting to be taken seriously, dress for the occasion, it gives the impression of confidence and that you’ve got a serious intent within the meeting.  Dress as you would for a job interview or a listing presentation.

Actually. Ask. For. A. Pay. Rise.

You’ve heard of salespeople closing a sale right…? Well, this is your moment to bring that into the meeting, make sure Once you step into the meeting, you’re ready to ask for your pay rise. Take your time making your points either from your script or straight from memory. Keep eye contact to show your confident in what you’re saying and subtly mimic your manager’s posture and gestures to engage them – it’s called “mirroring” and is a very strong negotiation technique which builds rapport and strengthens your connection.

Silence is Golden

After you’ve said your piece, stop talking. Give your principal some time to think on what you’ve said and respond, the silence might be a little uncomfortable and they’ll be just as keen to break it as you will, so get comfortable with the discomfort. They may want more details about some of the points you’ve raised about the things you’ve mentioned so be prepared with any further information you might think relevant. Provide the answers thoughtfully and continue to highlight on your contributions.

This is where the fun begins

Your principal is going to want to try to negotiate with you. In all likelihood, you’re dealing with a sales person and this is what they do – negotiate, just as they’d negotiate a commission with a vendor, only this time it’s on their own behalf.

Keep going back to your key points about what you’ve contributed, and what your role is now compared to what it was at the previous conversation you had with them about salary (if there was one…); make sure you’ve documented it as fully as you can and keep reinforcing your value to the rent roll.  Ask them why the full increase isn’t a possibility and ask their views on how you’ve performed, what else you could do going forward to reach the full amount of your requested increase, and the timing of a further discussion – perhaps you could start to schedule annual or 6-monthly chats on it as a more formal procedure.

Thank them for their attention

Regardless of whether there’s full agreement, make sure you thank them for meeting and discussing it with you, then follow up with an email later that day. This is no different to confirming any other conversation with have with clients, it sets out all your points, what the agreement is and clarifies where you left the conversation in case of future disagreement or query.