By Erin Horn

Lower oil prices may have Houston’s energy market in a downturn, but residential real estate is in high demand with retail hot on its heels. While some areas of commercial real estate are leveling out and performing below recent historical levels, real estate management professionals are in more demand than ever.

By 2022, job growth for property, real estate and community association managers is projected to increase by 11.8%, or by 35,000 employment positions, based on findings supported by the U.S. Department of Labor. The right skillset and networking abilities combined with thousands of career opportunities make for a bright future in real estate management.

Real estate management is often an unexpected profession, but it is quickly becoming a career path for the millennial generation and a career shift for Generation X. For the newcomer, whether making a transition or just beginning their journey, what skills are necessary and where do they start? A handful of industry professionals offer their backgrounds and insider knowledge on what they consider prerequisites for real estate management.

Multitask Much?

There is an increasingly broad role to play in day-to-day operations, so possessing a wide range of skills is important in real estate management. A lawyer, salesperson, accountant, psychologist, teacher, financial advisor, IT troubleshooter, event planner, web designer, contractor, public relations representative – these are all professions with relatable real estate management skills that are implemented every day.

Pius K. Leung, CCIM, CPM, CIPS, FInstLM, is principal of SPAK Interests, Inc., and began his career as a property accountant prior to making many accomplishments in the real estate industry. Leung says the ability to work with people is essential in any real estate position. “I have worked in the property management, investment brokerage, real estate software industries and knowing how to work with people is probably one of the prime commonalities.” A former CCIM national president, he also credits adaptation and flexibility as necessary skills for a career transition.

James Sinclair, CCIM, CPM, is a property manager for Brookfield Property Partners and went from producing and directing live television newscasts to managing office buildings. “You have to be flexible and willing to take a chance. I think it was my self-confidence in my ability to handle changing situations that helped me transition. The skills you have for the most part – customer focus, ability to analyze and interpret, and judgment – are all translatable to another field. Being able to present yourself to a potential employer as someone who has an interest in the field, who cares enough about it to learn, and who can bring something valuable to the table can mean the difference between success and failure in an interview.”

Kathryn Currier, who transitioned from residential real estate with Heritage Texas Properties to a senior accountant for Transwestern, a global commercial real estate company, said “Discipline, training and a great attitude are significant to changing industries. I have been in the real estate business for a long time, just learning it from a different aspect,” said.

Sean Alley, CPM, said to “make sure you really know what you are getting into.”  A property  manager with Brookfield Property Partners, Alley said he spent 13 years in the banking industry and wanted to make a change.  “So I took a position in the railroad industry as a train dispatcher. I didn’t do enough research to realize how much my life would change and after six months I returned to banking.”

“Two years later my father-in-law, who had been in the property management industry, heard a position at Brookfield was available and thought it would be a good fit for me. This time I spent a lot more time understanding what I would be doing,” Alley said.  “I am happy to say after nearly eight years, I love my job and can’t imagine doing anything else.”

It’s All About Who You Know (It Really Is).

Networking is the number one way of discovering those hard to find, never advertised job opportunities. The phrase “it’s all about who you know” could never be truer when it comes to this industry. According to a report from ABC News, 80% of today’s jobs are landed through networking. This percentage of networkers represents smart jobseekers who understand that looking for and finding work takes…work. Being involved in professional real estate organizations is fundamental in a job search and for receiving the many benefits the commercial real estate industry has to offer.

Leung suggested joining one or more of the trade associations and “be actively involved in the association you decide to join. Organizations such as IREM, CCIM, SIOR, CREW, NAR, etc.,” he said.

Networking Tips:

  • Make a list of everyone you know in real estate. This is the beginning of your career database. Meet with them and get their insight.
  • Stay in close touch with college professors and coworkers from previous employment – it’s all about who you know!
  • Be a good listener. Ask questions, listen to the answers and follow up with another question. Get business cards. Take notes.
  • Always carry business cards. Everywhere you go is a network opportunity, so never forget them and keep your contact information current.
  • Join a professional organization and attend conferences.
  • DO: have a plan before you arrive, give more than just your name, dress appropriately and allow others to join the conversation.
  • DON’T: interrupt, avoid eye contact, forget their name, get stuck with an egomaniac or forget those you want to remember.

Who Ya Gonna Call? Your Best Resource, of Course!

Commercial real estate is a fluctuating business yet companies are continuously searching for new and experienced industry talent. Whether office, multifamily or industrial, those who specialize in this field are invaluable to their investor or owner, particularly during an economic decline.

Brookfield’s Alley said, “The best resource for someone thinking about getting into the commercial real estate business is someone in the industry. Talk to them and really find out what they do on a daily basis. Find out their likes and dislikes and what challenges you will have”

Transwestern’s Currier commented, “I truly believe in training, get to know the market, soak up as much as you can from people that have been in the business a long time and be more knowledgeable than your client,” she continued.  “I feel if you are starting out you need to work with someone who has been in the business for a while as an assistant and/or have another job because you need to spend time learning as much as possible”

Blaire Moreland, an associate with Evergreen Commercial Realty give credit to one specific trade group: “The Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM) has helped me create my support network! Whenever an issue comes about that I am unfamiliar with, I am able to connect with my peers and mentors to develop an action plan based on a variety of experiences, not just mine,” she said.

Brookfield’s Sinclair also suggested finding out about careers from those who currently hold a position you might want coupled with professional groups.  “I would spend time with someone you know who is currently in the field.  Ask them what they like about what they do, and what they don’t like, or what they would change if they could. Ask who their mentor was and if you could talk with him or her.

“See if there is a professional organization that has information about a career in real estate. Conduct online research, research companies who provide services in the field and look at employee benefits – do they encourage ongoing learning and development? The more you talk with others who are actively doing what  you want to do, the clearer picture you get of what it’s really like,” Sinclair said.

Professional Organizations recommended:

  • IREM – Institute of Real Estate Management ( An international community of real estate managers. IREM is the home for all industry professionals connected to real estate management – the only organization serving the multifamily and office sectors.
  • SIOR – Society of Industrial and Office Real Estate Specialists ( The Society of Industrial and Office REALTORS is a leading professional commercial and industrial real estate association. The SIOR network includes more than 2,800 members in 480 cities in 20 countries on six continents.
  • CCIM – Certified Commercial Investment Member ( A CCIM is a recognized expert in the disciplines of commercial and investment real estate.


An Introduction to Property Management:

Because of the growing interest in real estate and property management, IREM developed an Introduction to Property Management course which will be conducted for the first time in Houston on February 18, 2016. It is a three-hour, interactive course taught by a successful practitioner in the Houston real estate industry. The course provides an in-depth overview of the profession and is appropriate for career changers, real estate REALTORS, brokers, investors, students, and anyone interested in a career in real estate management. Attendees will learn: knowledge and skill sets necessary to succeed in the profession; the employment and salary outlook for property managers and how they advance in their careers; who employees property managers and how they fit into the overall real estate industry, and who hires them; the make-up of the property manager’s team and if real estate management is right for them. To learn more about this class or any IREM Property Management courses, go to


About the Author: Erin Horn is an assistant property manager for Brookfield Property Partners in Houston and a Certified Property Manager® candidate. Erin previously worked as a Property Manager for Parkway Properties and Hertz Investment Group in Jackson, Mississippi before returning to her hometown of Houston in 2014.