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Not all property managers are the same – Tara Bradbury

As property investors, we quite often think of property managers all being the same. But inside each property management business there are different systems – different management systems. There are three main ones: portfolio, task, and pod management.  Tara Bradbury, one of Australia’s best property management trainers, joins us to explain the differences.


Kevin:  As property investors, we quite often think of property managers all being the same. But you see, inside each property management, there are different systems – different management systems. There are three main ones: portfolio, task, and pod management.

Joining me to talk about all three, and to give you a bit of an insight as to how they work and maybe help you decide – next time you have to pick a property manager, you can ask them what kind of management system they use – Tara Bradbury is one of Australia’s best property management trainers. She works with great property management businesses in Australia and overseas, and she joins me now to talk about these three.

Tara, thank you very much for your time.

Tara:  My pleasure as always, Kevin.

Kevin:  Let’s have a look at these three: portfolio, task, and pod. Just tell me the differences between each one.

Tara:  Absolutely. And I agree that it’s a great question for everyone to know and ask about, because there are lots of different dynamics as to how the property can sit within a department. It’s important for everybody to know.

The task-based side is where as a landlord, you’re going into a business and you’re focusing more individually on the specific task, which means that you can have someone in that key area who is very talented in that area.

So, they could be a strong communicator, and then they’ll be put in a role that’s more communication-based, which could be during the routine inspection with the tenant and having those strong conversations – it could be around rent arrears – and they could have heavier strengths within that communication side and that could be really relevant.

However, once you separate all those roles, then there are quite a few people to be talking to, and that can sometimes be confusing for the client.

Kevin:  So, from an investor’s point of view, if they’re dealing with a property management business where they’re getting input from a number of people, it’s a possibility that it is a task management-style operation?

Tara:  Yes, absolutely. And sometimes, businesses do need to do that – if they’ve had a staff member maybe leave, if they’ve gone on maternity leave, or they’ve had maybe a sudden sickness that nobody expected. So, the best situation for them to do might be to get a certain person or another assistant person to help solve that problem in the interim, and both heavily qualified, but sometimes you might need to then talk to more than one person.

I don’t say that it’s not the way to go in the way of how you should set up a property management business, but it is certainly one that I found very more popular in the areas of up to that first 200 properties.

Kevin:  The portfolio style is typically where an investor will be dealing with one person who covers off everything for them, but I guess the frustration here is that if that person leaves, then you get the feeling that “Oh, goodness, here we go. Here’s another one,” you get the feeling of a lot of change in a property management business.

Tara:  Yes, that’s right. I find that it’s a mixture of feelings around the portfolio. To me, it’s still definitely a popular way to go, and people like to know who they’re talking to and feel that ownership of that one person to talk to. Because many other industry providers, you have to go through call centers just to get to a person in the beginning, so there’s always that frustration there.

But again, we always want to try to make sure that who we are talking to is the right person, and I found that portfolio is good for that because they’re going to be the main set of eyes on your investment property consistently through the entire process. So, from the very beginning, doing the initial condition report, routine inspections, that maintenance conversation with you, all that process is done with them one on one.

Again, yes, there’ll be times when they’re out of the office and they won’t be there for you to have access to them because they’ll be in other meetings or appointments, which is fair. It’s not just the one property that they look after for yourself.

So, that can sometimes have its moments because we all like to have answers for everything yesterday. But at the same time, there’s certainly value in knowing you’ve got that one person to speak to.

Kevin:  Okay. Then the final one is pod management. Tell me how that works.

Tara:  It’s probably something that’s come in the last couple of years and I’m finding appears to be a bit more of a popular structure because there is more than one person. So, you’ll find that if your property is involved in a pod situation, it can tend to be a larger portfolio but it has multiple staff.

Most will have at least up to two working in a pod, and sometimes they might attract an assistant as well, if need be, and you then are talking to two different people. It could be that one might have had a bit more experience in the business and the industry and then they’re inviting someone into that pod who’s in training, and that’s a really good training model to teach them along the way what needs to be expected of them rather than putting them straight into a portfolio and having to go from start to finish in the early stages, which can be quite eye-opening for that person.

But the communication side I found is one area that the client is really enjoying, because they know if one is out and about doing routine inspections or they might go on leave – which we do do; we have our four weeks throughout the year like everybody else – they know that there’s somebody in that pod who will know what’s going on.

There’s always going to be one who might know a little bit more and is retained in the trust program to be able to share information of conversation points that have happened, but you have two people to talk to.

Kevin:  So, the experience that an investor would have in a pod style is more the team relationship, so you’d be getting experience across a team. It could only be a couple of people.

Tara, it’s been fantastic talking to you. Thank you.

Portfolio, task, and pod are the three management styles we’ve talked about today with Tara Bradbury. Tara is from BDM Academy. You probably won’t be dealing with her if you’re an investor, but I’ll tell you what, if you talk to a property manager, they’ll know about Tara Bradbury, I can tell you.

Good on you, Tara. Great talking to you.

Tara:  My pleasure. Thanks, Kevin.

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