Stepping into a career as a property manager in Virginia can open doors to a multifaceted profession in real estate. Property management professionals play a critical role in maintaining the balance between landlords and tenants, as they ensure that rental properties are well-managed, financially stable, and legally compliant. Their work encompasses a wide range of tasks, from handling tenant emergencies to setting rent rates.
In this article, we’ll explore what it takes to become a property manager in Virginia. This way, if you’re interested in pursuing such a career, you’ll have a basic guide to follow along the way.
What is a Property Manager?
A property manager is a real estate professional who is responsible for overseeing and managing properties on behalf of owners and real estate investors. Their efforts help to ensure that the properties they manage are well-maintained, financially sound, and meet the needs of both the owners and the tenants. The scope of a property management professional’s duties and responsibilities can vary depending on several factors. These include the types of properties the individual manages, their specific level of certification, or the location in which they operate.
Duties and Responsibilities
Property managers provide their services when they’re hired by owners who need help handling the complicated components of owning and operating rental properties. Typically, the main appeal of a property manager is that these individuals or companies offer to take care of all the management tasks that landlords either do not want to do or do not have time for. When these individuals or teams work with a property owner, management professionals take on practically all of the responsibilities that come with renting out properties.
The tasks that a property manager is responsible for may include:
- Setting rent rates for each unit they manage
- Collecting rent payments from tenants
- Marketing vacant units in order to find tenants
- Showing units to interested parties
- Taking care of the application process (screening applicants, reviewing lease agreements, signing leases, etc.)
- Ensuring legal compliance with local laws
- Renewing leases
- Handling evictions
- Performing inspections
- Communicating with tenants and landlords
- Filling out financial reports and handling accounting requirements
- Coordinating repairs and maintenance when needed
- Handling unit or tenant emergencies
Property management professionals are allowed to work in both the residential and commercial sectors, though most of the time, they choose to specialize in one over the other. If you want to become a property manager, it’s wise to determine whether you prefer residential or commercial work ahead of time. You don’t have to make an unwavering commitment to one sector, as your preferences may change, but it’s good to have an idea of the sort of work you’d like to perform.
Property Management Limitations
Though the duties a property manager can perform are numerous, it’s important to note that these individuals and companies are still bound by Virginia’s real estate laws. This means that while there are a great number of things you can do as a property management professional, there are also limitations that you need to keep in mind.
For example, you’ll want to steer clear of the following illegal rental practices:
- Retaliatory actions against tenants
- Forcing tenants out of the unit without an eviction order
- Refusing to perform maintenance or taking too long to perform maintenance
- Making unwarranted deductions from a tenant’s security deposit
- Charging security deposits that are higher than the law allows
- Entering the property without giving proper notice
- Failing to perform required inspections
- Raising rent in the middle of a lease
- Increasing property expenses outside of the lease agreement
To operate a successful and profitable property management business, it’s essential to stay informed about what’s legally required of you while you perform your professional duties.
Qualifications for Becoming a Property Manager
Becoming a property manager in the state of Virginia comes with a few basic requirements before getting into what’s needed in terms of education and certification or licensure. To qualify, you need to be able to meet the following criteria:
- You must have a valid social security number.
- You must be a US citizen or permanent legal resident.
- You must have at least a high school diploma.
- You must be at least 18 years of age.
Determining whether you need to satisfy additional requirements to perform property management duties can be somewhat complicated. In a few situations, meeting the above criteria is all that’s needed to manage properties to some extent. However, in most cases, you’ll need to obtain higher education and certification to be permitted to perform more advanced property management duties.
There are two main exceptions when it comes to education and licensing requirements. In Virginia, you’re permitted to perform some management tasks without a secondary education or license if the following situations apply:
- You’re an on-site property manager: If you’re managing a property where you also live, you might be performing what is essentially landlord services. In this case, you may not need a real estate license.
- You’re employed by a licensed broker: If you work for a real estate broker or property management company, you may be able to perform certain tasks under their license.
That said, if you’d like to perform a wider range of property management practices, you’re going to need to meet certain educational requirements and obtain a real estate license or certification.
To become a property management professional in Virginia, there are usually educational requirements you have to satisfy so that you can obtain a real estate license in the state. This includes both pre-licensing and post-licensing work, so you’ll need to ensure that each segment of your education is compliant with Virginia law. You’ll first need to seek a real estate salesperson’s license, which requires a certain number of class hours before you can take the licensing exam.
Upon successfully completing a real estate salesperson’s program and obtaining a license, you can then pursue a real estate broker’s license if you choose. This will require you to complete additional class hours and pass another licensing examination.
To become a real estate salesperson, you must:
- Complete 60 class hours of a Pre-License Course
- Pass the state and national exams
It’s important to note that the coursework you choose must be approved by Virginia’s Real Estate Board. Additionally, the following subjects need to be covered within the coursework:
- Virginia Law
- Property ownership, valuation, and brokerage
- Lending laws and mortgages
Once you complete your coursework, you must sit for and pass the Virginia Real Estate Salesperson Examination. There are 120 questions you’ll need to answer, and you’ll have 150 minutes to finish. At a minimum, you need to answer 86 questions correctly in order to pass the exam. You’ll be tested on your knowledge of real estate laws, real estate practices, and industry-related math skills.
If you pass the exam and you receive your Real Estate Salesperson License, you’ll also need to continue pursuing education to further develop your skills. For post-license education, you’ll need to complete 30 additional hours of learning material within the first 12 months of your licensure.
The post-education property management courses you take must include the following:
- Agency Law
- Contract Writing
- Current Industry Issues and Trends
- Ethics and Standards of Conduct
- Escrow Requirements
- Fair Housing, ADA, and Civil Rights
- Real Estate Law
- Real Estate Finance
- Risk Management
Should you decide that you’d like to pursue a brokerage license after obtaining your Real Estate Salesperson License, you’ll need to do the following:
- Complete 180 class hours of Pre-Licensing Courses offered by a Board-approved educational facility
- Pass the state and national brokerage exam
- Submit information that verifies you have worked as a real estate salesperson for at least 36 of the past 48 months
On top of completing a Real Estate Brokerage Course, you must also complete one of the following:
- The three broker-specific classes: Real Estate Appraisal, Real Estate Finance, and Real Estate law
- Two of the three broker-specific classes and one more Board-approved broker-related class (such as Real Estate Math or Real Estate Property Management).
Property Management Licensing/Certification Options
As a professional property manager, there are several official certifications you can obtain, including:
- Certified Apartment Leasing Professional (CALP), formerly National Apartment Leasing Professional (NALP)
- Certified Apartment Manager (CAM)
- Certified Property Manager (CPM)
- Master Property Manager (MPM)
Property Management in Practice
Securing work as a property management professional can take a couple of unique routes. On one hand, you could apply to work as a property management assistant while you’re attending school and pursuing your certification. This route will allow you to work under a licensed property manager or within a property management company so that you can learn to develop your skills on the job.
On the other hand, you may also choose to wait to look for work until you’ve completed your schooling and received the license you need. Once you’re certified and ready to seek employment, you can apply for various property management positions available through different property management companies.
While filling out applications, it’s important to be aware of the requirements each company asks for when it comes to their candidates. Though working under a property manager may only require a high school diploma according to state law, different companies may require more education or experience than that. Be sure that you meet the requirements covered on the job listing before applying for the position.
Property Management Skills
As a new property management professional, it’s wise to gain employment with an experienced company, even if you plan to start your own business in the future. By working with a company that has an established reputation and track record for success, you can develop all the skills you need to branch out and work on your own if you choose to do so later in your career.
Once you’re hired at a property management company, you’ll want to work on developing the following skills. Sharpening them will give you the edge you need to perform well in the industry.
- Communication: Property management is a very people-oriented career, and because of this, you’ll spend a lot of your time working with others. You’ll need to take active steps toward enhancing your written and verbal communication skills so that you can always remain on the same page with your tenants, colleagues, and contractors.
- Organization: Being able to multi-task and keep track of several activities at once is essential for property managers. You’ll need to know how to stay organized, keep your schedule in check, and make sure that you’re handling paperwork correctly. Losing a single form can be detrimental when it comes to property management, so strong organizational skills are a must.
- Legal Knowledge: Property managers need to remain constantly up-to-date on the real estate laws that pertain to the areas in which they work. Legal requirements can change, and ensuring compliance is a must in this industry. Professional managers need to be knowledgeable about Landlord-Tenant Laws, Fair Housing Laws, the Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, and more.
- Customer Service: Much like communication, excellent customer service is an essential part of property management. Both landlords and tenants are going to be your customers, so you’ll need to know how to find solutions to their problems. Developing your customer service skills can help you ensure that you foster positive relationships between yourself and everyone you work with.
- Property Experience: A major part of your job as a property management professional involves interacting with rental properties. You’re going to need to learn how to perform thorough inspections and handle routine maintenance requests. In addition, it’s important to learn how to handle more serious repair needs, including how to secure the right services from licensed contractors and other professionals. Property upkeep is a big part of keeping both tenants and landlords happy with your service, so do your best to learn how to take care of rental units properly.
As you progress in your career, your skill requirements may change. As such, it’s good to be open to consistent professional development. A strong willingness to learn will help you develop all the skills you need to become the best property manager you can be.
Working as a property manager can be both a challenging and rewarding role to fill. Succeeding in this industry requires a great deal of work and the development of essential skills. For dedicated individuals, this line of work can be one that enables continuous learning and development.
If you’d like to become a property manager in Virginia, be sure to verify the state’s legal requirements and pursue schooling through Board-certified programs. Take your time and research the path you’re going to take thoroughly. This way, you’ll have everything you need to become a successful property management professional.