Hong Kong boasts some of the world's most expensive housing and highest rentals, both for residential and commercial property. Since owners understand the importance of maintaining the value of their investments, the growth in the real-estate market has helped push a strong property management sector, offering a wide range of career opportunities.
"The industry has grown fast over the past three decades and has remained largely unaffected by the prevailing economic climate, says Janna Cheng, senior group manager, human capital, Urban Group.
"Even when the economy slows, residential and commercial buildings still need to be properly managed to preserve their asset values," Ms Cheng notes.
Professional property and facility management encompasses wide-ranging services, from daily management, to sanitation and cleaning, safety and security, repairs and maintenance, financial management, legal compliance and even community building and environmental protection.
"Competition is fierce in the industry and homeowners and landlords now have higher expectations. This drives property management companies to continuously improve owners and tenants' quality of life," Ms Cheng adds.
A subsidiary of listed service conglomerate NWS Holdings Limited, Urban Group has been serving the Hong Kong real estate market since 1965, focusing primarily on property and facility management. The group manages 127 million square feet of properties and facilities, including commercial complexes and major composite residential and including Mei Foo Sun Chuen and City One Shatin ¡X two of the largest residential properties in Hong Kong.
The group also manages 20 million square feet of commercial and industrial premises and 33,000 parking spaces. Its business portfolio covers Parklane Shopper's Boulevard in Tsim Sha Tsui; the Grand Millennium Plaza and New World Tower in Central and Parc Palais in Ho Man Tin.
In the past, employers used to focus mainly on industry experience when hiring property managers, but with the increased demand for specialised technical knowledge and sophisticated management skills, professional training and qualifications have become prerequisites for breaking into the field, Ms Cheng points out.
Another crucial factor in the industry is the "people aspect", she notes. "Property management is a people business, where managers may need to assume the role of mediators in their day-to-day interaction with various parties such as tenants, landlords, service contractors, staff as well as the government."
Property managers should be approachable and pleasant to deal with, Ms Cheng says, adding that the company prefers candidates that are customer-oriented and patient and have the strong communication skills required to deal with people from different backgrounds and with varying expectations and needs.
It is equally important for property managers to maintain a positive mindset at all times, stresses Michael Lin, an Urban Group senior property asset manager.
With 11 years' experience in the field, Mr Lin likens the job of a property manager to looking after the wellbeing of a community. "We always underscore the importance of accommodating the demands of different customers," he emphasises. "We try to put ourselves in the customer's shoes in any given situations so as to formulate the most appropriate solutions. We also need to be analytical and innovative when discharging our daily duties."
According to Mr Lin, it is important for property managers to develop strong problem-solving skills as well as a high level of job ownership. "The level of involvement is such that you treat the property like your own and consider every issue from the customer's perspective," he emphasises.
Mr Lin also finds that the most rewarding aspect of his job is the opportunity to establish relationships with customers. However, he concedes that problem-solving skills develop over time and disputes handling can be a challenge for new graduates entering the field.
He is grateful that he was able to join the group's management trainee programme soon after graduation in mid 1990s, as it provided him with comprehensive training and hands-on experience.
He recalls the mentorship nature of the three-year trainee programme as a highlight. "I was given opportunities to look after different large-scale residential and commercial properties with the guidance of my mentors," he says.
Ms Cheng is optimistic about the future of the industry and the career opportunities it entails. She notes that Urban Group is running a graduate development programme in conjunction with the Hong Kong Polytechnic University to recruit the university's property management graduates who are keen to enter the industry. "Our long-term vision is to develop high-potential graduates into property and facility management professionals so that they can become part of our success," she concludes.