Property leasing is a business where relationships with tenants can last for a number of years and therefore it is essential for property leasing professionals to cultivate cordial tenant relationships through the provision of good client services. To this end, Cheung ka-chun, manager of the Leasing Department at Sino Land Company Limited has a success story to tell.
After completing a degree programme in surveying at the University of Hong Kong in 2004, Mr Cheung joined Sino Land Company Limited as a leasing officer responsible for coordinating leasing administration, renewing tenancy agreements, advising on achievable rental rates, and conducting market assessment and marketing of industrial buildings.
With an outstanding performance record and having built an extensive client network, he was promoted to senior leasing officer in 2005. A year later, he became assistant leasing manager and after just another six months, leasing manager.
The job of a property leasing professional is tough and challenging, according to Mr Cheung. It requires a large working capacity, great flexibility, strong business acumen and high determination to meet specific client requirements.
Major responsibilities are diverse but can be consolidated into client servicing, leasing administration and management such as finding suitable tenants, advising on achievable rental rates based on market assessment, initiating lease renewals, preparing letters of offer and ensuring proper execution of tenancy agreements. Leasing professionals sometimes act as marketing agents for the marketing and letting of properties, contracting for advertising and promotional programmes and providing regular updates on marketing activities.
Leasing professionals no longer simply provide transactional leasing services ... They must be more responsive to clients' requests
Mr Cheung adds that in the face of keen competition and fast-moving trends in the market, leasing professionals no longer simply provide transactional leasing services to meet clients' increasingly sophisticated needs. They must be more responsive to clients' requests. Introducing new ideas for services is also a critical factor in successful property leasing deals.
One of Mr Cheung's more notable achievements was the leasing of the commercial building Futura Plaza, formerly an industrial block in Kwun Tong. Recalling the successful project, Mr Cheung's supervisor Ng wai-hong, who is assistant general manager of the leasing department, notes that the challenge then was to reposition this "brand new office building", and to achieve maximum exposure and tenant occupancy via a series of marketing exercises.
Since there are many banking institutions clustered in the district and clients are always in the market for banking and finance services, Mr Ng says their strategy was to identify banks as their major tenants, then capture new tenants to help establish the building's image. They also put in place a new management system and installed necessary facilities.
The project ended successfully with a 95 per cent diversified tenant occupancy rate. The team also lined up networking opportunities for the tenants thus paving the way for a solid long-term relationship.
To those who look to joining the property leasing industry, Mr Cheung cautions that challenges are enormous.
"We must familiarise ourselves with new features, constantly acquire technical knowledge, understand many new and sophisticated legal terms and face marketing challenges," he says.
Mr Cheung adds that a successful leasing professional must also market properties on a lease basis regardless of size, location and intricacy. To keep current they must frequently update professional knowledge on urban planning, surveying and market developments across Hong Kong. "We must know about competition and the supply and demand in other districts, and can't just focus on the areas we are responsible for," he says.
Allan Chan, associate director of the leasing department agrees. "The property industry is a barometer of the economy," Mr Chan says. He notes also that the thriving economy and the release of real estate investment trusts (REITs) can help further boost the development of the property market, thus providing more job opportunities and better career prospects.
For potential recruits, there is no special academic requirement but a degree in real estate, surveying, marketing or business is an advantage. Much of their daily work will involve talking to clients, co-operating with internal departments in preparing proposals or correspondence and doing ad-hoc tasks which requires technical knowledge and understanding of legal terms. Mr Chan says potential recruits should possess a positive working attitude, analytical skills with attention to detail and good language and communication skills. They should also be customer-focused and have an outgoing and cheerful personality.
Initially recruits with no specific experience start as leasing officers with promotions to senior leasing officers or other senior positions possible and commensurate with years of experience and professional knowledge.