Property / Construction

Transforming trends

by Isabella Lee

William Lai, head of property management, Hong Kong
management solutions
Jones Lang LaSalle
Photo: Edde Ngan

Prosperity in property management calls for professional human resources

Real estate ranges in scope from residential space to luxury sprawling corporate facilities. For investors and businesses, professionally managed real estate can generate enormous revenue and profits. For homeowners, on the other hand, reliable property management is a prerequisite for smooth management-owner relationships and an important factor in the potential sale price of residential properties.

"Good property management enhances asset value," says William Lai, head of property management, Hong Kong, management solutions, of Jones Lang LaSalle. "The industry is expected to continue growing at a steady pace."

The Hong Kong property market remains buoyant, bolstered by developers' recent interest in new sites such as the multi-billion dollar residential lots in Pak Shek Kok and Wong Tai Sin. These developments in turn will boost demand for quality property management services.

New and renovated shopping malls have also increased the need for seasoned property managers. According to Mr Lai, this figure is expected to rise partly due to changes in the industrial market where many vacant factory buildings are currently being redeveloped for commercial use.

Dynamic place

"Investors and developers have been active in converting buildings from industrial to commercial use since the SARS pandemic," Mr Lai says. "This is mainly due to the gradual improvement of the Hong Kong economy," Mr Lai says.

He adds, "There are ample business opportunities in different areas, for example, the redevelopment of Kwun Tong. But the emergence of shopping arcades open around the clock and premium office buildings have given a new lease of life to the aged district and factory owners are finding ways to transform their properties ensuring they don't lose value in the long run."

On Hong Kong Island the demand for top-end residential space has led to lucrative results for investors seeking to boost rental income or investment capital. Demographically, as a result of the thriving banking and finance sector a significant number of expatriates have relocated to Hong Kong causing an acute leasing demand for luxurious properties.

Mr Lai notes that many old buildings in prime locations like Wan Chai, have great potential for high financial returns if well-planned rejuvenation mechanisms are implemented. Some properties commanded a mere HK$10 per square foot before renewal, and yet now draw in rental of five times that amount after renovation. "It is clear that all sectors of the property market are shifting at lightning speed," Mr Lai points out. "One way we have adapted to these changes is by focusing on managing serviced apartments in Hong Kong, as well as in other financial centres like Beijing, Shanghai and Macau."

Jones Lang LaSalle is well positioned to respond swiftly to local market trends. An industry leader with over 45 years of experience in Asia Pacific, the company now has assets in more than 60 markets. The global firm provides comprehensive one-stop services to local, regional and international clients.

Extensive reach

As the company continues to grow, property management employees have the opportunity to take up head office roles or onsite positions. Client-focused head office team members liaise between property owners, contractors and onsite staff. They are responsible for providing quality advice to the owners on services suitable for a specific property before contracts are drawn up. Following the contractual stage they then monitor the subsequent overall performance of the services provided.

Conversely, onsite property managers are responsible for the day-to-day operation of a building. To ensure the building is safe and properly maintained, they oversee a wide range of services such as security, cleaning, pest control and building maintenance.

"Regardless of your position, you should be prepared to meet people from all walks of life," Mr Lai advises. "To stay ahead, you must always have the vision to provide quality service."

He adds that property management personnel should be equipped with a problem solving mindset, negotiation powers, presentation skills and risk management techniques.

To foster talent, Jones Lang LaSalle provides internal training based on individual learning needs. Incentives are also available for employees wishing to taking up external studies such as the Professional Diploma in Housing Management offered by the University of Hong Kong's School of Professional and Continuing Education. Employees can also enjoy financial assistance such as the annual membership fee for joining the Management Institute of Housing upon completion of the professional diploma plus paid study and examination leave.

As for career options, property management staff are supported if they wish to try out an alternative position within the company. This way, employees can effectively cross departmental, functional and geographic boundaries.

"Professionals in real estate today have plentiful scope for personal growth," Mr Lai says. "Regarding the quest for individual achievement, it is definitely better to join a reputable and established company with world class standards to reach your maximum capacity in the industry."


Taken from Career Times 14 December 2007
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