Building a career in property

By at home

propertycareersMany do not realise the variety of job opportunities on the market in the property sector: it’s not all about building houses… here are some roles where you’ll never have to lay a brick.

Over the last few years the property market has been in a state of flux, meaning that working in property demands the ability to adapt to changes in the financial world and in turn, the conditions of the housing market. A dedicated interest in property is crucial and although it may sound obvious, is very important, as the sector can at times involve long procedures and working within a challenging sales environment. The range of jobs in the sector is vast, varying from the more familiar estate agent role to the perhaps lesser-known positions in property surveying. The growing population has resulted in a consequential demand in property – both residential and commercial – meaning that projects catering to this housing shortage are critical.  

estateEstate agent
Estate agents are the point of contact between the buyers and sellers.  They are required to ascertain an appropriate market value for a property that is both competitive but good value for the sellers. Building on this, an estate agent may be required to establish a marketing plan for the property in order to be sure it is sold in accordance with the sellers’ needs.  In this role, you will be expected to market the property by addressing its positive attributes and selling points – but you will also need to deal with the other element of the selling process: the buyer. Determining the correct buyer is essential for an estate agent; for they need to ensure the happiness of both parties so excellent negotiating skills are a must. In comparison to the majority of roles in the property sector, entering as an estate agent does not require specific qualifications, instead tending to be based upon skills and personality traits.  

However, if you begin in an administrative capacity – as many estate agents do – admin or sales experience will prove very useful. There is always the opportunity to gain professional qualifications in the area too, these being offered by the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) and the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA). Basic salaries as an estate agent are not often very high as it is almost invariably a commission-based role; so working to targets is essential to securing a stable income in the job. It is important to understand that an estate agent position is suited to those who are very sales-minded, as it is easily the most cutting area of the property trade.  

Fund manager
For those interested in the purely financial element of property, working within fund management may be an ideal opportunity. As a fund manager, your role involves building the most appropriate business plan for your client and is most suited to business-minded individuals who have excellent analytical and financial skills. Using the strategies drawn up by the fund manager, the investment agent (another property career option) implements these plans.

Property manager
Property management involves dealing with a client’s portfolio of property, if the owner is not able to or does not wish to do so themselves. As a property manager, you will carry out and analyse research that may affect either the value or ability to market the client’s property. You will also be responsible for organising clients’ rent or lease agreements and property inspections as well as the maintenance of the properties. Additionally, property management companies tend to undertake the task of collecting rent from tenants, so the ability to deal with people in, at times, critical situations is imperative.  It is possible that you will need degree-level education in a related subject in order to take on this position, as knowledge of property, maintenance and general management is essential; however this is not absolutely the case as some smaller businesses might provide opportunities for those without degrees.

valuationsurveyorValuation surveyor
Jobs in valuation revolve around the establishment of a property’s price, whether this is for it to be sold or instead related to the securing of a loan.  As a valuer (or a valuation surveyor) you may also be expected to determine the cost of re-development to an existing property or the development of land for property building. Valuation involves a deep understanding of the current market and the ability to compare and analyse market trends, which will thus demand good mathematical knowledge as well as communications skills.  

In order to become a qualified valuation surveyor, you will need a related degree that has been approved by the Royal Institution for Chartered Surveyors (RICS). Qualifications in surveying itself, law, economics or valuation and management will all be relevant to your work as a valuation surveyor. Entry requirements for such degree programmes typically require two A levels and GCSE Maths and English at C or above, with excellent numerical skills essential for the majority of work in the property sector. There are opportunities to train further when in the role; for example you may wish to acquire chartered status which you can do whilst working by completing the RICS’ Assessment of Professional Competence (APC) scheme. In order to carry out the scheme you need at least two years’ work experience as a surveyor.Salaries vary for valuation surveyors from £20,000 to £23,000 initially to approximately £40,000 as a chartered surveyor.  

Quantity surveyor
Similarly, a quantity surveyor, who is responsible for managing the cost of building projects and minimising additional spending, is required to study for an undergraduate degree in the subject approved by RICS. However, if you already have a degree in a related area then it is possible to study for a postgraduate conversion degree. Higher National Diplomas (HNDs) – which are the equivalent to three-year university programmes – are also accepted but you will usually begin as a technical surveyor (who support chartered surveyors) in this case and can then add to your qualifications as you work through distance-learning courses.

Working as an auctioneer involves similar responsibilities to the role of valuation surveyor, as they are in control of valuing the property in order to determine an appropriate reserve value at auction and to index the property accordingly. You will also be required to liase with both buyers and sellers so again, excellent communications skills are crucial, as well as an avid interest in the diversity of property.  Duties will frequently involved writing descriptions to accompany the property image and valuation, producing a catalogue for the auctioned properties and promoting the auction itself.  

To become an auctioneer, you will be expected usually to have a professional qualification, whether this be in the area of fine arts or humanities. It is possible to work your way up to auctioneer from a salesroom assistant position but a related degree is likely to prove more beneficial when entering this role. Some larger auction houses, such as Sotheby’s and Christie’s, offer graduate schemes and degree programmes in the field – so it is vital to research the most appropriate qualification and institution for you.  There are a variety of schemes available for graduates, with starting salaries typically around £20,000 to £25,000.

It is therefore clear that working in the sector typically demands a combination of professional qualifications, excellent communication skills and a proven numerical ability. When working with clients, whether as a direct port-of-call as an estate agent or in a financial capacity as an asset manager, the ability to build a rapport with those you manage projects with is essential. Determining what it is about property that interests you and assessing your academic background will help you to decide the right avenue for you to build a career in property.

This article was first published in Careers with Hayley Taylor in August 2011. [Read the digital edition here]

Images: Getty, Shutterstock

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