Apartment jobs in maintenance continue to be in high demand as leasing and property management jobs have leveled off, according to quarterly jobs report from The National Apartment Association Education Institute.
The new jobs report focuses on jobs that are being advertised in the apartment industry as being available, according to Paula Munger, Director, Industry Research and Analysis, for the National Apartment Association’s Education Institute.
While the total number of apartment jobs were down compared to first quarter last year, “I don’t see it as an alarming sign that jobs are down. Even though we are comparing the same quarter of the year, I think there is still seasonality factors in here,” Munger said.
Many new apartments came online last year plus, “We all heard about the ‘Trump bump.’ I hesitate to say euphoria but one of the things that companies do when they are feeling super optimistic is ramp up their hiring plan,” Munger said. She added that deliveries of new apartments are slower now and “the market is decelerating a bit.”
Background on the apartment jobs report
“Our education institute is a credentialing body for the apartment industry. They hear often that one of the biggest problems keeping our industry leaders up at night is the difficulty in finding talent, attracting talent and retaining talent,” Munger said. “Labor-market issues are happening in a lot of industries, certainly with the tight labor market we have.”
So NAA decided to partner with Burning Glass Technologies. “They have a labor-job posting database that is proprietary,” she said, and they can “layer on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). We looked at that and thought we could do something that is really going to help the industry and help benchmark job titles and trends as we go forward.”
Total Rental Housing Industry Job Postings
“The number of available apartment jobs during the first quarter 2018 decreased from the same period last year, but came in above the 5-year average. Unsurprisingly, job postings are strongly tied to new apartment deliveries, which were at their lowest quarterly level in Q4 2017 in nearly four years according to CoStar Group. Also, the effects of the “Trump Bump” at the end of 2016, when business optimism increased dramatically as reported by the National Federation of Independent Business, could certainly be reflected in employers’ robust hiring plans for Q1 2017,” the report states.
Apartment jobs postings by major category
Apartment jobs for maintenance and writing skills in demand
Maintenance jobs continue to be one of the hardest areas to fill.
“That really fits in with everything our members tell us,” Munger said. “It is just one of the hardest positions to fill. There tends to be a lot of turnover. I think there is a lot of churn. There’s maintenance workers going from one company to another.”
Apartment maintenance jobs are not entry level “but it’s a position that doesn’t require an advanced degree either,” she said. “Just the simple fact that there are a lot more apartment residents out there, with a lot more maintenance needs. I did find that interesting too, that some postings were down but maintenance was up. It’s clearly in high demand,” she said.
The report also looks at the top baseline skills most important in 2018 and the impact of technology shows up in the requirements now for the baseline skills.
- Preventative maintenance
- Communication skills
- Detail oriented
“There are multiple ways you could put in a maintenance request, obviously,” Munger said. “But now you are seeing a lot of companies use apps. The other interesting thing that’s happening is the maintenance tech is interacting more and more with the residents without having the property manager as a go between or middle person. There are different types communications required across all these generations. I think you are seeing that playing out in these job postings,” she said.
“Even though there are communications skills in all these top five, it’s not good enough to just broadly talk about communication skills. I think that these job postings are getting more specific now. I think that’s where you are seeing that writing comes into the top five. Because you better be able to communicate back with your resident who is looking for a fix,” she said.
Writing key to responding to resident text messages and email
Writing is important “because the property manager isn’t necessarily involved in those interactions. In a lot of places that’s where the industry is trending,” she said.
Also the use of apps means writing is needed and “I’ve seen some of these apps, or at least demos of them. It’s pretty click, click, click. To provide the customer service, and make the resident feel like you did everything you could, and ‘here’s the update on your maintenance request.’ I think that requires a little more detail and some of that will be written in detail,” Munger said.
Role of the property manager is evolving
Just as the maintenance role is changing, so is the property manager job. While that issue was not part of the jobs report, there is a trend there.
“I don’t want to call them concierges, because that’s a different job. But I also think there are some property managers that are needing to be more mindful of events,” Munger said.
“Getting residents together, planning events, maybe dealing with outside vendors more than they have,” she said. And not in terms of vendors like a landscaper “they’ve been doing that forever,” she said. But more like a celebrity chef or “someone who comes into the building to do a quickie demo. That kind of stuff. I think in general they are having to think a little bit more about, I won’t say event planning, but something along those lines,” Munger said.
The role is becoming more than just a property manager. Munger said then “the hiring manager gets to a point where they say, ‘I need more than one whole person to do this job.’ So we are seeing more and more event coordinators in apartment communities,” she said.
Northern California challenge in filling apartment jobs
“I think it’s particularly interesting that you see Northern California show up here twice as one of those with the longest time to fill. You are so used to hearing about tech positions. I think they are having to deal with a limited labor pool because it’s such a tech oriented place.
“That’s just a theory, but I think that is kind of interesting that they are having a problem filling both those positions. And you can see that clearly the maintenance position is the lowest, lowest paid. Although, they do have a problem hiring leasing consultants too. “
The turnover rate challenge
Ellis Management Solutions has statistics showing the national turnover rate for jobs is 19 percent but in the multifamily industry it is 39 percent.
“I think, I’ll state the obvious, with the high turnover, you are going to have to go out to the market more often to keep your positions filled,” Munger said. “I actually have another report from CEL and Associates a company out of LA, and theirs is more like 32 percent turnover rate for the multifamily industry. But the maintenance job, the on-site maintenance job, is almost consistently the highest turnover year after year.
“Like any other industry, with a lot of turnover, there is that time that has to be taken out to bring the person on board, to do other hiring activities like background checks. So it’s costly and that certainly does not help the bottom line.
Apartment jobs summary:
Munger talked about the seasonality factors and seeing “a little bit of deceleration.”
“One thing I didn’t mention that I’m going to be curious about going forward is, we are hearing that because of the moderating rent growth – it’s still growing but not as fast as it was – that a lot of owners and operators are looking towards, either additional revenue sources or increasing their operational efficiencies.
“And I am wondering if this isn’t seasonal? If this is playing out here like, ‘Okay let’s take a step back and do we really need this position here? Can we get by with maybe not filling that other position?’
“So that’s something I hesitate to say after one quarter. I’ll be looking out for that going forward,” Munger said.
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