The multifamily construction boom is in full swing across the nation. And there has been a lot of talk about the lack of skilled tradesman and construction workers needed to build the thousands of new apartment communities that are springing up across the country. But there is another labor shortage that isn’t getting as much publicity that is affecting not only new construction communities, but existing apartment communities as well: a serious lack of on-site leasing professionals.
It seems that the new construction is a vicious cycle. Not only are developers having problems finding laborers to build their new properties, but all of this new production is putting a strain on hiring and retaining leasing staff.
Just ask Sally Henkel, president of Henkel and Associates in Minnesota. “In Minneapolis it’s 100% due to all the new construction. Everyone is working, and there’s no pool to draw from. What’s left in the pool is murky…leasing and maintenance are the two positions with the least applicants”.
With all of the new developments hiring, it’s very easy for talented leasing professionals to literally have their choice of new opportunities. Christy Harris of Houston, TX lost her entire team on a new lease-up in the first 90 days her property was open. Three of her associates left to join competing properties.
Another Houston manager echoed Harris’s sentiments: “I get them hired and trained and then they are gone within six months. There’s so much new product here…and who doesn’t love to work with fun, exciting new product? I just wish things would slow down and stabilize so maybe we’d have less turnover.”
But is it only the new construction that’s creating the shortage? Some managers I talked to had concerns about work ethic.
For Regional Property Manager, Donje Putnam, it’s more a shortage of talent than it is a labor shortage. “It’s easy to find people. What’s hard is finding people who care enough, much less those that go the extra mile for your residents.“ But Putnam also thinks maybe our industry needs to place a greater value on the position of the leasing professional. “It’s also hard to find people who can sell and do the paperwork and accounting. I think that’s particularly hard, especially when we act like a leasing position is the bottom rung. We make our best sales people want to move to assistant and they aren’t as good at that,” says Putnam.
And for some, what’s out there simply isn’t what they are looking for. “The experienced ones are coming to the interviews with piercings in their faces, dressed inappropriately, reeking of cigarette smoke, making blatant fair housing faux pas and just generally underwhelm me,” said Harris.
And a few managers think it’s simply “The Perfect Hiring Storm”:
- Thanks to the new construction across the country, there are numerous jobs available for qualified leasing professionals and the competition for those who are experienced is fierce.
- Millennials are the vast majority of job seekers, and have higher expectations of pay, promotion and entry position than many companies can currently provide.
Multifamily doesn’t appear to be alone in their frustration with the current labor market. A recent article in USA Today discussed the labor shortage. They stated in no uncertain terms that the situation will get worse before it gets better. Why? People are retiring. With the oldest Baby Boomers approaching their 70’s, more and more people are simply leaving the workplace. And employers are scrambling to fill the job vacancies that are being created. Boomer retirement is scheduled to create 31 million job openings.
So what can you do to find (and keep) talented employees? Here are a few tips to help you out: