15 December 2020
As the final blog of our graduate shadowing week series, Joshua Varghese reflects on his time in our Property Services division.
I spent a fantastic week in property services shadowing Mark, who is a Property Manager in Swindon. During the week I learnt about the life of a Property Manager and the rewards and challenges of the role. As well as completing site visits, Mark talked me through some emails so that I would have an understanding of how he manages customer queries and makes sure that they are happy with the services provided by FirstPort.
I was tasked with sending out YPO alerts (this is a bespoke software that we use to update our residents on their properties, it stands for Your Property Online). Alerts were sent out to customers notifying them of our visits during the coming week and providing them with the opportunity to make us aware of any issues or problems, which we could address when we were on site.
We visited four very different developments; Churchill Park, Ferndale Court, Erin Court and Scholars Place Estate. I was reminded of the importance of keeping the common areas clear of things like bikes and shoes, which could become a potential fire or health & safety risk. I also learnt how we communicate this to residents and work with them to limit any risks. It was great seeing the different developments, with a highlight being Scholars Place. This is an old school building which is impressively maintained in keeping with its grandeur. It was raining heavily during the day due to the tail end of Storm Alex, so I got quite soaked through having been ill-prepared for the wet weather. This taught me the important lesson that a Property Manager needs to be prepared for all eventualities!
I met Mark at the Braydon Mead development, which is set in a lovely estate in North Swindon, to identify what needed to be repaired so we could brief our contractors. Afterwards, we drove to Frankel Avenue and I was walked through a full property inspection. It was a great opportunity for me to learn what is involved in inspections and observe the minute details that Mark was constantly paying attention to; ensuring that the property is maintained to the highest standards possible. We also visited Newlands Area H70, Abbey Manor, Stackpole Crescent and Priory Vale. I found Newlands Area H70 Place a captivating development as the building has a lot of character and there was an incredible amount of open space surrounding it. After lunch, we visited two more developments, Area H13 and Chalice Place. Mark later helped me look through Leases to understand how they are integral to the Property Manager, especially when explaining budgetary decisions and service charge costs to customers.
Probably the most enjoyable day as I had a glimpse of the tasks and responsibilities Property Managers take on daily. Mark allowed me to set my own schedule for the day and make site visits on my own using a tablet to record each visit. I set the schedule using postcodes as a guide to split the areas into convenient sections. I visited Pheasant Close, Walton Grange, Mannington Court, Nightwood Copse, Shearwood Road, Area R41 & Area R41-B, Priory Vale and Burghley Fields. At Nightwood Copse, I conducted a full inspection and used everything I was taught in the previous day to evaluate the property. I met one resident who complimented Mark on the great job he was doing for the development, and it was nice to see that the hard work put in by a Property Manager is appreciated. The development that stood out was Walton Grange which had a quirky 80s vibe. Overall, it was great getting some hands-on experience of the type of field work conducted by a Property Manager.
Back to shadowing Mark, visiting Newlands Area H70, Priory Vale, Nightwood Copse, Area R41, Burghley fields and Shearwood Road. At one development, we visited a resident who had issues with disabled access to her property and wanted a ramp and power door. Due to the Equalities Act 2010, this is deemed as reasonable adjustment, so Mark assured her that this work would be carried out. It was good to understand how adaptable a Property Manager has to be to accommodate the different and varying requirements of residents. After lunch, I made my first procurement order to get a wall repaired at Nightwood Copse. I also called the Council to ensure they repaired a road lamp that was adopted near a FirstPort-managed development which was causing some issues for residents.
I joined the regional team meeting for Property Services. It was great to see the close rapport the team has with each other and the different characters. They were supportive of each other and were willing to go out of their way to help get the job done. After the meeting I read through the RICS code of practice for service charge residential property management – another essential document for Property Managers. Overall, the week was a great experience and I learnt so much about Property Services and property management in general.
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