REI Super Member Profile
For Cat Meredith, Senior Property Manager at Elders Real Estate Glenelg, property management is about personal connections, properties and, sometimes, rolling up your sleeves.
REI Super: How did you get into real estate?
CM: I wasn’t a great student and desperately wanted to leave high school. The only way my parents would agree was if I enrolled in a secretarial school which I did, but halfway through the course I applied and got my first job working as a receptionist for a property valuation company in Queen Street, Melbourne when I was just 18.
Since then I have worked for several real estate offices, always starting as the receptionist and working my way up. I’ve always been interested in real estate and have performed just about every role in the industry, apart from sales.
REI Super: What would you say are the main challenges to your role?
CM: Property management is a very challenging role because you have long term relationships with landlords and tenants alike and managing these relationships involves being the negotiator between the two. No one day is the same as the next and even after many years in my role as a Property Manager, there are always situations that I encounter that make me wonder why I still continue to work in this role!
I have a file filled with photos of horror final inspections, some are really shocking and some that are just hilarious.
REI Super: What do you see as your future direction in your real estate career?
CM: I think I'll stick with property management. Since starting here at Elders five years ago, I’ve enjoyed the job much more than I had previously. I get more opportunity to step outside the “normal boundaries” of the role.
I've helped several of my landlords with renovating their properties when they’ve become run down over the years, going so far as choosing paint colors, carpets, window furnishings etc and often picking up the paintbrush myself.
I get a lot of satisfaction out of being able to become involved in the makeover of a property and achieving much better rent returns and better quality tenants for the owners post-makeover.
REI Super: How has real estate changed since you started in the industry?
CM: When I first started working in real estate, if a potential tenant came to reception asking about properties for sale or for rent, the agent or property manager would physically drive them around to show them the homes we had listed.
These days the personal approach has been replaced by online media, open inspections, emails and SMS. I still take a personalised approach where I can - either speaking to applicants for properties or responding to emails personally rather than generic messages.
I’ve delivered heaters, hung curtains to get the job done quickly and limit the expense to the landlord. If it keeps the tenants and landlords happy then my job is easier.
REI Super: What would you say has been your biggest career highlight so far?
CM: Being nominated for Property Manager of Year by my boss. He’s nominated me every year for the past 5 years and even though I haven't won yet, it’s nice to know I’m appreciated.
REI Super: What sets you apart from the competition?
CM: My willingness to offer my own time to get the best outcome for all involved. I have built strong relationships by not taking sides when there’s conflict and by understanding both points of view.
A friendly honest approach makes overcoming issues a lot more pleasant and by offering to go above and beyond what’s expected my clients feel that I really do care about getting the best outcomes. When I’ve processed an application and discuss their suitability with the landlord I often reinforce my recommendation by saying “If I wouldn’t have them in my property, I wouldn’t be suggesting that you have them in yours.”
Recently I had an elderly lady moving into a block of units. She'd previously been renting her daughter's property, so she’d never rented through an agent. She was a bit concerned about upsetting the neighbours on her first day by blocking the driveway with the removal truck, so I typed up a letter and placed one in each of the neighbour’s letterboxes informing them that they were getting a new neighbour moving in on Sunday and that there would be potential disruption to access while she moved in.
Everything went really smoothly, and it prompted the neighbours to introduce themselves which she assures me had alleviated an otherwise anxious move to her new home.
Another time I had a unit open for inspection and met an older gentleman who was living on the third floor - he could barely walk so the stairs made life very difficult for him. He contacted me afterward explaining that he wanted to apply but had been hospitalised so I visited him at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and helped him complete the application form. The landlord ended up with a great tenant.
REI Super: And when it comes to your super, what kind of investor are you?
CM: Definitely set and forget. Hard to believe that I’ve been a member for 27 years! I went with the default investment option at the time, and it’s served me well since. I did have a couple of changes in employment in that time, even stepped away from real estate briefly and gone with the employer’s suggested super fund. But paying multiple fees wasn’t going to help me in retirement, so I’ve since consolidated them all into my REI Super account.
REI Super: Can you ever see yourself retiring?
CM: I don't think I will. I think I'll probably work until I'm really old and they’ll have to sack me to get me to retire.
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