kasey mcdonald
Ms McDonald has been in the industry for almost a quarter of a century. Image supplied.
  • Kasey McDonald has almost 25 years experience in the property management industry
  • Her role now is the national head of growth and leasing at :Different
  • She entered the industry at age 18, and has since worked in management and consulting around the globe

From purchasing her first home at the age of 18, to going on to become one of the most highly regarded property management consultants, we got to speak to Kasey McDonald about her experience in the industry.

Starting her career in the late 1990s, Ms McDonald is now the Australian national head of growth and leasing at :Different.

“My main role is to ensure that across all the structures I do manage: being the leasing field, and our compliance functions, are achieving target,” she said.

This means leasing properties efficiently and effectively, making sure properties are compliant, and delivering quality reports out in the field.

“So I make sure all of those three are seamlessly working together, that we’re adequately staffed, we’ve got the right processes and procedures in place, and collaboratively working with our product teams and engineers, making sure we’ve got the best tech, tools, and software for our teams to deliver their roles.”

­­­Entering the industry

When Ms McDoanld was 15, her family made the move from the Gold Coast to Darwin. It was there she landed a job at a café where she worked alongside her high school studies.

With plans to study physiotherapy, she said, “unfortunately I just didn’t quite have the mathematical brains to get me that far.”

Instead, she took an opportunity to work as a receptionist, after she graduated high school at age 18, for a real estate company thanks to her cafe supervisor’s partner mentioning a position was going.

“I then very quickly progressed into a property management role only after three months of being on reception.”

Also at age 18, she signed a contract on her first property in Darwin. At the time, the territory had a generous first home buyers scheme which allowed her to enter the market at such a young age.

“I had to save my own money. So, from the age of 17 to 18 I had to show a years’ worth of savings. I did it all myself and my parents didn’t help me.”

COVID-19 climate

When asked about the current property market for young first-home buyers, Ms McDonald acknowledged it’s harder than it certainly was for her with buyers having to jump through more hoops.

“I was very fortunate, my first property was only $150,000.”

She noted it’s harder with what the banks are currently asking for.

“You’ve got lots of people coming to inspections meaning you’re going to have to offer more money because you’re trying to compete against so many different people.

“(Banks) are wanting to see 12 months of steady employment history, if you’re renting, to see your tenancy ledgers to see if you’re consistently paying your rent on time – that there’s been no rental arrears, and no issues with that, and what you have been paying to try and determine where your affordability might sit well,” Kasey said.

Mentoring

After her time in Darwin working in property management, Ms McDonald relocated back to the Gold Coast.

“I was working in a business where I didn’t feel that I could go any further… I kind of felt like I was stagnant in my career.”

She stumbled across a local consulting firm, who focused on property management systems and tools, advertising a position.

After gaining the role and working for a couple of years, identifying business’s inefficiencies and working through them, she decided to begin her own.

“I felt like I couldn’t deliver what I needed to as a top level consultant and coach in the industry if I hadn’t actually felt the pain of being a real estate business owner myself.

“That’s what actually led me to be a business owner first, but my passion was the consulting and coaching side.”

Whilst running her real estate business, Ms McDonald was still consulting locally and with some of her customers who she consulted previously.

“I kind of kept going with my passion while I was also building my own business.”

She then began coaching full time about property management, which took her across Australia, New Zealand, and to the United States of America.

Australia vs New Zealand vs America

“There’s actually quite a significant difference between all three property industries,” she noted.

There are some similarities between Australia and New Zealand in property discourse. However, New Zealand has legislation, but no regulation behind them, unlike Australia.

“We (Australia) have what we call a legislation, but also a regulation that guides you around how you have to abide by that legislation. In New Zealand they don’t have that so there are some aspects of their legislation that you can interpret and kind of do what you wish.”

In America, the terminology is completely different and the industry is more privately managed.

“They call things: ‘making sure your home is rent-ready’, that you’re not called a business development manager but a ‘growth or sales manager’.

“I would probably say New Zealand and America probably have more similarities than the two countries do with Australia.”

:Different

Ms McDonald now holds the title of national head of growth and leasing for :Different.

A platform blending technology and expert property management agents, both owners and tenants have 24/7 access to an online platform with all the industry information and tools they need.

Launching in 2016, :Different has grown during the pandemic.

“Compared to traditional offices, they’re paying office rent and sometimes in significant amounts – they’ve got shop fronts and their customers are used to that. So they’ve had to change the way they’re modelled and structured, and their clientele need to get used to the changes.

“Whereas, we were already structured and modelled that way so our clients are used to it. Our processes, our operational structure – the face that we have some great technology being built behind us meant that we’re able to continue to grow and prosper as a business, as opposed to going backwards.”

Opportunities and threats

When asked about the property and leasing industry, Ms McDonald said there are both threats and opportunities speaking about Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland.

“There is still so much buoyancy in the market and each individual state goes through their peaks and their troughs, and I think that’s what we’re still finding kind of bouncing out of COVID-19 across all three states.”

She notes there are some areas where it is more affordable to buy than rent, especially with stability in mind.

“More importantly, investors are selling out of the market because their properties are going higher than what they ever had anticipated to go for, so they’re able to make that capital gain as well.

“So, we’re not seeing as many investors buying in, we’re seeing more homeowners buy into the market, and because if that we’re going to have less stock.”

In this climate, she discusses the role :Different plays by working with their clients around whether they have enough equity in their current properties to buy again, and providing information on what’s happening to an area they’re considering buying in and whether it’ll be a good investment.

“We’re also able to work very closely with our current cleints to say ‘let’s renew the leases for you so you’ve got the stability of those tenants’, and if they’re a great tenant looking after your property and paying rent on time.

“I think it’s about how we can work with our current customers across the entire portfolio in all different areas. How we educate them when a tenant is vacating, about what the market is doing, and what type of tenants are out there are actually looking, versus what might’ve been or who may have been looking 12 months ago.”

Advice

Advising those in the industry, or keen to begin, Ms McDonald said the biggest piece of advice to give is to look at real estate as a career.

“You’re dealing with someone’s biggest asset, and sometimes you’re dealing with more than just one, and it’s something they’re going to retire on.

“I think we need to take pride in knowing that we’re dealing with that as a property, we’re managing that property and that tenancy, but we’re also dealing with people.”

She said there’s legislation to be learned, empathy to have towards landlords and tenants, and to acknowledge there’s a level of service in the field.

“If you’re coming in thinking ‘it’s an easy job I’m just going to sit behind a computer, how hard can it be to manage a tenancy?’, think twice if that’s the kind of attitude you’ve got. You absolutely have to dive in.

“I think I’m the prime example of someone who gets in and actually sees this as a career. 23 years in property management now, and I think I’ve done and achieved a lot in my career, and that’s because I’ve wanted to.”

There are some elements of Ms McDonald’s career which have not been easy, especially starting her real estate businesses during the Global Financial Crisis on the Gold Coast.

“Everyone thought I was crazy. But I’ve always had the attitude of: ‘well if I can’t make it in a bad time, how am I going to make it in a good time.’

“I’ve taken a lot of learning away from my career, and for me I think it’s important to note not everyday is easy, and it’s still not… I’m still constantly learning all the time.”

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