I am interested in becoming a property manager, what do I need to do, education? I have no money to take courses – are there grants for this? Please advise me.
First, the basics: Assuming you want to stay in your home state of Montana, you will, indeed, need to have a property management license to engage in the core activities of property management.
That is, dealing with leases, executing rental agreements and marketing properties.
Montana’s one of those states that does not require a brokers’ license to be a property manager, so that makes things a lot easier for you to break into the field, because normally a brokers’ license requires two or three years of experience with a real estate agents’ license first.
But since Montana does require a license specific to property management, you’re going to have to take the classes and sit for the exam sooner or later, if you want to have a career in the field.
For everyone else’s benefit, here’s what Montana needs for you to get the property management license:
- High school diploma or equivalent.
- 30 hours of pre-licensing instruction from a board-approved school and instructor;
- 12 hours of new licensee mandatory continuing education must be completed by the second renewal date
- Pass the Montana Property Manager Examination (80% score or better)
- Fee: $60.00 License application fee; $35.00 one time recovery account fee; Renewal fee of $75.00
But what to do if you’re not able to do that? Well, it’s no good saying, “sell a house, agent, and use the commission to pay for the class!” because you’re probably not a real estate agent, either! So what are some alternative strategies you could use?
Find a Property Management Company
The simplest and most accessible is probably this: Find property management firms near you and apply for a job as an unlicensed staffer. Not everyone in a property management company has to hold a license. You can do any number of clerical, administrative, logistical or maintenance jobs for property management firms, and you can leverage your past work experience to add value for the company, even as an unlicensed staffer.
Why does this make sense? Once you’ve proved yourself as an employee, many companies will help you pay for your classes and your license.
We spoke with Sarnen Steinbarth, who is an experienced property manager and who has actually developed the curriculum for several of the most recent property management exams for the Montana Board of Realty Regulation. His school, Montana Property Education, located in Helena, Montana, is among those certified by the Board of Realty Regulation to teach the required classes.
According to Seinbarth, many of his students had been sponsored by their employers. “It’s about half and half,” says Steinbarth. “Half come in sponsored by their employer or by a third party, and half are doing it on their own because they want to have a license before they apply for a job.”
Failing that, you may also take a look at programs available through the Student Assistance Foundation. This is a private 501(c)(3) organization that disburses a large number of grants, scholarships and loans to students – generally based on financial need. They have a subsidiary called TruStudent which focuses on matching students with loans for educational expenses not covered by other financial aid programs.
The GI Bill. Are you a veteran? You may be able to use your GI Bill benefits to pay for real estate courses, even if they are not part of a degree program.
Specifically, you can use these benefits if you qualify for:
- The Montgomery GI Bill
- Montgomery GI Bill Selected Reserves
- Reserve Education Assistance Program
- Veterans Educational Assistance Program (VEAP) or,
- in the case of military dependents, the Dependents Educational Assistance Program
If you’re not a veteran, you may still get to take advantage of the plan if you have a family member who is. This is because unused Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits are transferrable from the servicemember to spouses or dependents.
A 4-Year Degree. Now, taking a long strategy, there are actually a few institutions that offer a four year degree in property management. Naturally, it’s more expensive and time consuming to pursue a four-year degree than it is to take a simple week-long course and then take an exam. But by entering a formal degree program, you open the door to a lot of potential funding assistance, as well, such as Stafford and Perkins loans (with government subsidized interest) and Pell grants. These programs are generally limited to those programs leading to a bachelors or graduate degree, though, and aren’t generally applicable to a 1 week trade school like the Montana property licensure course and the exam.
That route, of course, takes you quickly back to the Student Assistance Foundation, which helps administer all these types of funds. To preserve your options for need-based aid, be sure to fill out a FAFSA and get it in early, before all these funds are allocated to other students.
Writing about personal finance and investments since 1999, Jason Van Steenwyk started as a reporter with Mutual Funds Magazine and served as editor of Investors’ Digest. He now publishes feature articles in many publications including Annuity Selling Guide, Bankrate.com, and more.