Agent Spotlight: Gemma Hayes, associate director of asset management, Realmark Commercial

20 March 2024

"We spoke to Gemma about the commercial landscape, shifting gender expectations within her team, and advice for those thinking of a career in real estate."

Like many successful real estate professionals, Gemma Hayes never initially saw herself working in property.

But after a 12-month maternity cover role as an assistant property manager, Gemma became intrigued with the world of commercial real estate and hasn’t looked back.

Now in her eighth year in the industry, Gemma serves as Realmark Commercial’s associate director of asset management, leading a team of 16 with over 500 properties in her portfolio.

We spoke to Gemma about the commercial landscape, shifting gender expectations within her team, and advice for those thinking of a career in real estate.

How did you get involved in real estate?

Originally from Ireland I came to Australia and worked as an area sales manager for five years before taking on a temp role in commercial property management, with the full intention of returning to HR afterwards.

I found myself really interested in the commercial property space and I was asked if I wanted to complete my certificate with REIWA and manage my own portfolio, which I accepted. Coming from a retail background, I found that I had transferable attributes and skills to allow me to dive into the challenge which became incredibly rewarding.

Has your focus always been on commercial real estate?

I’ve been purely immersed in the commercial sector since joining the industry and I've evolved throughout my years in that space. What originally captured me was my understanding of customer service and team leadership from previous roles which I believe is a predominant factor to my success in my current role and my role as a property manager. My curiosity about the inner workings of the assets, environmental shifts and tenant liaison changed how I operated as a property manager.

From there my goal was to change the perception that property managers are rent collectors by ensuring that our team is equipped with the knowledge and expertise to understand the asset and maximise outcomes for both tenants and clients while assisting owners to create a space that people want to work in every day.

What does a typical day look like in your role?

No two days are ever the same, and that’s something I love about this role. I manage a team of eight property managers, three facilities managers, four trust accountants and two assistant property managers. 

I focus on maximising opportunities, business development, and educating our team. I want to ensure that our property managers are well-rounded and understand the holistic approach to property and asset management.

With International Women’s Day earlier this month, do you have any insights to share on female real estate professionals?

To this date I've had a good experience in the industry, and I have been lucky to have both male and female role models which have shaped my career and gave me the platform to thrive. However, I have seen certain challenges for women entering the commercial space particularly in the areas of sales, leasing, and valuations for example although I believe this is changing rapidly and we will soon see an even divide.

I encourage the team to be aware of unconscious biases and focus on expressing their skillset regardless of gender, age, ethnicity. I consciously believe in equality and fairness, and I think it is important that recognising and addressing unconscious biases is crucial for promoting diversity, equity and inclusion in all areas of society, particularity in the workplace.

What does the commercial landscape look like currently?

Currently, the commercial landscape is undergoing a period of education, from legislative changes and environmental parameters along with new clients entering the sector. We've been actively guiding new owners on their roles and responsibilities, as we observe a growing interest in creating efficient and comprehensive workspaces for their tenants. Landlords are increasingly seeking to foster better relationships with their tenants, aiming to reduce turnover by understanding their needs and preferences more deeply.

One particularly exciting area of growth for us is within the medical sector. We're experiencing a surge in investors and tenancies from medical and special needs accommodation providers. While we continue to handle the more traditional office spaces, shopping centres, and industrial leases, delving into this new realm of medical space presents intriguing opportunities for us to explore.

What is your advice to someone thinking of a career in real estate?

Real estate can be challenging but highly rewarding, so I would strongly recommend people just give it a go. There are several opportunities within the industry that there is never a dull moment.

Your career isn't restricted to a single sector. You could start off in sales or property management and eventually transition into development, investment, or tenant representation. The opportunities within the industry are vast and diverse.

I’ve also seen some fantastic talent come out of grad programs, so I recommend people research the options that are available to them and find something that works for them and their goals.

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