Management Matters Traits of Effective Property Managers

Management Matters

 In the first few years of this new century, the view was pretty rosy; it seemed  like property values would do nothing but rise forever. Monthly HOA meetings  actually attracted crowds. HOA boards even had extra money in their budgets.  

 Thanks to the recession’s continuing reverberations however, things are different nowadays. In most  South Florida associations, you can consider yourself lucky if the whole board—much less the residents—shows up for the monthly meeting. You are luckier still if you can actually hold  an annual meeting, or have enough residents who care enough to show up and make  a quorum. Arrears and foreclosures continue to menace the bottom lines of many  associations, while maintenance costs rise irrespective of residents' and  boards' ability to pay.  

 Given all that, it's a big job for volunteer board members to deal with the  day-to-day maintenance of a condo or homeowners association, let alone handle  complaints from disgruntled residents.  

 That's where the property manager comes in. It is for the above-mentioned  reasons—and many more, of course—that a competent, experienced property manager is an essential part of every  HOA's administrative team.  

 Explainer & Enforcer

 According to Joseph West, president of the Community Associations Network LLC, a  nationwide online resource for community associations and those who work with  them, “The role of the manager is to carry out the policies and directives of the  board, and to serve as an effective conduit between owners and the board and  vendors. Managers provide advice and counsel regarding the maintenance and  upkeep of the common areas, and provide accurate information for the board to  use in making decisions. They also handle the administration of association  matters and oversee the actual maintenance and repair to the common areas.”  

 New HOA residents frequently don't bother to read the rules and regulations of  their association, let alone take the time to really delve in and understand  them. Many unit owners only acknowledge the larger association when there is a  problem, and then only grudgingly. It is the responsibility of a good property  manager, in cooperation with a competent board, to clearly and effectively  communicate the association's rules, and enforce them fairly and consistently.  

 “When I used to teach managers,” says West, “one of the messages I tried to impart was that 'friends come and go, but enemies  accumulate.' Residents who like you may not run for the board, but the person you’ve sent violation letters to, or said no to, or ignored when they made a request—those people all have long memories, and they may decide to run for a spot on  the board. Do a good job on the negative aspects of management and you’ll be around a lot longer.”  

 According to William Douglas of William Douglas Property Management based in  Charlotte, North Carolina, "Understanding today's hiring and renting trends  means understanding that at times properties remain vacant, have new owners, or  are simply in need of management in a different way than they were in the past.  Therefore, companies like ours do our best to provide these management services  to property owners. We are flexible with our management style and with years of  experience, we can be relied on to provide what it takes —whether it's finding new tenants, renovation, financial management or providing  temporary financing."  

 A Changing Landscape

 With foreclosures at a 25-year high, and tenants/owners being evicted at an  alarming rate, homes change hands rapidly due to fast sales and bank-takeovers.  Millions of homes are sitting vacant, and are still in need of management.  Whether a property is owned by a new owner who can't do the upkeep himself, or  by the bank that doesn't have the time to take care of the property, there are  lots of different properties that are desperately in need of management. During  such fluctuating realty markets, the demand for property managers often peaks. These managers must possess an impressive array of communications skills, as  well as patience to deal with the problems of everyday living.  

 What does a manager need? “Communication, organization, general knowledge of just about everything and a  thick skin,” quipped West. ”Communication skills, both verbal and written are critical in the information  age. A manager attending a board or general meeting today, has just about every bit  of information about that association available at his or her fingertips, but  the ability to sort through the information overload and communicate the needed  parts in a manner that is effective, can help a board make good decisions,” he added.  

 In today's economy, there are tons of property management companies willing to  work with your community. It all boils down to finding the one that best meets  the needs of your particular association. To some people’s surprise, however, property managers are people, too.  

 To do a thorough background check, look at the operations and support systems of  your management company. Do they provide you with timely and accurate  information? Is their support staff organized, professional and happy to work  there? Is there a high rate of turnover? Do they have a good response time? How  long does it take to respond to phone calls, emails, letters? Are they ahead of  the curve? Do they support continuing education? Do they have a set of internal  checks and balances? What protections are in place to prevent fraudulent  activity? If your answer to these questions is yes, then your management  company is likely a professional and reputable organization.  

 In the end, all that really matters is that you live in a happy, prosperous  community where the needs of all of the residents are met, and the daily  maintenance of the facility is kept up. If these basic needs are not taken care  of, then it is time to look for another manager.   

 Adam J. Sinclair is a Florida-based freelance writer and a frequent contributor  to The South Florida Cooperator.  

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