Do you live in a gated subdivision or in a condominium where common areas such as facilities, amenities, and open spaces are maintained properly? Are you satisfied with the services provided to you by the housing or condominium association?
If the answers to these questions are yes, chances are, your community is run by a competent property manager.
Who are Property Managers (PM)?
Property managers are real estate professionals in-charge of the day-to-day operations of the subdivision or condominium association.
PMs tackle and address the needs and concerns of the owners and residents. Their duties and responsibilities vary according to their engagement contract but usually include any or all of the following: communicating and interacting with property owners, residents, and guests; billing and collection of association/condo dues and fees; preparing financial reports; securing permits and licenses, and complying with other legal requirements; maintaining common areas, facilities, amenities, open spaces, and equipment; and supervising housekeeping, security, and other service providers.
Because of these huge responsibilities, selecting the right property manager is important to ensure that your home, office, and place of business are cared for properly.
Elizabeth Rabuy, chairman and president of FPD Asia Property Services Inc., in an interview, shared some tips on what to look for in a property manager.
WIDE ARRAY OF SERVICES. Most PM firms offer the same menu of services but veteran firms are able to provide services with depth and variety. Experienced and competent property managers will be able to handle a property at any stage of its life cycle, whether it has just been turned over to the association, is already decades old, or even if it has not received adequate care in the past. Truly customer-oriented PM firms can offer customization of its services without sacrificing its standards or economies of scale.
“Property managers are expected to be jack-of-all-trades but identifying the key concern of the residents or owners of the property allows us to field a manager whose strength addresses their foremost need. For example, if the association wants to develop a sense of community or communal responsibility among its residents, then we would deploy a manager with strong communication and tenant relations skills. If the property has a lot of equipment or is preparing to undertake major repairs or renovations, then we would recommend an engineer. Meanwhile, knowledge of accounting and an appreciation of financial reports are a must. It is ideal to have all these qualifications in one person, although that is not always possible. This is why bringing together the right team – from the technicians to the operations manager – is essential,” Rabuy said.
PROVEN TRACK RECORD. Property managers are expected to supervise service providers and contractors, and be familiar with property laws, building codes and regulations. However, not every property manager can have all the know-how needed and this is where engaging a PM firm with a proven track record can make a difference.
“Throughout their tenure with us, the staff undergo learning sessions with subject matter experts and receive regular training for both soft and hard skills. All our employees are trained in compliance with our ISO-certified quality management system.” Rabuy noted.
ATTITUDE IS KEY. “Attitude is very important,” Rabuy said. With the right attitude, not only will ordinary work be handled with speed and ease but issues can also be swiftly addressed, preventing them from turning into major problems.
Rabuy said her firm uses the PDCA cycle (Plan-Do-Check-Act), a standard requirement for ISO certification.
COMMUNICATION IS IMPORTANT. A property manager must be able to effectively respond to concerns, provide feedback, share information, or simply solicit suggestions. Rabuy said that it is a fair expectation that your property manager should be visible or at least within easy reach, physically or virtually. If working with a PM firm, then head office support through the operations manager is also a reasonable expectation.
DO NOT BE AFRAID TO PAY MORE. Depending on the community’s requirements, engaging a property manager may cost a minimal or a hefty sum. Thus, it is important to understand what’s included in the proposed services.
To justify the management fee, one should know how big of management and support teams will be required. Will there be demand for “ala carte services” from the PM’s central office, to be engaged on a “pay as you use” basis? Is the PM’s mother company expected to provide off-site and additional assistance to address needs beyond the usual scope of PM services?
A good PM firm will be upfront about how many people are needed onsite and why. “When we propose our services, we consider the needs of the property as well as requirements for operational controls,” Rabuy said.
In the end, it is important to narrow down your choices and put each potential property manager through a vetting process. Get other clients’ reviews, feedback, or testimonials.
Additional references include “7 Tips for Choosing The Right Property Manager,” by Richard Whitten (finder.com.au).
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Henry L. Yap is an architect, fellow in both environmental planning and real estate management, and one of the undersecretaries of the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development.