What Owners Want Property Managers to Know

Magazine ,

By Terry Godbey

1. We care deeply about our on-site teams and our residents.

“I care about the quality of life of my residents and my on-site teams,” said Nathan Collier, founder and chairman of The Collier Companies, which owns, manages, and develops multifamily housing. “My team members and my residents are like a marriage. If both parts aren’t winning, both are losing.”

Collier, based in Gainesville, said his company exemplifies a strong sense of stewardship. “We believe we have a duty, an honor, because we have been entrusted with people’s homes, and it’s so much more than four walls and a roof. If that doesn’t create a sense of responsibility in our teams, they are in the wrong business,” he said. 

2. We are open to better communication. 

Scott Zimmerman, a managing member of Banyan Development Group in Orlando, understands both sides of the owner-property manager relationship because his company also owns a management company, AGPM. He said he thinks it’s up to the property managers to reach out to the owners if they don’t feel like they are being heard. “It’s the senior management’s responsibility to properly manage the relationship between the on-site teams and owners. If the owners are asking for things that are unreasonable or taking up too much time when staff should be doing something else, it’s senior management’s responsibility to manage that expectation. 

“It’s important that they communicate to the owners what reality is and what is going on at the property level, what the issues are, what the opportunities are. And most owners are reasonable people, and they will listen to what the managers have to say. They won’t always agree with them, but as managers, their ultimate control is to say, ‘I’m not going to manage the property for you anymore if you don’t want to manage it this way.’ There’s always some push and take there.”

3. We have made it a priority to keep teams and residents safe.

Teresa Unrue, a regional manager for National Property Management Associates in Altamonte Springs, said the private owner of her communities has done a great job keeping everyone safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. “We have a responsibility to our residents to provide a safe, clean environment that they call home,” she said, “and the owner has been diligent about looking out for the employees as well.” 

She said the owner offered flexible schedules and some work-from-home situations. “He was very lenient as far as letting us provide our service in a way that protected everyone, and to me, that’s really big. I feel like our on-site teams recognized that because they thanked us and they thanked the owner, who personally reached out to them to see how they were doing.”

Lee Rogers, regional vice president of JMG Realty Inc. in Orlando, had praise for her owners’ handling of pandemic challenges as well. “They supported setting up a remote office if needed. If someone came down with COVID, they supported providing the testing and whatever was needed to give comfort to the employee.”

Zimmerman said the pandemic also affected the on-site team’s ability to respond to routine maintenance while limiting human contact. “We’re not used to that – apartment communities are very service-oriented. We were trying to protect our team members and residents and keep everybody safe. It was all new territory.”

4. We appreciate all the hard work of the on-site teams.

“All of my owners see the work the property management teams are putting in, they understand the stress, and they appreciate their work,” Rogers said. “I hear it all time.” On a recent Apartment Onsite Teams Day, she said the owners provided lunch and handed out gift cards. “The on-site teams were thrilled with that,” she said.

5. We have a lot on our shoulders, too.

Like property managers, owners are under more stress than ever. “They have investors and banks to report to,” Rogers said, “and their lenders were very nervous, especially in the beginning of the pandemic. They still have to pay taxes, utility bills, and payroll.” 

“The owners and lenders were all afraid there would be a massive default in the loans and we’d have pandemonium in the real estate market like we had in 2008,” Zimmerman said.

Additional stress was related to the desire to continue to maintain and enrich their properties as they did before the pandemic, Rogers said.  “They take pride in the service they provide.”