How To Avoid Property Management Failure
Think property management is just cleaning and snow removal? At Bisnow's Boston Property Management Summit yesterday the experts told us it's also about assembling the right team and using the latest technology. (And also snow removal.)
WinnResidential's Brian Kean--with Colliers International's Robert Brierley (our moderator and an event sponsor) and Zurich's Jeff Shearman--says that sustainability is major for Winn and its clients. Some mill buildings that it recently converted into housing are LEED certified. In others, it's working with the HUD to develop a financing program to make mechanical systems more energy efficient. As it expands into New York, Winn (one of the nation's largest affordable housing owner/managers) is encountering lots of "low tech" buildings, often with steam heat. (Just like them ol' riverboats Huck Finn used to ride.) Making them more efficient can translate into substantial savings, Brian tells us.
Jeff Shearman, a risk engineer for Zurich based in Pittsburgh, says that as new construction and renovation activity ramps up in the big cities, he's finding owners increasingly concerned about security. But it's critical to make building safe without turning them into fortresses. (You shouldn't have to be James Bond to get into your office.) Meanwhile, a year after superstorm Sandy, owners are taking new measures to safeguard properties against flooding. As cash-strapped municipalities reduce the number of firefighters, eliminating all possible hazards is increasingly important. While introducing green features is great, owners should work with consultants to avoid problems like rain-soaked sod on a roof not designed to support the extra weight.
In building a team, Lisa looks for people who are eager to learn and calm in a crisis. (Might we suggest Tom Brady?) The 20 years she spent in the military (on active and National Guard duty) taught her that you may not get along with everyone on your team, but it's OK if you can rely on them to think clearly in sticky situations. When doing energy efficient retrofits to the South Shore buildings she manages, she considers the project cost, ROI, how much the change will benefit the owner, tenants, property and environment.
Property management teams are lean but hiring, says Jeff Rines, a former Marine. In interviewing a job applicant it only takes him five minutes to determine if they'll work well with tenants. He can sense if they have drive, vision, and the determination to work hard. When he finds those people, he's happy to train them, which can take "a solid year." Technology is a top team member. With a smartphone, he can be on site to handle an emergency without physically being there. He likes the government-sponsored dedicated emergency telecom network that runs even when landlines and mobile networks don't.
Commercial real estate, one of the largest industries, is one of the most difficult to break into, says Carl whose company has spent $260M buying properties inside Rt 128 since '11. His mantra: Buy right; borrow little or at low rates. This is a great time to borrow money, he says. (Tell that to our parents.) Each year, The Hamilton Co builds one new, green building but BRA sustainability requirements have introduced him to new possibilities. To build his team, he looks for tech savvy young people who can work independently, make decisions, and get along with contractors and tenants.
NSTAR's Greg Senosk, an event sponsor, attended with colleagues Kim Cullinane, Jodi Beebe, and Patrick McDonnell. They want everyone to know about the incentives and long-term benefits for customers who introduce sustainability features. Commercial property owners who do new construction can receive immediate savings with incentives and save as much as 25% on their total energy cost per year over the life of the building. There's money on the table and we want to be sure our customers take advantage of the opportunities, Greg says.
Event sponsor LifeStart CEO Mike Flannigan has set up gyms in commercial buildings: Tishman Speyer's 125 High St last spring, a building in Claysburg, Pa. four months ago and in Harahan, La. two weeks ago. In the next two months, he'll open three in Chicago, his home base in 100 S Wacker, 525 S Van Buren and in suburban Itasca.