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How Much Say Should the Owner Have in the Community Manager?

Community manager

Regardless of when the owner meets the community manager during the hiring process, the encounter will have great influence on who runs the property.

Robert Murray, Senior Director of Asset Management for TruAmerica Multifamily, likes to meet the people who will be involved with managing his assets. 

“You want to get to know the team in order to see if they have the right qualifications and a strong understanding of ownership goals for that specific community,” he said at Apartmentalize.

Not all property management companies, however, are eager to provide access to their managers at that stage of the process. Their concerns are warranted. Maybe they see a situation where the client may love the manager’s experience or the feeling is not mutual. Or maybe the client is turning away from using a good management company because of a bad impression they have when meeting the manager. Or maybe the building is a lease-up with a long time horizon before it will open and no one is sure who will be in charge when it opens.

If Greystar is looking to hire a new community manager, Senior Managing Director Lisa Taylor will encourage the owner’s asset managers to interview the top candidates or at least look at their resumes. “It is important for them to know who this person is and why we selected them,” she says.

Even if an owner does not meet the manager as a result of the RFP process, it has a huge influence on who will manage the building.

Once the manager is on-board, if the owner does not like him or her, property management companies do not have a lot of time to show positive results.

Therefore, the choice is critical. Because if they don’t perform well, they will need to start the hiring process again.

“[If the property manager who is hired is not working out], you can only defend that person for so long,” Taylor says. “[If our clients object to the hire], we have to listen to what our clients are saying. The asset manager expects us to perform at the top of the market and to the full potential of the property.  You cannot do that with the wrong people in place.”

After a second or third complaint from the client, it’s usually time to switch managers.

“These [managers or management teams] are not bad people,” Murray says. “They may be qualified to work in the industry, just not for a particular community [based on that set of circumstances].”

TruAmerica, which prefers to employ multiple, best-in-class managers instead of going with a handful of third-party management firms, is data- and process-driven. For instance, the company is utilizing more and more business intelligence and expects its managers to be on board with the most current technology for operations, marketing and expense management.

“Finding people who can understand this technology and analyze new and everchanging technology means raising the level of qualifications you want in that hire,” Murray says.

While technology is a priority, communication is even more important. Taylor says it is essential for owners and management companies to have a conversation about the best way to communicate about operational issues and then to determine whether it’s through texting, emailing or phone calls.

“It’s important for us to listen to asset managers and be flexible and adaptable,” Taylor says.