Exploring the Value of Property Managers

3 min read

This month’s issue explores the extremely specialized and essential field of affordable housing property management. The feature article (Driving the Dollars, p. 24) explains that the recipe for effective property management includes a mix of the right people on staff, strong policies and procedures, low turnover, and good marketing.

Many affordable multifamily tax credit housing owners understand the critical importance of effective property management, and perhaps that is the reason why many choose to expand their business operations and vertically integrate management functions. This often allows for more direct control over the development of policies and procedures and greater discretion over staffing decisions.

Expanding on the main article, I’d like to take a deeper look at different trends that we at NH&RA have encountered as we talk with owners from around the industry; specifically how they are attracting and retaining the best, most qualified property management staff to improve portfolio performance and, therefore, the bottom line.

As with any other specialized industry, finding and developing the “right” people is critical. Several owners have begun recruiting from university and college property management programs to ensure that their entry-level management professionals are exposed to all aspects of the field even before they are on payroll.

For instance, Virginia Tech’s Department of Apparel, Housing, and Resource Management has developed a Residential Property Management option, while Drexel University’s College of Engineering offers a Master’s and Bachelor’s degree in Property Management. Both programs require specific property management courses as well as general business, housing, and real estate courses that are geared toward developing a well-educated management workforce that can handle the specialized nature of the profession.

Equally critical as finding the right personnel is retaining and engaging property management staff, who have much different personnel needs and often do not interact with the corporate office on a regular basis.

Some organizations employ dedicated staff that travel among properties to conduct on-site training for a designated period of time. Some trainers stay at a site for a few days, others for months, but owners have found that management staff is more likely to succeed by learning first hand from someone familiar with the intricacies of Section 42 compliance and those who possess a deep understanding and can communicate how to income-qualify tenants. Other companies have found success with mentor/mentee programs or using social media platforms to engage remote site staff.

In the end, the important takeaway that the majority of owners would agree on is that the success of the management team is critical to the financial success of a property as well as an affordable housing portfolio.

Caitlin Geary Jones is Director of Advocacy and Programs at National Housing & Rehabilitation Association