A Day in the Life of a Manager Wearing Many Hats, Performing Many Tasks

 A friend of a property manager of a New York co-op recently remarked that “Superman has finally met his match” when a task came in that seemed to have the effect of kryptonite and slowed him  down—for a moment at least.  

 With managers constantly being faced with issue upon issue and people coming at  them at all directions with emails, phone calls and complaints, it’s not an unfair analogy. A manager is something of a superhero at the end of the  day.  

 A managing agent or property manager touches every aspect of a community,  whether it is on a personal level or a professional level. It is both constant  with day-to-day operations and filled with unexpected issues that arise and  become a priority. “Every day varies. There is an unrecognized complexity to our job,” says Georgia Lombardo-Barton, president of Barton Management LLC. “Talented managers possess a diverse background in accounting, finance, project  management as well as a more simplistic ability needed to handle people and  resolve problems. It’s not a single-dimensional job description.”  

 No matter what the size of their portfolio, a manager must wear a great many  professional hats: human resources pro, administrator, mediator, organizer,  social director, project manager, sounding board—sometimes even therapist. An on-site manager has more than his or her share of  responsibilities.  

 “One thing we deal with is that everyone feels their problem is important and  they should be first,” says Stephen Elbaz, president of Esquire Management Corporation. “It’s really no different than how a doctor treats the emergency room; the cardiac  arrest will always be treated first, yet everyone wants an instant, right away  response.”  

 Property management is really a two-fold relationship. But sometimes the  manager's role is misunderstood. A resident or a board member must realize that  the building’s policies are designed for everyone to follow and, as with any entity that has  its policies in place, there are also rules, regulations and restrictions,  which must be supported.  

 “We are only human, and do not have a crystal ball to predict the future and what  it will bring, or a magic wand to instantly make residents’ troubles disappear,” says Alex K. Kuffel, president of Pride Property Management Corp., with offices  in New York City and New Jersey. “We do not create the rules and policies of a building. That's the board’s job, and we are hired to merely enforce them. Without support, there would be  chaos and disorder, truly detrimental to any multifamily dwelling.”  

 All in a Day’s Work

 A typical day for Kuffel begins at 8 a.m. by checking messages and responding to  calls and emails appropriately.  

 “After that, we will call each building’s superintendent and go over with him any/all concerns, calls or matters  relating to the building in question,” he says. “We will also call our various vendors, and board members, as needed in the  course of the day.”  

 The day also consists of ordering supplies, directing the superintendent or  other building-related personnel, perhaps working with the building's engineer,  architect, or attorney, or other trades people, especially if there is work in  progress.  

 “We will go to the building at any given time to conduct an inspection, or meet  with a resident, or board member, or contractor for any number of reasons,” Kuffel says. “Additionally, the manager will usually meet with the Board of Directors for the  traditional evening monthly meeting that takes place. We prepare the meeting  agenda, and the monthly report, which will include a financial disclosure of  all paid and unpaid bills, including accounts receivables and a  shareholder/homeowner delinquency report for board review and vote, if  applicable, for legal intervention.”  

 Elbaz says that in addition to answering emails, calls and doing work inside the  office, an average building gets visited 1 to 2 times per week.  

 “We meet with the super, meet with residents who have repair issues or service  problems, inspect work that’s underway or completed, spot check supply orders and check general building  systems,” he says. “Most managers will create a laundry list of what needs to be done so on  subsequent visits you can make sure things have been done.”  

 Multiple Responsibilities

 A manager is responsible dealing with everything, say, from a leaky pipe at 129  Grand Street to producing and balancing a $1,000,000 budget.  

 Proactive tasks include preparing annual budgets, meetings with vendors on site,  handling conference calls with boards/professionals, handling annual meeting  preparation, negotiating contracts, preparing manager packages for their  associations, dealing with insurance claims, and speaking with board members to  keep action items progressing.  

 But they must also keep up with city laws and regulations and make changes when  necessary. Over the past decade, managers have had to deal with changes in laws  concerning lead paint, fire safety, sprinkler and standpipe, elevator  inspections and carbon monoxide detectors.  

 “Smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors have a service life of seven  years. Even though it lights up and tests, it will not detect it well. Managers  have to deal with that,” Elbaz says. “You could have 1,000 detectors that are useless and you need to deal with  facilitating the change.”  

 Right now, Kuffel is dealing with Local Law 11 issues on his buildings that are  in need of mandatory city filing and facade repairs. Local Law 11 is a New York  City ordinance originally enacted in 1980 to make building facades safe and  protect pedestrians below.  

 Good Characters Welcome

 A good manager must be of solid character and personality, and possess traits of  honesty, sincerity and integrity. Other important assets to have are good  organizational skills and discipline. It takes planning, follow through and a  proactive approach to successfully accomplish the job. Juggling dozens of  responsibilities is no easy task but the most adept managers can make it seem  rather easy.  

 “Portfolio property management requires long hours and constant attention to  detail, on a daily basis. However, we cannot do it alone and nor can we take  full credit,” Kuffel says. “We are most fortunate to have gathered and maintained over the years a  voluminous supply of professionals—including lawyers, engineers, architects, contractors, vendors and supply  houses, which we access every single day of the week. I could not imagine life without any of them. Indeed, they are an important part  of the ‘juggling’ act.”  

 No Ordinary Day

 When you talk with different managers in Manhattan, you will realize that over  time each manager has his or her own unique story or experience that is far  from what you might consider in the realm of their responsibilities. Some are  exhilarating, some funny and others can be nightmarish.  

 “A not-so-average day could consist of any unforeseen circumstance such as  handling a gut-renovation that caused a massive leak to the condo owner  beneath, who recently paid $20,000 for Venetian plaster in the affected area,” Lombardo-Barton says. “Winters are the most problematic time of year for agents. Boilers shut off; heat  distribution is erratic; water is not hot enough, etc.”  

 Kuffel has started a tree beautification venture, which is something unusual and  out of the ordinary for a manager. Thanks to his efforts, trees are in full  bloom and the building has a much nicer appearance.  

 “It began with the board’s desire to upgrade and beautify the building’s property, but they did not have a lot of money to spend. So, they decided to  purchase and plant some much-needed trees from the local nursery,” he says. “Of course retaining the nursery for this would have cost a small fortune, so I  took charge of the project, rolled up my sleeves, drove to the nursery early  one weekend morning, purchased the desired trees, loaded them in the back of my  pickup truck, drove them back to the building, unloaded them with the help of  the superintendent, then dug all the holes and personally planted each tree in  every designated spot.”  

 One thing that comes up maybe once a year or so is dealing with a unit if a  shareholder passes away and the apartment is sealed by the police.  

 “You need to determine who has the right to go in and that can be problematic,  dealing with siblings or family members,” Elbaz says. Other situations also require your attention. If an older person is  suffering with dementia, for example, they may act confused, wander the  hallways, and perhaps, leave the stove on or a candle burning, he says.  

 The Perfect Manager

 The responsibilities of property managers include a wide array of tasks, from  the physical to the administrative.  

 If I were to create the perfect property manager, “the top characteristic more than anything is they have to be well-organized,” Elbaz says. “If you don’t have that basic talent, you are doomed to fail. One should also be a good time  manager, have excellent people skills, a good knowledge of how a building  operates and the ability to follow-up.”  

 While many of these jobs involve concrete things—like sending out monthly bills, filing paperwork, or going to meetings—equally important is managing the people involved with the building.  

 Good customer service and promptly responding to the needs of residents and the  board is also paramount,” Kuffel says. “No two buildings are alike. Each one has its own personality and special set of  requirements. We also realize that these are people’s homes, and there is often pride of ownership at stake.”  

 Communicating, being courteous and open to their residents are also important.  

 “Property managers should possess a professional demeanor at all times,” says Lombardo-Barton. “Their emotions should not interfere with how a situation is handled.”  

 Elbaz says that a good property manager can eliminated a lot of the night calls  by maintaining the building, keeping up with inspections and responding to  calls and emails in a timely manner.  

 A tough job can be made a whole lot easier when you love what you do, and most  successful property managers usually love their jobs. And even a superhero can  attest that helping people makes a positive difference in the world around  them.   

 Keith Loria is a freelance writer and a frequent contributor to The Cooperator.

 

Related Articles

How Do You Choose a New Management Firm?

Questions to Ask, Criteria to Check

Finding the Right Match

Evaluating the Board-Management Relationship

The Board Generation

A Mix of Veteran and Younger Members Can Be an Asset

 

4 Comments

  • This is a good article in most part however; it seems to give too much credit to that one individual. I have been in the building services business for a very long time and my current property manager doesn't know a pressure relief valve from his nose. I agree that a property manager needs to have a broad knowledge of building mechanical systems. What happens when they don't? When their people skills fail under pressure? Perhaps you should write about those property managers. The ones that rely on others to do their job so it appears as if they did it, There are many of those and a few of the one's that have the whole packge. I carry my property manager and receive very little credit for it.
  • Very curious why you did not interview one of the guys/gals in the trenches instead of one of the Generals? Most of the owners of management companies only think they know what goes on in the field. Just saying.
  • How about doing an article on the responsibilities of residents!?! Especially in Mitchell-Lama cooperatives...need more focus that area of real estate in NYC.
  • Stop complaining, you all sound the same needy & bitter residents/tenants these managers have to deal with everyday. This article is just a general overview of what a property managers' responsibilities consists of on a daily basis. It's not meant to be dissected line by line, or make any manager look like Superman. Unless you're volunteering to write your own book on property managers with their strengths and weaknesses, then go ahead. We are all human and try to be as helpful as possible. Some are more than others.