Professional residential management is a service industry, and some service providers perform better than others. To evaluate how your property's management measures up, it's necessary to assess both how the company functions as a whole and also how your individual managing agent is performing. To do that, it's important first to understand what professional management is supposed to do, and then to have a clear picture of what really good management looks like.
The Basic Menu
Every full-service firm worth its fee should provide management of your property's finances and accurate, up-to-date financial reports on a regular basis as well as oversight of your property's structural and mechanical elements. The firm should also supervise your property's staff, including hiring, firing and documentation of staff performance and it should provide appropriate and timely response to federal, state and local laws and to violations issued against your property.
You should also expect maintenance of accurate, accessible files and records for your property and preparation for—as well as attendance at—regular and special board, annual and other meetings of your property. Last, but not least, the firm should provide knowledgeable interaction with your property's other professionals such as legal counsel, accountant, engineer and architect in addition to effective responses to resident inquiries and concerns. Many management companies, either as part of their standard management fee or at cost above that, also offer ancillary services such as transfer and closing services, sales and brokerage, construction management, utility bill evaluation and refund application.
Evaluating the Firm
Assuming your management company is providing the basic service menu, you can expand your evaluation by looking at other areas like the firm's commitment to performance. "We operate our properties as though we were the owners," says Eugene Warren, a partner with Buchbinder & Warren, a Manhattan-based firm managing more than 100 properties. "We take on all the responsibilities of operating the building."
At Mark Greenberg Real Estate (MGRE), a Long Island-based management company that manages more than 50 properties throughout New York City and Long Island, vice president Jim Goldstick and director of management Steve Greenbaum attend just about every board meeting with their agents. "We're there to make sure that the agent has the benefit of all the expertise our company can provide. For boards to be most satisfied, they need not only back-office support, but also support from the principals," says Greenbaum, who calls this the MGRE Team Approach.