Knowing the Ropes NYARM's School of Property Management

Helping veterans and newcomers alike to become certified accredited realty managers (ARMs), the New York Association of Realty Managers (NYARM) has been perfecting the skills of those in the field with their School of Property Management for nearly two years now.

The School of Property Management was created in 2004 by Margie Russell, NYARM’s executive director, as a venue for professionals already working in the property management field—as opposed to similar programs at NYU, Baruch, The Real Estate Education Center—and the Housing Education Program at the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). These property management curriculums also cater to those who are at an elementary level, or just entering the profession.

Prior to the launch of NYARM’s school, students had to attend classes at any one of several colleges or programs such as the ones mentioned above. The founding of the NYARM program marks the first time students can take classes at the same place they receive their certification. The school is an educational venue that is supported entirely on its own by the people who attend it, and as well as the certification program.

“The needs of those who want to progress in the field are much different than who want to enter it, so we devised a way to get right to the heart of those issues presently on the desk of the management professional,” says Russell.

The school’s curriculum looks to address and prepare its students for the challenges unique to the complex world of New York City real estate. Focusing on not just the upkeep of buildings, students discuss the perspectives of building tenants, the employees of the management company, and many other facets.

The school aims to present the real experiences of the instructors who have worked in the field while breaking the lessons down to the microcosm of daily management.

“We instill in students the ability to keep pace with the constant flow of diverse situations and challenges that take place each and every day,” says Russell.

The class sizes allow a maximum of 15 people, which makes for an intimate environment for all.

“It’s not just a classroom where you sit down and read. There is a real interaction with people. We all have our own problems to bring to the table and we learn how to solve them together,” says Lloyd Ware of Highbridge Community Development in the Bronx, who is currently taking NYARM classes for his certification in property management.

The courses vary between two to four classes each, with different ones offered every one to two months.

Enrollment is $190 for each four class seminar plus a $50 fee for study materials like textbooks, CD’s and any printed material that is distributed to students during the course. There is also a two-class ethics course that is required to receive your NYARM certification that has a $65 fee per class and is given six times a year.

In addition to ethics, there are five courses offered by the school: Local Laws and Administrative Codes, the Law and the Courts, People Skills, Expenditure Budgeting, and Fundamentals of Financial Management.

The building envelope and exterior systems, as well as mechanical and interior systems, beginning in January is the focus of Local Laws and Administrative Codes. The students gain an understanding of the hierarchy of local, municipal and other governmental laws that affect property in New York City. They also deal with techniques to track compliance with these codes.

The Law and the Courts class begins in March, and concentrates on contract law dealing with rehabilitation, construction and maintenance services. It also gives attention to landlord and tenant laws for New York.

The People Skills course, given in mid-summer, delves into how to manage and supervise employees, while also dealing with strengthening building/occupant relations.

Expenditure Budgeting emphasizes both variable and fixed-cost budgeting. Students learn to prepare and present an annualized expenditures budget for standard typical properties. This course is always given in September and October, just as property managers are working on their budgets.

And finally in November—just in time for the new year—is Fundamentals of Financial Management, which not only deals with payables and receivables, but also teaches the students how to read and interpret monthly and annual financial reports.

The Importance of Ethics

Russell says that every student is required to take the ethics course; it’s the base they use to explore important issues and lays out the foundation they need to evaluate situations.

Ethics is an essential foundation to the school and NYARM in general. The organization has their own Code of Ethics, which illustrates the dedication to raising standards for real estate professionals using not only education, but also legislative initiative, information as a whole, and a collective peer network. The code has eight articles and outlines the responsibility of the property manager based on not only moral behavior, but attention to precision and intelligence in the field.

“Every course has the ethical component woven throughout,” says Russell. “It is an essential aspect of what we do as professionals, and we teach the ethical and moral way with diligence.”

From the course work the students are able to gain their certification as a New York Accredited Realty Manager. The certificate is recognized by the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) and the New York Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD).

What mainly differentiates the School of Property Management from other schools is that it is designed for those that are currently working as professionals in property management.

“Basically,” says Russell, “I found the need to educate people that come from a base of knowledge. This school is for people that are in the industry, we target the issues we are dealing with right now.”

With that initial recognition of a need, NYARM moved into their current space at 500 Eighth Avenue at 35th Street in Manhattan, a building that has its Certificate of Occupancy for classrooms. Having space that legally holds 37 students, the foundation was laid. The last piece of the puzzle was Russell herself, who not only has 20 years of industry experience but had previously taught management classes at the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 32BJ.

“All the stars aligned to make the school possible, and I had the teaching experience and ability to create curriculums,” says Russell.

While Russell is the lead instructor for the classes, she hardly does it alone. Every class has guest speakers who share their experience in the specific areas with their students. Professionals from all over the region bring their ideas and credentials to the school.

Roni Abrams is one of the more popular guest lecturers. Abrams, who has more than 25 years experience herself, coaches people to become masterful in the art of listening and speaking to produce results. She is currently the president of Roni Abrams Associates Ltd., an educational training and management consulting firm. She has spoken at a wide range of conferences, conventions, and symposiums and has written many pieces on management across all fields including contributing to the Irwin Professional Publishing textbook Basic Sales Skills Business to Business.

A People Person

“Listening to Roni changed my whole atmosphere,” says John Cacaj of the Lefrak Organization in Queens. “I learned and benefited from what she said about dealing with others. I am now able to relieve my aggravation, and can breathe easier.”

According to students, one of the most helpful classes for all the students is People Skills, for which Abrams is a key guest lecturer. The course outlines how interpersonal skills are important for all the members of a building from the tenants to the employees.

“It really opened my eyes about management,” says Scarla Pineda, who has her own property management company, Cavalier Holdings, in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.

The People Skills class illuminates “how your attitude can affect your employees, and how unspoken communication can affect how you are portrayed and perceived,” says Cacaj, adding that the course helps students learn to work more effectively as a team.

At a recent class, Abrams emphasized to the students the need for communicating effectively. People are different, so they take information in differently, she says. “People communicate in a lot of different ways. We communicate through body language. You must listen to one’s tone. We communicate so much more than we ever know,” she told the class.

As a manager, one has to work with many types of people and constituencies from supervisors to workmen to the tenants in the building, Abrams explains. It’s also important to listen and take in information before making a decision, before reprimanding someone, or over-reacting to something that might turn out to be trivial in nature.

Teaching the students about Local Laws and Administrative Codes also helps the students discover how correct procedure can greatly increase their managing efficiency.

Ware was used to a certain amount of anxiety about compliance with Section 8, a housing code that has certain criteria that must be met in order to allow the city to pay a portion of the tenant’s rent. He had experienced difficulty in gaining access to tenants’ apartments for inspection and repairs, and worried he would be found non-compliant if he was unable to carry out his tasks.

Thanks to NYARM’s Local Laws and Administrative Codes course however, Ware learned that it was important to ‘CC’ the letters he wrote to the Section 8 Housing Division to his tenants as well. That enabled him to hold the tenants responsible for any negligence on their part, and also enabled Section 8 administrators to contact them directly.

“The course showed me how to communicate with the tenants and how they too are responsible,” says Ware.

The school combines a concise curriculum with night and afternoon classes that meet once a week, mainly on Friday afternoons.

“The best part of the curriculum, especially for those who do not have the luxury to commit themselves to a lengthy course of work is that we constructed each of the topics with the most salient points in mind,” says Russell.

Since the students are also in the field, juggling schedules can be tricky; however the school is quite accommodating.

“There was never any infringement upon my professional time,” says Ware.

Another key component to the school is the students themselves who bring their own experience in the field to the table.

“It’s been great the way the classes are structured. We learn from the instructors and also from each other,” says Pineda.

Pineda’s company focuses on small property owners and the school exposed her to new insights from people who deal with large buildings and co-ops in the city.

An added bonus to the school is that a network of contacts is created when different New York professionals are brought together.

“I’ve gotten business referrals in the classes not only from other managers but also contractors, attorneys, architects, and people who aren’t just managers but also in the industry in other fields that are tied to property management. It’s a great networking tool,” says Pineda.

If you are in the field of property management and would like to gain your certification, the NYARM School of Property Management offers a terrific opportunity to bring your skills up to the next level. NYARM membership is not required to receive certification or attend classes nor is there separate pricing. For further information or to register for future classes, contact Russell at 212-216-0654 or email school@nyarm.com.

“The school is an outreach to the entire real estate community,” says Russell.

Ross Whitsett is a freelance writer living in Manhattan.

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