Remember Stanley Roper from the 1970’s sitcom Three’s Company? To some, he might still be their idea of a property manager—the upstairs landlord or the guy you’d call when your plumbing’s on the fritz. And indeed, when the plumbing in your co-op or condo does spring a leak onto your hardwood floors and oriental carpet, or when it’s a freezing February morning and your heat is not working, the property manager suddenly becomes the most important person in the world. Today however, property managers do much more than fix plumbing.
As David Kuperberg, president of Manhattan’s Cooper Square Realty says, “It’s no longer making sure the floors are swept and the toilets are clean. Now, each building is a multi-million dollar corporation.”
If that’s the case, what do today’s property managers do, and how do they do it? How has the role changed over the past couple of decades?
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First, let’s look at how the position has changed since the days of Mr. Roper. Many experts mention the role of technology first and foremost, but there are other fundamental changes as well. According to Barbara Dershowitz, vice president of corporate development for AKAM Associates in Manhattan, a property manager in 2009 must be well versed in remote communication and computer technology, as well as all systems-based technologies, such as elevators, boilers, and ‘smart’ and ‘green’ buildings, just to name a few.
“Whereas the renting of a building and the collection of monies for a single landlord were once the sole responsibility of a residential property manager,” says Dershowitz, “today, managers must be masters of multiple trades, experts on current aspects of the field, and a superior communicator and people manager.” The field of residential property management, she affirms, now stands as a true white-collar profession, gaining in professional respect and starting to attract a new generation of highly educated practitioners.