Smart Choice In Hard Times? Maybe, Maybe Not Self-Management

For a building to run in accordance with the law and to deliver its owners and tenants the rights they deserve, good management is crucial. Most co-ops and condos hire a management company to provide the guidance they require; management companies make it their business to know the current rules and regulations for the buildings they handle, and provide services ranging from cleaning the lobby to signing off on multi-million dollar service contracts.

But buildings choose to pay management firms for their skills—they don’t have to. In tough economic times, when boards are looking to cut costs wherever they can, some may consider taking the self-management route. The question is: is it worth it?

It’s Easy If You Know How

Rochelle Captan has served as general manager of the Amalgamated Warbasse Houses in Brooklyn for over 31 years, but she doesn’t work for a management company. She is under the exclusive employment of her (big) building. The Warbasse Houses comprise over 2,000 families and claim their own power plant, shopping center, and professional office spaces. As big as it is, with Captan at the helm, this co-op is a self-managed one. To talk to Captan, you’d think self-management was a piece of cake.

“Sure, there are challenges, but I find them very exciting,” says Captan. “I can’t speak to anything truly terrible about [self-managing], even after 31 years. We have constant leak problems, we have to deal with snow removal issues; we have the various problems you’re going to have in any building over 45 years old. But I have such a good relationship with staff: I know them by name because most of our employees have been here 20 or 30 years. We work together to get things done. That’s what’s great about self-management.”

Captan’s close relationships don’t just extend to the staff. She credits her building’s success with self-management to fostering an open line of communication with the board, too. “They tell me what they need done and I do it,” Captan says. “I’m a direct line to all people—there’s no middle man. The board speaks to me directly so there’s no going through an agent. A close relationship with staff, board, and cooperators eliminates an in-between person.”

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