The Long and Short of It Managing to Scale

Every co-op or condo community in New York City has its own personality and character, from the tiny 20-unit brownstone co-ops of the West Village to the towering modern high-rises of the Upper East Side. The wide range of sizes, demographics, expectations, and overall building personalities poses a special challenge to managing agents, whose portfolios might include both a 20-unit prewar and a 200-unit high-rise.

And up to a point, size does matter. A manager in a small, close-knit building may find themselves with four or five unofficial co-managers eager to give advice and oversee the minutiae of day-to-day building business, while an agent for a large, less familiar building may feel they're on their own when it comes to making decisions on the building's behalf.

The Universal Method

There are a host of tasks and factors that make up managing a property - dispute resolution, financial records-keeping, board meeting attendance, mediation and maintenance, just to name a few. As one might imagine, the size of most of these tasks is directly proportional to the size of the property; a high-rise with acres of marble in the lobby and hundreds of residents traipsing in and out will obviously need more lobby maintenance than a brownstone with a stoop and a foyer.

According to Margie Russell, executive director of the New York Association of Realty Managers (NYARM), "The biggest difference between a large building and a small building from a management standpoint is not the day-to-day administrative work - to pay a bill or negotiate an insurance policy is just a matter of the numbers being different - but the relationship between the manager and the employees and the manager and the residents.

Mass Communication

How does building size affect the communication process between board, manager, staff, and residents? There isn't a hard and fast rule, but large or small, it all comes down to the matter of the board and their involvement. According to David Khazzam, vice president of Manhattan-based PRC Management, smaller buildings with active, hands-on boards tend to like to be kept in the loop in every step of every project or issue that arises. Larger buildings, by contrast, tend to have a more of a "rubber-stamp" system, in which most of the legwork is done ahead of time by management, who then submits a bid or proposal to the board for their official okay.

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