Condo property management has several unique challenges. Even though it is similar to managing other types of properties, there are a few things you’ll want to do differently. Everything begins with understanding the factors that differentiate the management of a condominium from other types of properties, such as apartments or single-family homes.
Key Differences Between Condos and Apartments
While both condominiums and apartment complexes involve managing multiple residential units and shared spaces, the differences lie in the ownership structure, maintenance responsibilities, decision-making processes, and the level of control that individual owners or tenants have over the property.
In a condominium, each unit is owned by an individual, while in an apartment complex, the entire property is typically owned by a single entity, such as a management company or a landlord. Condominium owners have the rights and responsibilities associated with their individual units, while apartment tenants have rental agreements with the property owner.
Condominium owners have a stake in the overall management and decision-making process of the condominium association. They elect a board of directors to oversee the management of common areas, enforce rules and regulations, and handle financial matters. In contrast, apartment complexes are managed by a centralized entity that makes decisions on behalf of the property owner.
Condominium owners are responsible for maintaining their individual units, while the condominium association is typically responsible for the maintenance and repair of common areas, such as hallways, elevators, and shared amenities. In an apartment complex, the property owner or management company is usually responsible for maintaining both individual units and common areas.
Fees and Assessments
Condominium owners are required to pay monthly or annual condominium fees, which contribute to the maintenance and upkeep of the common areas. These fees may vary based on the size of the unit or the amenities provided. Apartment tenants generally pay monthly rent, which covers the cost of the unit and the use of common areas.
Rules and Regulations
Condominium associations typically have a set of bylaws, rules, and regulations that govern the behavior and use of common areas by the owners and residents. These rules are enforced by the condominium association. In an apartment complex, the property owner or management company sets the rules and regulations for tenants to follow.
Resale and Rental Restrictions
Condominium associations often have restrictions on renting out units or selling them to new owners. These restrictions aim to maintain the desired atmosphere and stability of the community. Apartment complexes, on the other hand, are typically designed for rental purposes, and tenants have more flexibility in moving in and out.
How Property Managers Overcome Challenges
Knowing the factors that differentiate condos from apartment complexes is vital in managing each type of property effectively. However, a more thorough understanding of each factor is crucial in delivering stellar client satisfaction and preventing issues commonly associated with condo living.
Responsibility is Relative
When running an apartment complex, the responsibility to maintain the units falls ultimately on management. Tenants must follow a few basic rules, but the landscaping, maintenance, some utilities, and overall quality of the complex fall on the company renting out the units.
Condo property management is different because each unit is either owned by its occupant or rented out by its owner. If their appliance breaks, they’re responsible. If they want to update something, such as the kitchen counters or bathroom, they can do that—no problem.
But there is a grey area. What do you do when the tenants keep hideous decor or stash their full garbage bags on their balconies or patios? How do you deal with a broken pipe in an upper-level unit causing water damage on the lower floors? Most condos have limited parking, so how do you deal with tenants wanting to have lots of guests over, or more than just 1-2 parking slots?
These types of issues are where a clear, thorough set of community rules comes into play. Homeowner associations are often frowned upon, but they will help your condominium property management team stay in control of things.
Prepare to Mediate
When you manage an apartment complex, tenants don’t have a lot of authority. If a tenant is bothering their neighbors consistently and acting in direct opposition to the rules they agreed to in their rental contract, the complex has the authority to kick them out.
With condos, it’s not quite so easy. Similar to single-family homes in a neighborhood, these families own the property they live in. That makes it much more difficult to simply remove an unruly tenant.
Instead, be prepared to serve as a mediator between the tenants. You may not get them to see eye-to-eye, but you can at least try to help them work out the issues. Nobody likes living next to people they don’t get along with.
However, since occupants generally need to sell their condo to move away, it’s more of a hassle than moving out of a rented apartment. This extra hassle means people tend to stay longer, so any disagreements not dealt will only cause bigger problems later.
Have a Strong Contractor Network
Even though the owners are responsible for a major portion of the maintenance, there will be things you need to take care of. Landscaping, building structures and roofs, the pool, clubhouse, tennis courts, gates, etc.
While it’s tempting to hire someone to do most of this work and then turn your attention somewhere else, always keep your eyes and ears open for new contacts. It’s common for condo associations to get disgruntled with contractors at some point. By having a strong network, you will be able to replace poor contractors with better-quality ones quickly.
And remember—the condo association is paying you to do this job because it prevents them from having to worry about it! Simply being able to act quickly will help you keep a good reputation in the association.
Know the Community
Anytime you manage a property—but especially with condos—get to know the community. Just like any other company, not every discussion needs to be about business. The better your relationship with the owners, the more buy-ins you’ll have when tough decisions have to be made.
A great way to do this? Social events! You can set up an early evening barbecue or even a weekend bazaar where residents can sell or trade their stuff.
Other Condo Property Management Tips That Can Help
Managing condo properties can be a lot more daunting than apartments or single-family homes, simply because there’s an emphasis on a community’s collective needs. Here are a few more tips that can help you do a splendid job.
1. Sign Up for Membership with the Community Associations Institute
The Community Associations Institute advocates for best practices to be performed by providing professional development training, educational programs, and many other resources for communities and condominium managers.
If you are a member of the institute, you and your team can attend regular trainings and get certifications. This will be a huge asset to helping your community function more efficiently.
2. Make Sure You’re Not Overbooked
Many condominium management companies are property management outfits that have several other properties to look over. There may be the tendency to spread themselves too thinly and, as a result, many things are often left unattended.
For this reason, some condominium communities prefer smaller management companies to handle the job. That way, they are sure of getting the time and commitment they need to make their condo operations optimal.
Start off on the right footing by only accepting what you can handle efficiently. It can be tempting to take everything all at once, but it will benefit you in the long term if you don’t have too much on your plate.
3. Consider Being an On-Site Manager
On-site managers can be very beneficial. If they live on site, not only do they have a professional interest in keeping the community running smoothly, but they also have their personal interest at stake.
Some condo associations encourage their managers to live on-site for little to no rent on account of the job they perform for the community. Being both resident and manager enables them to assess things from both ends—as the client and as the service provider.
4. Conduct Regular Site Inspections
Condominium management isn’t something that can be done over the phone or computer alone. Odds are your community has a lot going on and many things need to be done—parking enforcement, maintenance, lawn care, waste services, and other items.
Conducting regular site inspections is important to ensure that you’re delivering the services needed by your condo residents. These site inspections can also help detect future potential problems with the property or even within a unit. Regular site inspections help to keep everyone safe and happy.
Nothing creates issues between service providers and their clients quite like the lack of communication. If there’s something that’s not being done or issues that aren’t being addressed in a timely manner, there must be loopholes in the communication flow.
The line of communication needs to be open between you and your community. There are many ways to do this, like sending out circulars regularly and setting a time of the work day when residents can call or approach you for their concerns.
You might also want to invest in property management software that streamlines the entire process of managing properties in a single platform. That way, you as the manager, will always be kept in the loop regarding individual resident concerns as well as community issues that need to be tackled.
At the end of the day, a condominium property manager will do a lot of the same things you’d find most PMs doing— talking with tenants, dealing with maintenance requests, addressing common area issues, etc. But because you’re in a unique situation of carrying out the wishes of an association of homeowners, you will find yourself doing other tasks (like mediation) more often than, say, an apartment manager.