Self-Management in Stressful Times Some Communities Go it Alone—Others Outsource

While many condominium associations and co-op corporations hire professional property managers or management firms to handle the routine (and not-so-routine) tasks involved in running a multifamily building or HOA, a significant number take the opposite route, eschewing formal management and running their properties themselves. While most of these self-managed communities tend to be on the smaller side, self-management can be successful at any size, from a handful of units to hundreds. 

Self-management involves numerous skills, however; everything from accounting to minor home repairs may need to be handled directly by the board, rather than being delegated by a manager or firm. Obviously, anyone with a plumbing problem can call a plumber; you don’t have to be a professional manager to intervene when a leak rears its head. But that said, the most successful self-managed properties are those that do have a range of practical skills distributed between owners, and a positive, community-oriented view from members. It’s a ‘pitch-in’ sort of atmosphere, and it’s not for everyone.

The arrival of COVID-19 has had major implications for all properties and their management, of course, but the pandemic-related restrictions on close personal contact has had a particularly personal effect on smaller, self-managed communities. The Chiagoland Cooperator spoke with several self-managed community leaders to understand how the global health crisis has changed the way they live, and how they manage themselves.

A Condo Grows in Brooklyn

Benjamin Weinstein is the vice president of a 10-unit condominium building located on Lorimer Street in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, New York. The five-story elevator property was built in 2018 and is 100 percent sold. 

Weinstein explains that when the association was originally formed, they had outside management. However, with minimal reserves and the residents and board both very conscious of spending and keeping an eye on money, the community reconsidered their situation. “Having off-site management was expensive,” says Weinstein, “and we weren’t getting the quality and attention we felt we paid for. We had the experience we needed in the building; one owner was a real estate guy, another a financial consultant. We felt confident that they could cover the basics. Two members are compensated with forgiveness of some common charges. Economically and in terms of skills, it made sense for us. We started to self-manage a year ago, and it’s made life easier in many respects. We can deal with everything right away, in real time, without waiting for the manager to respond. It didn’t make sense to continue outsourcing the management function—so we eliminated the middleman.”

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