Back to School Continuining Education for Property Managers

Back to School

 With multifamily buildings, who is in charge of the property and how well those  people are trained are critically important factors in the successful operation  of the community. Board members are a part of this management class, which is  often shepherded by a competent property manager. But all property managers are  not equal in their abilities and knowledge; the smarter ones try to bridge the  gap.  

 The best property managers stay current in their industry by keeping abreast of  new developments in building technology, administration and communication.  While networking with other professionals is a way to stay up to date and  reading industry publications like The Chicagoland Cooperator also helps, few things are better for a manager’s professional development than taking continuing education courses.  

 Where to Learn?

 Opportunities abound, since there are many classes and enrichment programs  available to Chicagoland’s property management professionals. These programs are not only an industry  requirement for some, they also help improve one’s professional skills and can help advance careers. Maintaining certain  professional accreditations with industry associations also necessitates taking  such classes. And to professionals like Randy Rosen, president of Rosen  Management Services in Chicago, continuing education is essential to  competency. “I am a big believer in people being licensed, getting professional designations  and continuing to learn their trade,” Rosen says. “I also believe that formal classes—whether in a classroom setting or online—are essential to property managers keeping abreast new innovations, ethics and  so forth.”  

 According to Alan Toban, founder of the Real Estate Institute in Niles, the  state of Illinois requires property managers have a brokers license if they  provide any service that aids in the selling or leasing of property, as of  2012. Community Association Managers (CAMs) are also required to hold licenses,  according to the Community Association Institute’s Illinois chapter (CAI-IL). There is a 12-credit-hour continuing education  requirement for each two-year renewal cycle that property managers must fulfill  in order keep their licenses valid. Out of the 12 required CEU hours, six have  to be out of a category considered to mandatory and cover topics such as fair  housing, federal anti-trust issues, Illinois property law updates, instruction  on working with the public and handling agency relationships, Toban explains.  Elective courses include topics such as risk management and ethical practice.  Property managers looking to gain CEU credits to renew their licenses can earn  12-credit hours through REI’s self-study program for $85. If only interested in taking a single enrichment  course, REI has options starting at $35.  

 Multiply & Diversify

 Property managers must wear many hats in their jobs, and this means having a  strong understanding of all the different facets their position entails and  more. “The marketplace needs are always changing, so in order for property managers to  really stay on top of changes, they really need to keep up educationally,” says Sharon Peters, public relations manager of the Institute of Real Estate  Management (IREM) based in Chicago. “The requirements and duties that they had 20 years ago have evolved. A lot of them are getting into asset management in addition to being responsible  for bricks and mortar. If they really want to up their mobility in a career,  then we encourage all of our members to take classes. Because things are changing, and if you want to succeed you really need to  pursue lifelong education,” Peters says.  

 IREM provides education to those in property management with two designations—Accredited Residential Manager (ARM) and Certified Property Manager (CPM). The  CPM designation requires more time and is more focused on property and asset  management. Asset management looks at the operational management and the income  side of the property, determining how to get the highest return. IREM offers a  wide array of courses to help property managers get up to speed with these  ever-growing responsibilities, including classes in marketing and leasing,  finances, asset management, human resources, real estate management law,  maintenance, operation and risk management, according to Lynne Magnavite,  senior director of education at IREM. The classes are each eight hours in length and either run over a two or four day  period, and are available all throughout the year. The average IREM member rate  per class is $599, while the average non-member rate is $745.  

 Those who are interested in seminars but with little free time in their schedule  can sign up for various webinars. Community Associations Institute (CAI) offers  multiple live and on-demand webinars with presentations such as Watch Out! Crime Prevention Done Right, Beat the Clock: Marathon Meetings No More, Best  Practices for Worst Cases: Emergency Planning and Recovery, and Culture Club: Diversity in Association Management, among others. Webinars are $69 for CAI members and $99 for non-members. They  provide one credit hour towards Certified Manager of Community Associations  re-certification, Association Management Specialist re-designation and CAM  re-designation.  

 Experts often say the single most important characteristic of a good manager is  people skills—a trait that is considered by many to be an innate characteristic, but which can  be learned. “Buildings and brick and mortar are easy to manage,” Rosen says. “Learning to how work with the people who live in them are the skills that  property managers need: customer service skills, communication skills —both verbal and written— being able to communicate with owners and address their problems and issues.”  

 CAI addresses the need for property managers to learn how to keep the lines of  communication open with their associations and how to keep cool in heated  situations by providing multiple courses offering lessons on improving customer  service skills such as M-202: Association Communications, which provides  managers with the tools to identify and respond to owner needs, address  complaints and diffuse anger and manage public relations.  

 Continuing Ed

 Larger management companies also offer their own in-house instruction or greatly  encourage their property managers take continuing education courses. Some  companies, such as Rosen’s, will even pay for the certification or continuing education of an employee. “We certainly believe in continuing education,” Rosen says. “We have everybody in our office who manages associations licensed. I bring  speakers into my office once a month to help educate my associates. We have  attorneys who speak about the Illinois Condominium Act and the implications of  that act, how to conduct meetings, collection issues, foreclosure issues,  association insurance, different company ratings and so forth.”  

 More Than Just a Credential

 Regardless of whether a property manager needs certification to satisfy a  requirement of employment, the skills he or she will gain through continuing  education in the field will be tested in their day-to-day working life.  Understanding financial documents, or how to better expedite emergency  evacuation of the building during a crisis such as a tornado, for example, will  come in handy not only for the employee but also for the board, management  company and all of the residents who will benefit from the manager having a  more detailed understanding of building issues.  

 A board member’s desire to know about how to efficiently run his community may be laudable, but  it’s no excuse for the community’s property manager to not be on top the latest developments in the field. In  fact, some say, the property manager has a greater responsibility to know how  to best manage the building.  

 “Owners and investors over the years have looked to property managers to perform  more and more functions,” Peters says. “Way back when the property manager was chiefly responsible for the bricks and  mortar of a property. Now owners and investors are looking to property managers  for enhanced value of the property, so the property manager is also in many  instances an asset manager in charge of building the asset value of a property.  You can even think if this trend continues property managers will essentially  be the CEO’s of the properties they manage.”    

 Jonathan Barnes is a freelance writer and regular contributor to The Chicagoland  Cooperator and other publications. Editorial Assistant Enjolie Esteve  contributed to this article.  


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