Even the most successful property managers understand they don’t know everything, and with new developments happening in building technology, administration, and communication, a savvy manager will look to constantly learn about what’s new.
“This industry is evolving and managers need to stay updated regarding current trends,” says Carol A. Marcou, the chair of the Illinois chapter of Community Association’s Institute’s Legislative Action Committee (ILAC) and a community association manager for Vanguard Community Management in Schaumburg. “There has been an increased amount of laws pertaining to this industry that managers need to be aware of in order to manage properties properly.”
While networking with other industry professionals is an excellent method of staying up-to-date (and reading industry publications and attending trade shows like The Chicagoland Cooperator’s are also smart moves), the most beneficial way for a community association manager to learn, develop, and advance is to continue their education.
“The state requires continuing education to maintain your license,” says Dan Haumann, president of Advocate Property Management in Naperville. “The industry is very complex, and continuing education helps expand the knowledge of the manager, expanding their capability and capacity, which ultimately translates into an opportunity to increase their seniority and earning potential.”
Keeping up on management training is vitally important, as all Chicagoland property managers who oversee community associations larger than 10 units must be licensed, pass an examination, and complete training and continuing education. Licensing rules took effect October 1, 2011, and unlicensed management activity is a misdemeanor for the first offense and a felony for subsequent offenses.
The Chicagoland Apartment Association (CAA), an affiliate of the National Apartment Association (NAA), offers the CAM (Certified Apartment Manager) designation twice annually in the classroom. It is available online, as well.
“The training is geared toward new or experienced property managers and improves upon financial management skills, reporting techniques, and onsite team management,” says Andrea Brady, director of member services and professional development at CAA. “In addition, CAA hosts numerous half-day seminars throughout the year relative to industry trends, need-to-know public policy initiatives, fair housing, and a full day education conference in conjunction with our annual trade show in April.”
Cheryl Murphy, the executive director for CAI-IL based in Schaumburg, says her organization has a professional development and certification program for property managers. It is recognized by the Illinois licensing board and other states nationally.
“Property managers are required to take continuing education courses to maintain industry certifications,” she says. “Additionally, the state of Illinois is finalizing CE requirements to maintain CAM licenses in Illinois. CAI offers a variety of classes that meet CE requirements.”
It offers Certified Manager of Community Associations (CMCA), Association Management Specialist (AMS), and Professional Community Association Manager (PCAM) certification, which demonstrate increasing levels of knowledge and capability for the manager.
In addition, there are other continuing education classes provided through the local CAI chapter and ACTHA (the Association of Condo, Townhome and Homeowner’s Associations). Some of these classes provide continuing education credits recognized by CAI, while others are primarily for informal management education.
“Enrichment courses help managers keep current on industry issues, can help them achieve higher levels of certifications which may ultimately advance their careers, and help them guide their associations and boards more intelligently and accurately,” Murphy says. “Managers are required to be licensed in their state so there is a standard level of education required for that. Some management companies help pay for this education; other companies help provide the education.”
Most law firms and industry tradespeople provide informal lunch and learns for community association management personnel with information on topics within the industry as a service to their existing customers, or to companies they hope will become customers.
“Many of these continuing educations classes are conducted by industry professionals, representing management companies, law firms, and tradespeople,” Brady says. “It is a way for these companies to advertise their firm and associated industry knowledge while providing valuable information to community association managers and association board members.”
For property managers who want to return to school, Ball State University offers a Residential Property Management Program at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Students completing the curriculum can earn National Apartment Leasing Professional (NALP) and CAM designations.
CAA, for example, offers several options for managers, either online or half-day and full-day courses. The latter classes are usually offered mid-week and range in cost from $79 to $149, depending on course length and membership status with CAA.
The Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM) in Chicago provides courses for property managers, as well. Recent courses focus on real estate financing and valuation, ethics for the manager, and skills assessment. In the two-part Investment Real Estate Financing and Valuation course, property managers learn how to utilize financial tools that will build value and increase income. The course on ethics addresses dilemmas commonly faced by today’s real estate managers, and teaches strategies for resolving them while adhering to the IREM Code of Professional Ethics. IREM’s designations include Certified Property Manager (CPM), Accredited Residential Manager (ARM), Accredited Commercial Manager (ACoM), and Accredited Management Organization (AMO), for firms providing residential management services.
Top of Your Game
While some firms are more proactive than others, Haumann says all firms typically require or recommend some level of continuing education.
“Firms also market their continuing education commitment to potential managers as a way to attract management talent to their firm,” he says. “Licensed managers are in short supply, and paying for community association manager continuing education is one way to attract good talent to your organization. Because licensed managers are in short supply, there are also many firms with internal development programs focused on developing new licensed managers. Retention can be a problem in this industry, and again, continuing education is one way to help improve that.”
Haumann notes that, besides required education, there are a lot of legal changes occurring in community association management in Illinois that require managers and industry leadership to attend continuing education to keep pace with the changes in the legal landscape.
According to Brady, there’s no negative side to taking more classes and improving knowledge. “The benefits of participating in professional development are to improve overall performance, financial operations, and reporting,” she says. “In addition, managers stay current on industry trends and issues affecting the industry. Lastly, the ability to network with peers and learn best practices is seen as a huge benefit to CAA professional development.”
Marcou says a new rule will hit Illinois in 2015 that will require all property managers to meet a certain number of hours in continuing education classes and courses to maintain their licenses.
There are a plethora of courses available for managers, with the most popular topics being financial, legal and risk management, marketing, human resources, and fair housing.
Haumann says courses concentrating on general knowledge on how to perform the job are probably the most prevalent offered, but courses on legal issues are rising in popularity. Also, there are informative courses available on repair techniques, lawn care, planting, trees, windows, roofs, plumbing, HVAC, electrical systems, alarm systems, sprinkler systems, fire suppression systems, and many more.
Time commitment and cost vary based on the course. For example, the CAM designation consists of nine modules and is taught over five days. The cost for members of CAA is $995 and nonmember companies pay $1,250.
According to Murphy, CAI offers webinars that are just one hour in length, in-person classes that are 2.5 hours in length, all-day seminars that offer up to 7 hours of credit, and a 2-day conference, as well. CAI National offers professional management courses, which are typically 8-20 hours in length. Some managers must pay for this education on their own; others get subsidized by their companies. Much of CAI-IL education is free or very low cost for members.
CAI courses for industry certifications can cost between $500 and $600, and typically last a couple of days. Formalized continuing education classes can cost between $20 and $70, and are typically 1-2 hours. Informal continuing education and lunch and learns are typically complimentary, last about one hour, and often include a free lunch.
With all courses, managers benefit from earning the required credits to renew their licenses and also from an interaction with other managers in the industry.
Keith Loria is a freelance writer and a frequent contributor to The Chicagoland Cooperator.