From the Co-op to the Classroom Professional Development Training for Managers

From the Co-op to the Classroom

With today's ever-changing building codes, laws and technology, a managing agent's job is becoming more complex than it was several decades ago. Today's agent has a multitude of responsibilities, including supervision of all aspects of the building, managing contracts, budgets, tenant relations, and more.

A good managing agent should be a well-rounded leader who is familiar and up-to-date with the inner workings of their building and the changing codes and laws, as well as someone who possesses great interpersonal skills.

Although there have been vigilant efforts on the part of some industry players to introduce a bill requiring the licensing of property managers in New York State, there is currently no such legislation on the books. However, to gain ownership of their roles and insight into the roles of their supporting staff, managing agents are voluntarily heading to the classroom; attending seminars and continuing education offered by professional and trade associations, often in conjunction with local academic institutions.

Thoroughly Understand the Operation

"There was an explosion of managers with the development of co-ops and condos after World War II, but many knew nothing about managing a building when they got their job, and they often did damage," says Dick Koral, director of The Apartment House Institute's Division of Continuing Education at New York City College of Technology. "Today with rising costs of maintaining buildings and as technology goes forward, to keep the buildings affordable and afloat, managers have to understand the mechanics of buildings and procedures for maintaining these costs."

Margie Russell, executive director of the New York Association of Realty Managers (NYARM), says she has also noticed that even upper-level managers are enrolling to prepare themselves for management positions that include greater responsibility, managing more and larger properties.

"A successful building has their board, managers and employees all participating and being informed," says Russell. "Each entity of a building needs to encourage the other to participate in their own individual training."

"Taking such courses allow property managers to not only learn the ways of the company they work for, but to learn from experienced leaders in the industry and from each other," explains Joan Flamhaft, assistant director of The Real Estate Institute division of New York University's School of Continuing Education.

An Opportunity to Network

Classes also give you the opportunity to network with other management students and gain advantage in the competitive management job market. "The courses give you an opportunity to exchange information on the happenings in the real estate industry with other students in the class," says Sandra Kerin, vice president of education for the Greater New York chapter of the Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM). "We had several students who have even gotten jobs this way."

Upon completion of these programs and achieving letter grades, managers receive a certificate and one of several professional designations offered by the sponsoring association, including the new york accredited realty manager (nyarm), certified property manager (CPM), accredited residential manager (ARM), or registered in apartment management (RAM) titles.

According to Flamhaft, "The designation says that yes, this person has gone through a set course of study and can be assured to have an understanding of these job responsibilities."

The Real Estate Institute at NYU presents courses leading to the nyarm designation, offered by the New York Association of Realty Managers (also known as NYARM). This program is designed to train managers and supervisory and maintenance personnel in professional realty management. Upon completion of course requirements, students receive the professional designation recognized and approved by the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) and the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). The courses are also applicable to the Certificate in Building and Property Management from NYU.

HPD also offers housing courses for property owners, building managers and other housing professionals and the interested public at no cost. The core curriculum consists of building management, finance and tenant relations. Seminars on water and energy conservation, maintaining heat and hot water, environmental health issues and small property ownership training continue through June. Also offered is an EPA lead certification course, which is provided for contractors and workers involved with renovation or repairs that relate to lead remediation or abatement of city and privately-owned buildings.

Topics covered by NYARM in their coursework include fundamentals of financial management, how to deal effectively with tenants, supervisory skills for managing residential and cooperative properties, landlord/tenant law, management and operation of building systems, complying with New York City local laws and business ethics for property managers.

The Greater New York Chapter of the Institute of Real Estate Management also offers a wide range of basic to advanced courses through New York University's Real Estate Institute. "We offer courses for those just entering the profession, for established professionals looking to sharpen their skills and for those working towards a CPM," says Karin.

The Apartment House Institute is part of the continuing education department of the New York City College of Technology and provides a variety of education and information service to owners, managers and superintendents of multifamily buildings and individuals, who have significant input into operation and maintenance of the buildings. The Institute offers 13-week courses in Management of Affordable Housing that leads to a Certificate in Housing Management.

From Building Maintenance to Boilers

"We offer a basic course in maintenance, and the students start with simple things like building math and science, and then head to plumbing, electricity and heating," says Koral. "Each student is required to produce a manual for their building, listing everything a manager should know, or know how to find, to make life easier for the manager and their successors. The most critical aspect of a property manager is that you have to coordinate with the superintendent, work as a team and respect each other."

Beginning in the fall of 2003, the Federation of New York Housing Cooperatives and Condominiums (FNYHC), a member of the National Association of Housing Cooperatives (NAHC), will offer a Registered Cooperative Manager (RCM) certification program. "The program was tested in various parts of the country and will come to the New York area in fall 2003," says FNYHC executive director Greg Carlson. "There are three courses, including history of co-ops, the business of co-ops, and the business practices and ethics of co-ops. Students have to take a final exam, must show they are working in the field, and have also accomplished some volunteerism."

NYARM and the FNYHC also offer courses as part of the National Association of Home Builders' Registered in Apartment Management (RAM) certification program, which prepares the student for the certification process. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires that managers of nearly all HUD-assisted and public housing projects obtain professional certification. DHCR also recognizes this RAM course.

Membership in any of these professional organizations is not required to enroll in their courses, but members' annual fees entitle them to discounts on enrollment. Course fees range from $300 to $700, and while financial aid is generally not available, in some cases management companies foot the bill for their agents to attend the sessions. Support staffers, such as superintendents - who may want to train for a management position - often pay for their sessions out of pocket.

Virtual Learning

Courses are generally held in the evenings to accommodate managers' daytime schedules, but if attending an in-person session is still difficult, The Apartment House Institute offers a correspondence course through which students can conveniently work by mail, phone or email at their own pace.

Managers can also choose to attend various one-day seminars or workshops to refresh their skills or learn something new. For example, The Cooperator's Annual Co-op and Condo Expo will be held March 6, 2003 and will include free seminars on keeping your building running smoothly, the role and responsibilities of the board, the inside scoop on improvements and alterations, and advancements in building security. The FNYHC is also conducting an educational seminar February 27th on high-tech building security. However, while these are informative seminars, they do not lead to certification.

Flamhaft urges students to check out the legitimacy of any organization or company offering courses or seminars, its instructors, and the courses that are being offered before signing up. "Many organizations and the courses they offer are legitimate, and some organizations even offer half-day or one-day seminars in addition to these courses, but there are some seminars conducted by someone who is just out to promote their own product," said Flamhaft. "We try to keep our classes to what's relevant in the industry and our teachers and guest lecturers are those who have expertise in the course they are teaching."

If you succeed and complete a course or attend a workshop, don't stop your education there. The RAM and RCM programs have recertification requirements, so be sure to keep your education current. If your certification program does not require recertification, take the initiative anyway to revisit the classroom within the next few years.

"Anyone can pull someone off the street and call them a property manager, but a good manager needs to be updated on the newest technology and trends," said Carlson.

Lisa Iannucci is a freelance writer based in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

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