The lower maintenance fees and a greater sense of security draw millions of Americans to invest in units in condominium communities. But a larger community, more occupied units, and vast common areas trigger a need for even more oversight.
Filling those shoes are condominium property managers.
Whether you’re a property owner with condos in the works or an aspiring property manager yourself, you’re likely wondering:
What does a condominium property manager do?
Where do we draw the line between the responsibilities of a property manager and the board of directors?
What separates a great property manager from an average one?
It doesn’t have to be this complicated!
Let’s take a closer look at the core responsibilities and traits of a successful condominium property manager!
In-Depth Financial Management
Of the many hats you’ll wear as a property manager, this one will determine the longevity of your role: financial management skills.
A condominium building rarely has a single owner like an apartment complex. Instead, ownership falls to the individual unit owners, who all have ownership rights of their own units and an equal interest in all common areas (i.e., pools).
It’s safe to say that mismanaging their hard-earned HOA funds will cause an uproar amongst community members!
So each year, the condominium board will vote on an annual association budget. It’s your job as the property manager to draft that budget. After it’s approved, you’re also responsible for tracking and dispersing funds.
The financial duties can be as simple as collecting dues and assessments for the entire building.
Yet, a hire-worthy property manager also has expertise in:
Do You Need Experience In Property Management or Business?
While experience in these areas could help with the day to day tasks, you don’t necessarily need it.
However, a degree, license, or certificate in either business management, real estate, or finance will help you fill these shoes on day one. Even accidentally mismanaging funds could leave you out of a career and in legal hot water.
Overseeing Property Upkeep
In a traditional apartment complex, a property manager may also double as a leasing agent. They’ll manage lease renewals, collect monthly rent, and ensure renters aren’t breaking their leases.
But in a condominium building, unit owners are responsible for the condos they own. So you can shift your attention to maintaining common areas instead of scheduling in-unit repairs (e.g., broken appliances, leaky pipes).
It’s your duty as a property manager to guarantee that all common elements are safe, up-to-date, and visually appealing, including:
The building’s exterior
We like to call this the “operations manager” role. Residents depend on you to schedule monthly landscaping in the summer, plowing in the winter, and year-round trash pick-up.
That also leaves building repairs and maintenance on your shoulders. Say, for instance, a leaky roof needs fixing. It’s your job to negotiate a contract with the board, hire a subcontractor, oversee the project’s pacing, and ensure it comes in under budget.
A good condo property manager has an eye for detail and notices when and where repairs are necessary before residents make complaints!
Most condo property managers will have an office somewhere on site. But this career path is far from your typical desk job. You’ll also assume the role of resident mediator, meaning a level-headed approach is a must!
In condominium buildings with limited privacy, it's not unusual for tempers to flare. Some complaints are easy to solve, like nosy neighbors complaining about how often another resident has visitors. Others are more serious, such as arguments that evolve into violent threats.
As a property manager, residents may call you to de-escalate:
Parking in another resident’s assigned spot
Parking over the line
Saving spots with lawn chairs
Loud music during quiet hours
Children stomping around
Dogs barking at night
Grills on the balcony
Removing interior walls
Hosting parties in hallways
But it’s not as simple as telling residents, “He’s right. You can’t do that,” or “Please stop doing that.”
If only it were that easy! Instead, residents expect you to listen to both sides of the story and ease the tension.
It starts with a touch of patience and professionalism. You’ll need to create a solution that both parties agree to and discuss potential consequences if the conflict continues. For instance, reminding residents with noisy children about quiet hours or pointing them to the playground or local park.
All it takes is one unhappy resident to spoil the bunch. Acting quickly and staying level-headed will help maintain harmony — without dragging other residents into the issue or escalating it to a new extreme.
The financial and organizational skills may seem like the most significant pieces of the puzzle for a successful condo property manager. Yet, confidence and excellent communication skills go even further in this line of work.
That’s because residents will look to you as their official spokesperson to the condo board of directors.
You’ll represent the entire condominium community at board meetings by voicing residents' concerns on:
Common area requests
Understanding the needs and worries of the community requires you to introduce yourself to residents and develop rapport.
Strike up a conversation with those sharing a meal at the barbecue pit. Follow up on complaints to update them on progress. Or, when you encounter residents in distress, ask them how you can help.
The better you know the community and grasp their needs, the better you can represent them at upcoming board meetings.
Of course, the flow of communication goes in either direction.
If the board rejects a maintenance proposal or approves a project the residents aren’t in favor of, you need to communicate that to the community.
How will you explain it to residents without creating outrage? What are the next steps you'll take to ensure you can meet their needs?
General Office Duties
A good condo property manager must also excel at the job’s basic housekeeping tasks, such as general office duties.
Beyond the roles of financial manager and dispute-solver, you’ll also be responsible for things like:
Scheduling & approving repairs with subcontractors
Supervising outsourced projects
Collecting dues & assessments
Meeting with residents, work crews, & board members
Preparing & filing paperwork (i.e., audits, spreadsheets, work orders)
Answering phone calls & emails
Now, not every day on the job will be exciting. Some days, you’ll spend hours clearing out your inbox or playing phone tag with contractors. Others will be full of back-to-back meetings with board members or property inspections.
In simple terms, you need to be able to roll with the punches, even when your job responsibilities are tugging you in five different directions. That means knowing which duties to focus on, how to balance several tasks at once, and never sacrificing your professionalism.
If an emergency pool repair arises at the same time a marketing phone call comes in, which deserves your attention? When an owner falls behind on their HOA dues, how do you approach the subject professionally?
Being In Touch With the Community
Condo property managers don’t have to live in the condominium.
But becoming a part of the community — at least from a distance — will set you apart in your career.
Learning what the community wants will help you decide what takes priority in the budget and brainstorm projects to present to the board.
For example, don’t:
Schedule a resident-only kid’s carnival full of bounce houses and water slides if 70% of the community are seniors
Respond, "There's a dog park here?" when a frustrated resident complains about Fido coming home muddy
Override the community's wishes by suggesting an Olympic-sized turf soccer field when the parking lot is in desperate need of re-paving
An open mind and positive social skills make this part of your job that much easier. That means a willingness to approach community members, attend events, and push aside your opinions to understand their perspectives.
Regular Property Walkthroughs
Property managers spend plenty of time roaming the condominium complex to ensure the entire property is in pristine condition.
Budgeting for maintenance requires you to always be “in the know.” Not catching minor problems in time could leave them to fester, spiraling into a multi-million dollar fix with condo owners footing the bill.
Regular property walkthroughs allow you to keep your thumb on the pulse of what’s happening on-site. Be ready to lace up your athletic shoes, wear your comfiest outfit, and bring a checklist listing the common areas.
Note anything that is — or could become — a safety hazard or is ruining the aesthetic appeal of the common area, like:
Greenish tinge to the water
Malfunctioning child gate
Unusually cold water
Broken lounge chairs
Splintered hand railings
Blown light bulbs
Athletic or Fitness Facilities
Leaky water fountain
Frayed basketball net
Parking Lots or Garages
Faded stall lines
Puddles or flooding
Some of these issues are easy fixes — a fresh filter in the pool or a new lightbulb in the stairwells.
Others require immediate attention, such as a broken sidewalk, which could become a massive liability if a resident trips. Those that could wait are best to save for the annual budget.
This duty requires you to have impeccable critical thinking skills (what needs fixing, and what can wait?).
But beyond that, top-notch record-keeping skills are a necessity!
If playground vandalism is suddenly a common occurrence and eats into the annual budget, it might be time to set up security cameras. Or a pothole that keeps reforming every three months could signal the need for a more reputable paving company.
Empathy & Logic
Condo property management may very well be your full-time day job. But at the end of the day, you’re still human. And in this industry, you can use that to your advantage.
Any successful property manager will master two opposing forces: empathy and logic.
Empathy is a vital trait when interacting with community members.
When a resident is upset by inconsiderate neighbors, saying, "That sounds annoying," isn't as impactful as:
"I'm so sorry loud music is keeping you awake at night. That's not fair to you. I'll speak with your upstairs neighbors and remind them of the rules they agreed to when they joined the community. "
Or, say, a resident loses their job after suffering medical issues. The wrong answer would be, “The rules are the rules. If you can’t pay your HOA fees, we’ll send them to collections.” An empathetic response would be, “I’m so sorry you’re struggling. I’ll see what I can do to reduce this pressure,” and then negotiate a payment plan on behalf of the resident.
However, logic is just as important when making decisions.
Ninety percent of residents may support a $15 million parking garage. But if the annual budget is $2 million, and the board of directors is already reluctant to build new structures, this would be a silly idea to present. Or assigning spots in the parking lot because a few residents want closer spaces.
Empathize with the feelings of residents, but act on logic when interacting with the condo association or making unusual financial decisions.
Organization is the lifeblood of a property manager’s day-to-day life. You’ll be fielding phone calls and emails at all hours, ensuring all paperwork and files are together, and hitting monthly financial report deadlines.
To succeed in this role, you’ll need incredible time management skills and an admirable work ethic.
Are you following through with the weekly inspections? Do you keep running notes on late HOA payments or frequent complaints? Or did you forget to include the exterior painting project in this year’s annual budget?
In an ideal scenario, the entire building would run like a well-oiled machine with as few hiccups as possible.
The job post descriptions may not include the details we laid out above; they’re more likely to stick to the specific tasks you’ll complete daily.
But the most successful property managers will be:
Attentive to details
Empathetic yet logical
Well-versed in finance
Professional & level-headed
Of course, a passion for helping others and creating a safe, enjoyable condo community wouldn’t hurt!