So You Want to Become a Property Manager or Community Association Manager

Posted on Wednesday December 09, 2015 |

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What did you want to be when you grew up?  Like many children, you may have dreamed of becoming a doctor, teacher, firefighter, pilot, basketball player, ballerina or policeman.  Maybe you wanted to be a movie actor, astronaut, rock star or even the president.  But we’re guessing there are a few professions that probably didn’t make your short list… property manager or community association manager (CAM).    
Surprising?  Not really – after all, there are many adults who aren’t entirely sure what a community association manager is or does.  If you’re one of them, we’d like to provide a few insights.  Once you get a feel for what being a community association manager is all about, you may just find that it’s your dream job after all. 
 
1.  You get to do a little bit of everything. 
You know those humdrum 9-5 office jobs with repetitive duties, zero challenges and that déjà vu feeling that every day is exactly like the day before?  A CAM isn’t one of them.  As a property manager or community association manager, you’ll lead and manage the day-to-day operations and maintenance of a single building or community (as a sited manager) or multiple communities (as a portfolio manager). 

Instead of being glued all day to your office chair, you’ll perform tasks and deliver service in a wide variety of areas, such as association operations, system and equipment maintenance, finance, budgeting, customer service, resident relations, staff and vendor management, compliance and more.  For example, you’ll work closely with Board members and homeowners, make site visits to the community, perform inspections, hire and supervise vendors, create budgets, schedule and oversee maintenance, hire and manage, ensure compliance, respond to emergencies, approve architectural modifications, interact with community leaders and so much more. Essentially, you will be managing a community’s lifestyle and the quality of life of all of its homeowners – and no two days will ever be the same.   Which leads us to…
 
2.  You don’t need a specialized degree.
Since CAMs are truly jacks of all trades, there isn’t a specific path leading to a career in the field.  In fact, while many other types of jobs demand a prescribed degree or career track, CAM positions and property management jobs have no prerequisites, requirements or other barriers to entry. 

“We are always seeking quality talent, and while many successful candidates come to us with retail, hospitality or service backgrounds, we know that having a certain type of job experience on your resume is not as important as possessing the right skill sets, capabilities and attitude,” says Trent Harrison, president of Maryland and Delaware for FirstService Residential. 

“I look for leaders and ‘doers’ with a sense of urgency, good listening, organizational and computer skills, and a strong customer service focus, as well as an ability to build strong teams and relationships,” he continues.  “If someone is proactive, genuinely helpful and empathetic, with a drive and commitment to get the job done, they’re on the right track for a successful and fulfilling community association management career.” 

So how do new community managers know how to perform their job duties?  While some property management company expect associates to learn on the job, others offer formalized classroom and hands-on training to ensure they effectively perform their roles.  For example, Harrison’s company established the FirstService Residential School of Professional Development, a state-of-the-art educational program, to build its associates’ knowledge, skills and service delivery. 
 
3.  What about professional certification?
We’re glad you asked.  Professional certification is not necessarily required to enter the field, but as their careers progress, many CAMs choose to earn professional certifications and designations through such leading industry organizations as CAI (Community Associations Institute), IREM (Institute of Real Estate Management) and NABO (National Associated Builders and Owners).

For example, CAI offers a national CMCA (Certified Manager of Community Associations) certification, and if you wish to work in Florida, Arizona or Nevada, you’ll need to earn a state license as well.  As you gain association management experience, you can earn additional certifications, including AMS (Association Management Specialist), PCAM (Professional Community Association Manager) and LSM (Large-Scale Manager). 

You can also attend classes through IREM, which offers designation as a CPM (Certified Property Manager) for property managers of large portfolios, as well as certification as an ARM (Accredited Residential Manager) for managers of small to medium-sized residential portfolios. 

If you manage apartments, condominium or cooperative properties, you may choose to earn a designation as a RAM (Registered in Apartment Management) from NABO. 

Sharing best practices and earning professional certifications and designations prove you meet the highest standards for training, skills and ethics – and that’s a great way to enhance your value to both your clients and employer. 
 
4.  Three little words for job seekers:  Opportunity. Stability. Growth.   
Previously, we discussed how young kids and even full-grown adults aren’t quite familiar with the property and community management field.  While it’s true that property and community association management positions have traditionally flown under the radar, the field has begun experiencing tremendous growth, and in turn, significantly increasing interest and opportunities.  At the same time, more developers are creating new residential buildings and communities in the U.S. and Canada, complete with condo associations, HOAs, community associations and strata corporations that need good managers.   

So let’s see… there are fewer job applicants and more association management jobs – you couldn’t ask for a better combination if you’re seeking employment in the field.  

And once you’re hired, if your service delivery, performance and job satisfaction prove that community association management truly is a great fit, there’s an excellent chance your Board members and homeowners will want to keep you around – and that means job stability.  But when you’re ready for a new challenge, the field’s continuous growth means you’ll have a wide variety of advancement opportunities to choose from, whether you’re interested in managing a large team in a more complex community, or seeking a higher level leadership role.  As an added benefit, your job is portable, so as more managed communities are springing up in leading urban and suburban markets across North America, you can pursue new opportunities across town – or across the country.  

So if you’re looking for more than a job – actually, a rewarding career that offers variety, challenge, stability, portability, growth opportunities and much more – you may discover that a position as a property manager or community association manager is your dream job after all.  For more information on property management opportunities throughout North America, visit http://join.fsresidential.com.

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