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SHORTAGE OF CONDOMINIUM MANAGEMENT PROFESSIONALS

4 February 2022

How to motivate your manager?

Whether in France, Ontario (2nd article), British Columbia or Quebec, the profession of condominium manager has a shortage of professionals to practice it. However, in Quebec, there is little talk about it, although many management companies are struggling to find managers.

WHY IS THIS SO? 

Exactly for the same reasons as everywhere else:  

  1. The job is complex (legal aspects in addition to financial and technical aspects); 
  2. There is much more human relationship management than in other areas of real estate and clients are not always kind to managers; 
  3. There is little recognition for the value of the profession; 
  4. Working hours are atypical with evening meetings; 
  5. The workload is high, and resources are currently too limited (fixed price mandates whose fees do not increase with salaries).

 

YET IT IS A BEAUTIFUL JOB 

Still, it is a beautiful job for several reasons. 

It is true that it has its share of servitudes, like all the great trades. Doctors, professional accountants, and lawyers work many hours and experience a lot of stress. On the other hand, they have the recognition of their function. Perhaps, that is a lesson to be learned. The co-ownership manager, who coordinates all the stakeholders and professionals who work on a building, must be perceived for what they are: a generalist professional in many fields (law, building technology, finance, and human psychology).  

The remuneration of condominium managers must be comparable to other real estate sectors, otherwise they will leave for commercial, rental real estate, or to work for a real estate developer. Indeed, all these industries are in turmoil since Montreal is a place of great opportunities for real estate construction and new projects are often constituted with condominiums in mixed use buildings. The knowledge of condominium managers is therefore highly coveted in the Montreal real estate market at the moment and salaries are competitive.  

The opportunities for the growth of knowledge, ability, and interpersonal skills as well as extension and leadership skills are inexhaustible. Managers touch on so many areas that they never finish learning. Every day is different, and it is a job that never really imposes a routine.  

The very human character of this job is usually a source of pleasure. Over the years, condominium managers build relationships of trust and relationships with both residents and boards of directors. A large majority of relationships are pleasant and constructive. On the other hand, as with everywhere, it only takes one person to spoil all the fun. The manager must, of course, learn to defuse conflicts, manage difficult personalities, and distance themselves from certain comments that are sometimes unfair to them. 

 

THE DIFFICULTIES OF MANAGEMENT COMPANIES 

The pressure from wages is obvious, given the scarcity of labor and especially condominium managers. In addition, the great demand for co-ownership skills also means that employees are very mobile since they are heavily solicited by headhunters. Thus, the options being constant, when managers feel overwhelmed by the workload and are jostled (sometimes very hard) by clients who misunderstand their reality, this is the straw that breaks the camel’s back and leads them to another job. 

Contract mandates whose price per door has changed little in the last 15 years. This is a reality of our industry: it is very fragmented. Thus, there are many new players who enter it and want to make a place for themselves, and the strategy often used to get customers is to cut prices. They do not always understand the magnitude of the tasks and obligations and especially the time required for the “customer service” aspect that comes with the job. 

The cost of training is high. There are no specialized graduate studies in condominium management as exists in France for example. Management firms must therefore recruit managers for their personality, judgment, previous work experience (transferable skills), interest in real estate, and then train them for the specific field of co-ownership. It takes time and money. Not to mention that it is a hope that the manager loves the job enough to invest in it for several years in order to be able to amortize the training provided. 

The obligations arising from the laws have increased significantly in recent years, leading to an increase in the workload and advisory role of the manager: 

Already in force

  • Inspection of facades (after 10 years and then every 5 years) (PL 122); 
  • Parking inspection (after 18 months and then every 5 years) (PL 122); 
  • Basic Finish Sheet (PL 141); 
  • Reconstruction Value Assessment (every 5 years) (PL 141). 

Coming in 2022 

  • Study of the contingency fund (every 5 years) (PL-16); 
  • Maintenance book and follow-up (every 5 years) (PL-16); 
  • Maintain an up-to-date attestation on the condition of the condominium (PL-16); 
  • Various changes to the rules of the City, the RBQ or other bodies; 
    • Upgrading of fireplaces;
    • Upgrading fire alarm systems;
    • Implementation of compost (some cities and boroughs of Montreal);
    • Obligation of water meters for commercial condominiums (Montreal in particular);
    • Pool safety regulations several that require an upgrade before July 2023 (end of grandfathering and rooftop pools will need to be secured differently) 

Added to this, the increase in work that has occurred through the change in the context of condominiums and demography: 

  • Many more rentals in buildings, which leads to more moves, more notices of infringement, etc.; 
  • Condominiums with much more complex legal structures (condominiums in phases, mixed use buildings, with easements and sometimes several initial syndicates); 
  • Insurance Act that changed overnight and causes a lot of conflicts between syndicates, insurers, and residents; 
  • All the impacts of COVID-19 (on operating processes in buildings, on the availability of suppliers, materials, etc.); 
  • Much more telework than before, which has increased the number of complaints from residents towards their neighbours;
  • Pressure from residents for certain projects. The manager must be able to advise on these projects:
    • Charging stations for electric vehicles; 
    • Water leak detectors;
    • Etc. 

 A HOST OF SOLUTIONS 

Client-side  

Boards of directors must work as a team with the manager, prioritize files, adhere to effective working methods, establish a level of trust by which the manager has reasonable flexibility to take initiatives on elements that are budgeted, etc. The goal is to make the manager’s work enjoyable and effective to mobilize them to work long-term for your community. Pleasure at work is as important as compensation, and management firms have a role to play, but so do clients. 

Offer recognition for the good works and see the overall work of the manager (they will not only do good works. Sometimes some files will fall behind since it is necessary to prioritize others). If the co-owners and the board always make the manager feel that they are inadequate, it is a safe bet that the latter will not be very motivated. In case of dissatisfaction, work constructively with the manager, try to understand the situation or context, and reassess priorities often. If this does not work, you should contact your manager’s management to get more coaching for the employee. 

Co-owners must avoid harassing the manager when they are dissatisfied with the way their co-ownership operates. Life in co-ownership involves rules dictated by the declaration of co-ownership that the manager must apply to ensure a harmonious collective life. They try to find acceptable compromises, when possible, but unfortunately this is not always the case, without the risk of creating dangerous precedents.  

Co-owners must be minimally informed about the product they have purchased. Many co-owners use the staff of management firms as the primary source of information or as resources to solve issues that they would have previously solved by themselves (e.g. knocking on the neighbor for a noise problem). There are many sources of free information to understand the condominium and each co-owner must make the reasonable effort to inquire and solve simple issues on their own. Remember that the time that the manager dedicates to customer service, he does not put it on the important issues affecting the common parts of the building. 

When your manager recommends an operating structure (concierge, superintendent, security, etc.)  for your building (based on its size), listen to them. If you do not give them the right resources to operate the building, the work that is not done by the right stakeholder falls in part on your manager and they will quickly overflow. Your manager needs to put their time on value-added projects. You have to put the right people in the right places so that a building runs smoothly. 

Syndicates must bear the costs of powerful software tools and a realistic time frame to manage buildings. This is possible by paying the right fees to management firms. With powerful tools and enough time, managers who work on buildings do a much better job and achieve more in their profession. There is therefore much more chance that a manager will want to continue working in condominium management for a long time.  

Let us talk positively about the profession and recognize the immensity and multitude of tasks that are performed by the professional condominium manager. The AQGC collaborates with managers to promote this profession in order to attract talent to join the industry. Let us make its life easier by all working together to make the industry attractive and enjoyable to work in. Quebec’s real estate heritage will be better off. 

Management firms  

Management firms need to rethink certain ways of working. On the side of SolutionCondo, we have done an exercise since 2019 to document in Visio all our important work processes in order to understand how our employees had involved these processes in their daily lives. This has allowed us to simplify things on several levels in order to make the processes optimal and efficient. This is also very useful for training our new employees. Similarly, since the beginning of COVID, the level of phone calls had more than doubled (proportionately) and we implemented a pilot project to close phone lines from 1pm, which allowed our employees to increase their efficiency in the afternoon. To remain competitive, management firms must continually look for ways to improve and become more efficient in order to be able to provide quality services.  

Given the level of customer service required in the condominium industry, it becomes unthinkable to believe that a site manager will be able to respond to everyone quickly, if they are the only drop-off point for all resident requests. Management firms must therefore rethink the management structure by adding, for example, support departments (back offices) and proximity management assistants for site managers. However, such structures, although they offer better customer service, come with additional costs. However, it is certain that a manager who is well supported by competent support staff will enjoy their profession more, since they will be better able to devote time to interesting projects for the greater benefit of the building. 

Condominium managers must stop including services that are unpredictable in terms of frequency and required time free of charge. As in rental or commercial management, the basic mandate must be used to maintain the common parts of the building. Everything related to the private (and resident), special projects, major work, impairments, claims and everything that is unpredictable and does not recur annually must be subject to separate pricing to allow management firms to have the resources to provide these services (here is a guide to this effect). 

In addition to her job as a trustee manager, Maïssa Gargouri is with her sister Mayada, a cartoonist.  Thank you to the ANGC for offering to make this illustration. 

 

IN CONCLUSION:  

This is often a reproach that we hear in co-ownership: there is a high turnover rate among managers. 

This is a reality that all management firms try to solve through a good corporate culture, team spirit, good working conditions, etc. However, it is undeniable that there are factors that must be addressed to resolve this turnover issue and it must be a team effort between management firms, boards of directors and co-owners. We are ultimately all interconnected in the appeal that this profession can have for job seekers. However, let us remember that we all benefit from having good collaborators who work on the buildings and in the support departments (back-offices). 

Élise Beauchesne, CPA, CA, Adm.A 
Présidente SolutionCondo 

 

 

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