Back to School Continuing Education for Property Managers

Back to School

 With multifamily buildings, who is in charge of the property and how well those  people are trained are critically important factors in the successful operation  of the community. Board members are a part of this management class, which is  often shepherded by a competent property manager. But all property managers are  not equal in their abilities and knowledge, and the smarter ones try to bridge  the gap.

 The best property managers stay current in their industry by keeping abreast of  new developments in building technology, administration and communication.  While networking with other professionals is a way to stay up to date and  reading industry publications like The New Jersey Cooperator also helps, few  things are better for a manager’s professional development than taking continuing education courses.  

 Opportunities abound, since there are many classes and enrichment programs  available to New Jersey property management professionals. These programs are  not only an industry requirement for some, they also help improve one’s professional skills. Maintaining certain professional accreditation with  industry associations such as the Community Associations Institute (CAI) also  necessitates taking such classes.  

 While New Jersey law does not require managers of community associations be  licensed, according to CAI, to professionals like Jaclyn Olszewski, the  education coordinator for the New Jersey Apartment Association (NJAA),  continuing education is essential to both competency and career advancement. “With an industry that's constantly evolving and changing, designation is just a  great way to provide the managers with more knowledge and tools to help them  make decisions on a daily basis at the properties,” Olszewski says.  

 Property managers must wear many hats in their jobs, and this means having a  strong understanding of the different facets the position entails. “The marketplace needs are always changing, so in order for property managers to  really stay on top of changes, they really need to keep up educationally,” says Sharon Peters, public relations manager of the Institute of Real Estate  Management (IREM), a national organization headquartered in Chicago.  

 “The requirements and duties that they had 20 years ago have evolved. A lot of  them are getting into asset management in addition to being responsible for  bricks and mortar. If they really want to up their mobility in a career, then  we encourage all of our members [to take classes]. Because things are changing,  and if you want to succeed you really need to pursue lifelong education,” Peters says.  

 IREM provides education to those in property management with two designations—Accredited Residential Manager and Certified Property Manager. The CPM  designation requires more time and is more focused on property and asset  management. Asset management looks at the operational management and the income  side of the property, determining how to get the highest return. IREM offers a  wide array of courses to help property managers get up to speed with these  ever-growing responsibilities, including classes in marketing and leasing,  finances, asset management, human resources, real estate management law,  maintenance, operation and risk management, according to Lynne Magnavite,  senior director of education at IREM.  

 And IREM courses on topics like “How To Prepare For A Disaster,” have timeliness and relevance to the East Coast, which has suffered from  debilitating freak winter storms, flooding, and just recently, suffered the  wrath of Superstorm Sandy. Regardless of their topic, these courses provide a  much-needed service. The classes are each eight hours in length and either run  over a two or four day period, and are available all throughout the year. The  average IREM member rate per class is $599, while the average non-member rate  is $745.  

 CAI offers both traditional classroom setting courses, as well as online  options. In order to retain designations such as a Professional Community  Association Manager (PCAM), managers must complete 12 hours of continuing  education yearly and get go through re-designation every three years.  

 Those who are interested in seminars but with little free time in their schedule  can sign up for various webinars. CAI offers multiple live and on-demand  webinars with presentations such as Watch Out! Crime Prevention Done Right,  Beat the Clock: Marathon Meetings No More, Best Practices for Worst Cases:  Emergency Planning and Recovery, and Culture Club: Diversity in Association  Management, among others. Webinars are $69 for CAI members and $99 for  non-members. They provide one credit hour towards Certified Manager of  Community Associations re-certification, Association Management Specialist  re-designation and CAM re-designation.  

 Experts often say the single most important characteristic of a good manager is  people skills—a trait that is considered by many to be an innate characteristic, but which can  be learned. CAI addresses the need for property managers to learn how to keep  the lines of communication open with their associated and keep cool in heated  situations by providing multiple courses offering lessons on improving customer  service skills such as M-202: Association Communications, which provides  managers with the necessary tools to identify and respond to owner needs,  address complaints and diffuse anger and managing public relations.  

 The Lakewood-based Property Owner's Association of New Jersey also offers online  enrichment classes focused on customer service. The web-based training course  on improving people skills is described as being able to teach students “how to distinguish between a difficult person and an upset one” and “calm a situation.” The online POA classes are $59 per course or $149 for 3 courses for members,  and $79 per course for non-members.  

 More Than Just a Credential

 Regardless of whether a property manager needs certification to satisfy a  requirement of employment, the skills he or she will gain through continuing  education in the field will be tested in their day-to-day working life.  Understanding financial documents, or how to better expedite emergency  evacuation of the building during a crisis such as a flood, for example, will  come in handy not only for the employee but also for the board, management  company and all of the residents who will benefit from the manager having a  more detailed understanding of building issues. NJAA offers several courses to  ensure managers have these required skill sets, according to Olszewski. “The most recognized program that NJAA offers for individuals in the property  management field is the CAM (Certified Apartment Manager) designation,” she says. “It consists of nine different modules that total about 56 hours. The modules  include management of residential issues, legal responsibilities, human  resource management, fair housing, marketing, property maintenance for  managers, risk management, financial management, research analysis and  evaluation.” The CAM certification-aimed courses range from $300 to $800. Managers must take  6 continuing education units a year to maintain CAM designation.  

 Larger management companies also offer their own in-house instruction or greatly  encourage their property managers take continuing education courses. Some  companies will pay for the certification or continuing education of an  employee; others won’t. Whether or not the company requires the coursework, board members should  recognize the importance of a property manager being certified and  knowledgeable in his profession. Some larger management companies require  employees to get a Certified Property Manager (CPM) accreditation. “The biggest benefit to it is the credibility – to not only the individual but the company as well,” Olszewski says.  

 NJAA also offers two to three free seminars a month out of their office for  those who wish to increase their knowledge on all community association  matters, not just managers. Topics range from customer service skills to fair  housing. And although a board member’s desire to know about how to efficiently run his community may be laudable, it’s no excuse for the community’s property manager to not be on top the latest developments in the field. In  fact, some say, the property manager has a greater responsibility to know how  to best manage the building. “Owners and investors over the years have looked to property managers to perform  more and more functions,” Peters says. “Now owners and investors are looking to property managers for enhanced value of  the property. You can even think if this trend continues property managers will  essentially be the CEO’s of the properties they manage.”      

 Jonathan Barnes is a freelance writer and a regular contributor to the New  Jersey Cooperator and other publications. Editorial Assistant Enjolie Esteve  contributed to this article.


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