WPM’s President of Multifamily Real Estate, Leonard Frenkil Jr., was featured in The Baltimore Sun’s “5 Minutes With” on Sunday, April 8th. Click HERE to access the full article
According to Murphy’s Law, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” And commercial properties are especially susceptible to this adage. Commercial properties host hundreds (or even thousands) of customers and employees each day and may often house machinery, merchandise and other equipment worth millions of dollars. That’s why property managers must be especially vigilant regarding the safety and security of the personnel and property they oversee.
Below are some tips to help improve the Safety and Security of commercial properties.
- Invest in good lighting. Sufficient interior and exterior lighting is important. Good outdoor lighting helps drivers see other cars and pedestrians. It deters theft and loitering. It illuminates steps, uneven sidewalks or other tripping hazards. And it contributes to the overall appearance of the property. Indoors, good lighting makes fall risks more visible. And remember, while some tenants may prefer low lighting to add to the ambiance of their property, safety should always be prioritized over aesthetics!
- Identify fall risks. Landlords should regularly perform safety audits to identify fall risks. Walk the property and look for things like loose steps, uneven flooring, slippery surfaces or obstructed walkways. Winter weather elevates the risks for any property. Icy sidewalks and snow-covered parking lots require property managers to be even more vigilant for fall risks and address them before someone gets hurt.
- Prepare for emergencies. Property managers should always hope for the best and prepare for the worst. Like any structure, your commercial property is susceptible to lightning, high winds, fire, terrorist attacks, flooding and more. It’s a sobering list. Each potential disaster requires a disaster response and restoration plan. But creating the plan is only half the job. Updating and practicing your response is the crucial component of any disaster mitigation plan.
- Install a quality alarm system. Step 1 for securing any property is installing a good alarm system with a reputable company that provides 24-hour surveillance.
- Limit entrances. If your property has multiple entrances, consider limiting tenants and their customers to using one, monitored entrance, and keep other exterior doors locked from the outside. (Per fire codes, they will need to remain unlocked from the inside.) It’s far easier to know who is in the building if there is just one entry point.
- Hire a security guard. When budgets allow, a security guard adds extra monitoring and also lends a sense of security for tenants and their clients.
Of course, while these security tips help commercial properties be more secure, there is no way to completely safeguard any property. WPM Commercial Property Manager Tiffany Smith cautions, “No Landlord or Condominium Association should assume liability for the security of an Owner’s suite or of the general common area. Even if the Landlord or Association agrees to hire a security guard, this is never a sure guarantee that everyone is safe. The best way to handle security of common areas is to ask Landlords, Tenants, Boards, and Owners to work together and report anything that seems suspicious to the police department.”
While Murphy’s Law is often true, the prudent property manager should follow these tips and answer Murphy with this: “Anything that can be planned for or prevented will be planned for or prevented!”
Before the internet, if you needed to get in touch with your property manager, you picked up the phone or marched down to the front desk in person.
Obviously, all of that has changed for today’s renters and homeowners. They have multiple channels through which they can seek answers and access information about their community, including websites, Facebook pages, email and text. And increasingly, residents are managing more and more of their community needs through their personal online account.
For example, WPM Real Estate Management makes it possible for residents to create an account, then download an app to their phones. The app allows them to address all their management needs—such as submitting a maintenance ticket, paying rent, checking their account balance or getting information about amenities—right from their phone.
Benefits of Property Management Software
For the most part, digital access has proven extremely helpful for both managers and residents. Modern property management software offers many benefits:
1. Communication. Using software helps to eliminate errors, as the software maintains an electronic record of all communications between property manager and the resident. Also, it helps property managers keep residents informed about the status of their requests—from confirmation that the request was received, to estimated time of a repair, to notification that the job is completed. Such regular updates might be difficult for a staff member to provide, especially if that individual is managing multiple properties.
2. Efficiency. Property managers can track and respond to needs more promptly. Plus, the software can help prioritize requests so that the most urgent ones are attended to first. Also, the software automates a lot the tasks that property managers used to have to oversee.
3. Customer Service. Because property managers can be more efficient, it’s easier for them to stay on top of resident requests and ultimately ensure resident satisfaction.
4. Convenience. An app that allows residents to manage all of their community needs via smart phone provides a valuable amenity for residents.
Despite these many benefits, there are some disadvantages that savvy property managers work hard to avoid.
“While the benefits of property management software are many, using software exclusively to communicate would virtually eliminate face-to-face communication,” cautions WPM Director of Multimedia Marketing and Communications Brent Gratton. “At WPM, we encourage managers to go out of their way to build rapport with residents and to look for opportunities for in-person interactions. For example, many of our communities host social events. Our managers make an effort to be present at these events and meet residents and hear about their experiences.”
Gratton also cautions that, when it comes to communicating with residents, there is no “one size fits all” solution.
“Software doesn’t always perfectly fit everyone’s needs,” explains Gratton. “Residents may have varying comfort levels with managing their community via an app. And some may prefer to receive communications through text messaging, while others may prefer email, while still others rely on paper communication.”
Luckily, Gratton has a simple solution for property managers trying to determine their residents’ preferred methods of communication: “Ask them!”
“When residents first apply to live in our communities, this is one of the first questions we ask. We want to make sure that our information is reaching them. But we also don’t want to annoy them by contacting them through too many channels or reaching out through media they don’t monitor.”
Associations’ Digital Customer Base
Property management software can also be advantageous for Associations. In addition to the benefits listed above, Association-specific management software centralizes the community’s information and makes it easier for board members to access and perform their responsibilities, such as managing contracts, financial reports, tracking delinquencies and submitting work orders.
WPM recently adopted an association website software platform called SenEarthCo.
“It’s so helpful to have all of a community’s information in one location,” explains WPM Association Management Support Supervisor and Executive Assistant Rita Dore. “Board members can tend to their responsibilities in real-time. And residents appreciate the convenience of accessing their information online.”
Today’s digital customer base expects options when managing their community’s account. Good multifamily and association managers will do their best to communicate with their customers by whatever individual manners they prefer. Software often makes the job easier for managers and more convenient for residents. But there’s no substitute for a dedicated, attentive manager.
Julia Child once said, “You’ll never learn everything about anything, especially something you love.”
The famed chef was speaking about cooking. But the same could be said about the field of Association Management. Even the most expert and seasoned Association Manager still has more to learn about this dynamic field. Fortunately, the opportunity for Association Managers to expand their knowledge has been made easy through continuing education.
Continuing education classes can provide Association Managers with valuable information about industry best practices, the latest technology, new legal and regulatory guidelines, new management techniques and more. Continuing education credentialing programs can also lend credibility to an Association Manager’s expertise.
One of the primary organizations that provides continuing education and credentialing programs for Associations is the Community Associations Institute, or CAI. This international membership organization provides information, education and resources to the homeowner volunteers who govern communities and the professionals who support them.
“CAI provides a valuable service to our industry,” says WPM President of Association Management Barry Yatovitz. “WPM belongs to the Chesapeake CAI Chapter. Our Chapter regularly provides seminars on various topics, produces trade shows, hosts networking events and offers a wealth of information and resources on its website, CAIonline.org.”
In addition to CAI programs, Association managers can also look to their vendors for additional learning about topics pertaining to Association Management. “Sometimes our vendors will invite us to forums on topics that range from litigation to landscaping to insurance to security,” explains Yatovitz.
All of this education not only benefits Association Managers, it actually makes good business sense.
“When Associations are shopping for their property management company, one of the things they look for is a team of professionals whose knowledge and training are current and whose expertise is deep,” says Yatovitz. “Managers’ credentials and continuing education participation offer one tangible, quantifiable way for Association Boards to assess a company’s expertise.”
It’s important to remember the ultimate goal of all this learning: to benefit your Association. Learning for learning’s sake helps no one. Rather, Association Managers should take the valuable insights gleaned from courses and apply that knowledge to the Associations they manage to help them thrive.
So, to all those Association Managers out there – go ahead and sign up for a course today! While Julia Child may be right that you can never know everything about anything, you can certainly try.
Kristin Peterson promoted to Vice President of Administration
(Owings Mills, MD) – WPM Real Estate Management announces a strategic reorganization intended to support the company’s long-term planning and sustainability.
Jim Dahlgren has been appointed President. In this newly-created role, Mr. Dahlgren will be responsible for the strategic management of the company and focus on planning for long-term sustainability, expansion and growth.
Kristin Peterson has been promoted to Vice President of Administration. In this new role, Ms. Peterson will assume responsibility for the company’s back-office operations, including information technology, information systems and corporate training.
“I’m very excited about this strategic restructuring as it promises to help grow our business, advance our Associates and plan for WPM’s future,” says WPM Chairman Mark Caplan. “Jim and Kristin are well-suited to fill these key roles to help move our company forward. Jim boasts a keen intelligence, penchant for hard work and strong leadership. He rose into management from the ground-up, gaining first-hand property management experience—a foundation that equips him to intimately understand our industry. Kristin has an astute attention to detail and strong project management skills. Her ability to identify corporate-wide operational efficiencies to improve performance will help WPM continue to add value for our clients.”
The restructuring will help WPM achieve long-term organizational sustainability, create advancement opportunities for Associates to develop the next generation of leaders, and provide a foundation for the firm’s continued growth and expansion. Responsibilities for WPM’s current Divisional Presidents remain unchanged. President of Multifamily Real Estate Leonard Frenkil, President of Association Management Barry Yatovitz, and President of Commercial Management and Construction Services Michael Klein will continue to lead and manage all divisional operations for the firm’s Multifamily, Association, and Commercial and Services business lines. In addition, Justine Fields maintains her role as Chief Financial Officer and Mark Caplan continues as Chairman of WPM.
“It is my honor to be appointed to this new role,” says Mr. Dahlgren. “I believe that we are doing important work at WPM and it’s my privilege to be part of it. It’s no coincidence that WPM is selected as a Top Workplace year after year; it’s because the people I get to work with are exceptional and create a culture of mutual respect and collaboration. I welcome the opportunity to lead them as we work together to exceed our clients’ expectations every day.”
“WPM provides a great service in our region,” says Ms. Peterson. “I am committed to help the company operate efficiently so that we continue to earn the trust of the 35,000 people who call the communities we manage ‘home’.”
About Jim Dahlgren
Mr. Dahlgren joined WPM as an intern in 2005. In 2007, he became a full-time Associate as an Assistant Property Manager with MRE and was later promoted to Property Manager. He expanded to a more corporate role as Business Development Coordinator and then as Director of Business Development. He took over responsibility for corporate marketing in 2014 and was promoted to Vice President and Director of Business Development & Corporate Marketing in 2016.
Mr. Dahlgren is a Certified Apartment Manager (CAM®) through the National Apartment Association. In addition to hands-on apartment management experience, he also has over seven years’ experience with budget forecasting, investment analysis and deal underwriting for market rate and senior living assets. Active in the industry, James instructs real estate classes for the Maryland Multi Housing Association (MMHA®) and sits on the MMHA Legislative Committee. Additionally, he is continuing his education through the Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM®) and the Certified Commercial Investment Member Institute (CCIM®).
A lifetime resident of the Baltimore area, he graduated from McDaniel College in 2006 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration. Mr. Dahlgren was named to the Maryland Daily Record’s 2017 VIP List, which recognizes Maryland leaders under 40 years of age for their professional accomplishments, community service and commitment to inspiring change. In addition, he is a member of the Class of 2018 of Leadership Baltimore County.
About Kristin Peterson
Ms. Peterson boasts an 11-year tenure with WPM, beginning as Executive Assistant in Multifamily Real Estate and subsequently shifting to greater corporate-wide responsibility as Corporate Administrator. Prior to working with WPM, she worked with AT&T Government Solutions and Aeronautical Radio, Incorporated (ARINC) in administration.
About WPM Real Estate Management
WPM Real Estate Management is an Accredited Management Organization® (AMO®) that provides property management for over 19,000 homes and 35,000 people in the Baltimore/Washington Metropolitan area. The company’s primary focus is residential: multifamily, condominium, senior housing, student housing, and homeowner association communities. In addition, it has an extensive managed portfolio of commercial, industrial, and retail properties. WPM has been recognized as one of Baltimore’s Top Workplaces by The Baltimore Sun, ranking among the top 5 large employers for six consecutive years. The company employs approximately 500 employees across more than 150 properties. For more information about WPM Real Estate Management, visit the WPM website at www.wpmllc.com
We recently sat down with Mark Caplan, WPM Real Estate Management’s Chairman – who is also an investor in multifamily real estate and is a large client of the firm – and asked him to put on his “customer” hat for a brief discussion about his perspective as a client about the multifamily real estate market for 2018.
WPM: How would you describe the multifamily real estate investment market today?
Multifamily real estate continues to be perceived as a desired property type. With significant amounts of capital pursuing limited transactions, low capitalization rates (5-6%) have resulted in higher sales prices for all properties both old and new. This has caused more money to shift towards development, particularly for more expensive rental units. As the supply of higher-end multifamily continues to increase, potentially faster than demand, the operating environment has become challenging for lower price points as well.
WPM: How has this market changed over time?
A lot of forces are at work. First off, the real estate industry – like the rest of the world – is becoming increasingly data-driven. There’s much more information available today regarding property performance. That’s critical because investors perceive access to more data as leading to less risk. The more you know about something, generally the more you’re willing to pay for it, because you’ve eliminated some risk by possessing additional context.
Real estate is also increasingly considered and compared to other asset classes (stocks, commodities, etc.). The hierarchy of perceived risk has changed. This has resulted in more money flowing into real estate, further driving down returns.
WPM: Where do you think the multifamily real estate market it is headed in 2018?
Overall, I think it will remain comparable to where it was in 2017, absent something unpredictable and catastrophic. Perhaps there will be some hesitation on new projects as investors wait to see if what has been created is absorbed. Remember, residential units to be realized in 2018 were conceived in 2015/2016. Real estate doesn’t turn quickly, and projects conceived in 2018 won’t deliver until 2020. With more supply coming into market in 2018, and fewer new deals done, 2020 may see less of a supply/demand imbalance.
WPM: What do you perceive the biggest opportunities to be in 2018?
I think the areas that are most variable and challenging are office and retail – how people work and how they shop. If you feel confident in your perspective and are willing to invest, you have the potential to be really right or really wrong. I have a good sense of where people sleep and where they want to live, but work and shopping are changing quickly. Because real estate is less permanent, these types of investments are challenging, but they also represent opportunity.
WPM: What do you think will have the biggest impact on investors/owners in 2018?
At a macro level, the national and local economy are the two biggest external factors. I think the third is consumer preferences or residential preferences. We’re living through a time where people want to live in cities. But as millennials get older, and schooling and open space become more important, it could cause the suburbs to be more attractive. Transportation-oriented development has become more prevalent, the need for a car less so. Changing demographics of renters and the makeup of the student population at U.S. colleges and universities may also have an impact.
WPM: How do you think the Baltimore market stacks up against neighboring markets (DC/VA/PA)?
Politics and real estate are local. I don’t see individuals generally choosing between neighboring cities from just a rental perspective. That being said, look at Marc Train ridership between Baltimore and Washington. From a fundamental economic basis, Baltimore is compelling in that we have great transportation, higher education and a lower cost of living. But Baltimore has perceptual and real challenges right now because of crime. Baltimore could use a good year.