Characteristics of a Good Property Manager

I am often asked what boards should expect from a property manager,” says Ira Meister President and CEO, Matthew Adam Properties, Inc.

Meister says that at first glance the question seems obvious.  The board wants a person available 24/7 who can oversee the staff so the building is maintained in top-flight condition and provides excellent services. Someone who can help control costs and supervise capital improvement projects. 

Professionalism and having communication with tenants are key in property management

“All management companies will say they do this,” Meister says.  “But to truly

understand what a board and its residents should expect, the answer must be more specific

Meister says that probably the most important quality is professionalism. This means a manager who conducts themselves in a professional manner, who is courteous and patient with board members and residents and who is a good manager of staffs.  Communications and the ability to deal with and work with others is a key ingredient.

“While a manager oversees a multi-million budget, management is very much a people business and those with good people skills and professionalism are excellent managers,” Meister says.

A good manager is organized and keeps detailed records and reports

Another area, he says, is having someone with experience. Other characteristics include  being prompt when attending meetings and making certain anything with a timeframe is delivered on schedule, whether a report or project.  A good manager is organized and keeps detailed records and reports.

A bane of many boards is a lack of responsiveness.  A board should expect that all calls or emails are returned within 24 hours, if not sooner, and that questions are answered directly and accurately.  The board should also expect that the company has a manager available 24/7 in case of emergencies.

“While knowledge of building systems and construction are important, the people aspect and developing a trusting working relationship is the key to good management,” Meister says.

Asset Managers Play Vital Role in a Property’s Finances

“A property manager deals with many issues in the course of managing a residential property, but probably the most important area is finances,” says Ira Meister, President and CEO, Matthew Adam Properties.   A partner in an accounting firm that works with numerous co-ops and condominiums and who has a good perspective on what to expect regarding finances discussed this with Meister.

“Probably the most important responsibility is making certain the financial records are complete and there is sufficient information for the accountant and the board,” the accountant says.

Complete and accurate financial records are central for projecting expenditures

Meister says the accountant also told him he values asset managers who get the information to him in a timely manner. This includes the monthly financial reports and as well as preparation of the annual budget. In some buildings, the board does the initial budget, in others it is the managing agent or the accounting firm, or most often a combination.  But, the accountant says, when the accounting firm reviews the budget it is important that the managing agent provides accurate historical information on usage of fuel, water, and electricity, both year-to-date figures as well as past numbers. This is central to projecting expenditures.

Coupled with this is having good financial software. The accountant points out that there are numerous software programs on the market for the financials of co-ops and condos and some management companies, particularly smaller ones, try to save money by buying inferior programs. The building is the loser in these instances.

This brings up an interesting point. A firm’s commitment to quality service extends to the technology it uses and the commitment to getting and using up-to-date systems.  “At Matthew Adam Properties, we continuously look at the latest technology and invest in those we believe will improve services,” Meister says.

The Importance of a Long-Term Capital Plan

Having a long-term capital plan and budget is necessary for successful management of a property, says Ira Meister, President and CEO, Matthew Adam Properties, Inc., a leading New York property management firm.

“Many buildings have a five-year capital program which identifies areas that need work and also sets up a funding plan.  By carefully spreading out the work based on need, the building can better manage its cash flow and identify how much it would need to raise for the projects,” Meister says.

Five year capital programs help avoid pitfalls in today’s strict lending environment

This type of organized planning helps avoid the pitfall of needing several major projects in one year, which put a burden on the property’s finances and the shareholders or unit-owners.  Often the failure to provide a funding plan results in special assessments, especially in today’s strict lending environment.

In preparing the long-term capital budget, a property manager should gather information about the structural condition of the building and its systems.  This, along with the repairs or upgrades required to comply with various government requirements such as Local Law 11, forms the basis of the capital plan.  Included should be estimates of costs, Meister advises.

Gathering information of the building’s condition is needed to prepare a capital budget

“Once all the information is gathered, the asset manager can set priorities and a timeframe for the work based on the information he has obtained,” Meister says.

Another area to consider is available tax incentives and rebate programs.  Some of these have deadlines and others are available on a first-come basis.  Knowledge of these can help in setting the priorities of work.

“By having all the information, the manager can get a big picture view of what is required and bundle similar projects based on the systems or work involved,” Meister says.  One example would be having work that requires scaffolding done in sequence avoiding the need to have the scaffolding put up several times at a much greater expense.

Continuous Training Is Required To Maintain a Quality Staff

It’s no secret that the performance of the employees has a significant impact on the success of any company, organization or well-run building, says Ira Meister, founder and president of Matthew Adam Properties. It’s like going to a fine restaurant and having delicious food with terrible service.  The experience is not what it should be.  The arrogance, disinterest and poor training of the wait staff can ruin a wonderful evening.

Matthew Adam Properties understands this, Meister says, and puts significant emphasis on the quality and training of building staffs.  “On each visit our asset managers engage with the staff, observe how they are performing and look to see how well they are maintaining the property and serving the residents,” Meister says.


New updates in technology require staff to be continually trained


But it doesn’t stop there.  In addition to meeting with the superintendent and employees, both in formal and informal meetings, the company conducts learning sessions to focus on the building’s priorities and provide updates on the latest technology and on new methods of maintenance.

“Driven by technology and the need to have the staff be as efficient as possible to keep costs down, we need to continually train and educate employees,” Meister says.

“We also spend time with the doorman and concierge going over the do’s and don’ts of greeting residents and announcing visitors as well as accepting packages, providing security as well as taking messages,” Meister says. “We look at everything in a building and make recommendations when we see fit.”

The company discusses keeping uniforms clean, whether for maintenance people or doormen.  Some buildings prefer the doormen to wear their hats at all times, while others don’t and the doormen need to be reminded what the standards are for their building.

Meister says his company is very aware that each building is its own entity with its own culture, procedures and individual needs. “The staff must be sensitive to that and those who have worked in other properties must understand that what was acceptable or a practice in one building does not necessarily follow through to be effective in another building.”

Five Keys for Tenant Screening

Inform the Applicants about Tenant Screening

Before starting off with tenant screening, it is important to inform applicants that screening is compulsory. Just learning that there is a screening process is sure to eliminate potentially bad tenants, thus saving you valuable time.

Screen Consistently

A comprehensive and systematic tenant screening process for all your potential tenants will protect you in case an applicant makes claims that you have made violations against the Fair Housing Act.

Deciding Minimum Qualification

As the owner of a property in NYC, you are expected to pick a tenant who will give you no trouble with regards to payment of rent or other issues. Decide whether you want tenants who have criminal records, or if such applicants must refrain from applying regardless of how long back they were arrested for whatever reason. Think in detail what kind of tenant you would like before starting with the screenings.

Credit Checks

Once your applicants have met your prior requirements, run a credit check to ensure that they will be able to meet rent and bill payments on time. Get the report directly from the applicant’s credit reported to make sure that there are no shenanigans.


Check References

Calling the present or past landlords of an individual will help you determine whether or not an applicant is worthy of your space. Personal and employment references will help you know more about the person, thus enabling you to make an informed decision regarding the outlet of your rental space.

Ten Things You Must Do To Keep A Great Tenant

Be Responsive

Good tenants are important for effective building management. Being responsive when your tenant has any problem can help build a bond that will keep the tenant around for a while.

Address Problems Immediately

No one likes to wait, so make sure that any of your tenant’s concerns are addressed immediately as keeping him/her waiting can aggravate them.

Try to Please Them

Apart from attending to their concerns, you can please your tenant by sending sweets, or occasionally chatting with them to help them feel more comfortable.

Use Quality Appliances and Materials

Tenants are happier when they live in surroundings where there are quality things. Compromising on the quality of appliances may make them think that your rental property is not good enough.

Ensure Regular Maintenance

Attending to all units regularly will ensure that your tenants do not have any problems in this regard, thereby keeping them happy with your rental property.

Maintain Contact

The relationship between you and your tenant can be a little more friendly than average. Drop in once in a while to say ‘Hello,’ or invite them to group activities and suchlike.

Respect Your Tenant’s Privacy

Give your tenants the privacy they need and make sure that you keep out of their business at inappropriate hours.

Choose Wisely

During the screening process, make sure you get all the details of the applicants and that you assess them before letting out your property. During the interview, confirm with the applicant the duration of the rent.

Honor the Contract

If you make any promises to your tenants, make sure that they materialise as the tenant can sue you if you do not keep up the contract.

Changes in Rent

Do not increase the rent too often. Increments must be made based on the market and not personal choice.

Buildings Sloppy in Following Elevator Inspection Regulations

Ira Meister, founder and CEO of Matthew Adam Properties, says that when his company is retained to take over management of buildings after a board changed management companies, it has found a disturbing number of properties that are not current with elevator inspections either by not having the inspections conducted, or not filing the proper reports.  “This raises two issues,” Meister says.  “Most importantly, is the need to keep elevators in good working order to prevent accidents.  Secondly, the buildings are subject to fines for not complying.”


Elevator accidents have changed the elevator inspection codes

In recent years, several well-publicized elevator accidents have led the city to rework the elevator inspection codes.  This also followed a report in 2009 from the Department of Buildings which showed lax compliance. Of 50 elevator inspections and tests that were randomly monitored, the department found that 28 of the inspections were performed late, seven were performed by inspectors who lacked the necessary certifications and 19 were not properly documented.  This led to new inspection and testing requirements that went into effect in December 2010.

Under the current code, a basic test must be conducted annually by an approved elevator inspector and witnessed by another company or inspector who is not connected with the company performing the inspection.

“Then, the owner, board or most likely the property manager must file a report with the Department of Buildings with the results. This must be submitted within 45 days of the inspection,” Meister says.  “However, very often the responsible party fails to file the report.”


You have 45 business days to repair defects after filing inspection report

If defects are found requiring repair, the work must be done within 45 business days of filing the initial inspection report.  A final report, saying the repairs have been done, must be filed within 15 business days of completion of the work.

Failure to perform the inspection, or to correct defects once found, can result in fines of $150/month per elevator.  After one year, the fines increase to $3,000.  A “full-load” test is required every five years.  Fines for this are $250/month for failure to perform the test and $150/month for not correcting violations.  After one year the fines increase to $5,000.

“In addition to changes in the inspection requirements,” Meister says, “the new code and recent amendments have added requirements for various safety features in the elevators, which require additional expenses for the owner. “

Complying Early with Local Law 87 Has Benefits

Buildings that comply with Local Law 87 prior to their assigned date can benefit from various incentives before funding runs out or regulations change.

The legislation requires large buildings to conduct an energy audit and a retro-commissioning study every 10 years.  The energy audit identifies areas where energy and cost savings could be implemented, though not mandated. The retro-commissioning requires “base building systems” to be at performance capabilities. If not, corrective measures are required.

Incentives for Completing both Retro-Commissioning and Audit

The heating requirements of the retro-commissioning require analysis be conducted during the heating season, which ends in March, negating the possibility of compliance this year. The law provides an incentive for buildings that complete both the retro-commissioning and the audit by the end of 2013.  If accomplished, the date for the next round of compliance is 10 years past the assigned date.

Reports are required based on the last digit of the tax block number.  For example, buildings with the last digit of 3 are required to file in 2013, with 6, in 2016.  The later a building is required to file, the more advantageous it is to comply in 2013.  Those buildings whose tax block number is 2, would be required to file in 2022.  But, if they comply in 2013, the next mandated compliance period would not be until 2032.

Buildings covered by the law are larger than 50,000 gross square feet or two or more buildings on the same tax lot that comprise more than 100,000 gross square feet as we’ll as two or more condominiums governed by the same board that together exceed 100,000 gross square feet.

But, there are significant benefits for buildings complying before the required timeframe, says Brian King, president and CEO, Ecological LLC, an environmental sustainability company.

Incentives are offered by NYSERDA (New York State Energy Research and Development Authority) and others to improve the energy use in buildings.  Changes to the incentives or a lack of funds may make them unavailable in future years.

Energy Auditing Can Save You Money Long Term

While changes are not mandated in the energy auditing component of Local law 87, buildings can save money long term by implementing some or all of the recommendations.  One incentive available involves financing upgrades to heating and cooling systems through the payment of utility bills.  For example, if NYSERDA lends a building $1 million for upgrading, which saves approximately $200,000 annually in energy costs, the building can pay this off in five years through an agreement with Con Ed on its utility bill.  The building will be charged the same amount as if it hadn’t upgraded (which would be an additional $200,000 annually over the actual expense) and in five years that would total the $1 million loan from NYSERDA.  After five years, the building is saving at least $200,000 in energy costs annually.  An option being considered is Pace Bonds, which would be similar to the NYSERDA loans and could be paid back through incentives in real estate taxes.

Several cities, including Philadelphia, Seattle, San Francisco and Washington, DC, have passed legislation similar to Local law 87, and about a dozen states are looking into various aspects of it.

Matthew Adam Properties is working with Ecological LLC to conduct the audits and retro-commissioning in buildings we manage and developing plans for compliance.  A key part of the audit is a cost benefit analysis.

Matthew Adam Properties is on the leading-edge of management firms in promoting energy conservation and “Green” technology.  We are one of the few, if only, management company in New York with a division headed by a LEED certified professional dedicated to sustainability and promoting “Green” initiatives. The goal is not only to reduce costs and gas emissions, but to create a safer and healthier environment for residents of properties we manage.

Local Law 87 is part of a package of four laws called the “Greener, Greater Buildings Plan,” enacted in 2009 to improve the energy and water efficiency of the city’s largest buildings.

Another of the laws, Local Law 84, requires annual benchmarking of energy and water systems with the city publishing the results. Local Law 85 requires that plans for renovations or upgrades demonstrate how the project complies with the Energy Code.  Local Law 88 requires upgrading to lighting systems and installations of electrical submetering in apartments. Buildings covered by this law have until January 1, 2025, to comply.

The goal of the package is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2030.

Reducing Renovation Costs

             While multi-family buildings are looking to keep costs down as much as possible in this economic environment, there are certain items that need to be addressed.  One of these is the physical upkeep of the property, says Ira Meister, president and CEO of Matthew Adam Properties.  An important area is the public spaces, which immediately give a visitor insight into the attention to detail in the management of the property and how the residents view their homes.

Appearance of public areas can affect property value

“In fact,” Meister says, “the appearance of the public areas has an impact on the value of the building and the price of units.  Spaces that show their age might give the prospective buyer an indication that the mechanical systems may lack proper maintenance, which could lead to higher maintenance/common charges or a special assessment.

“The hallways at 1175 York Avenue needed to be refurbished and we wanted to add ‘Green’ elements to reduce costs and make the environment healthier for residents and staff,” Meister says.

He notes that in today’s economy with construction and renovation projects less plentiful contractors are more competitive and buildings can obtain lower bids than prior to the recession of 2008.

“While this helps to reduce costs, there are other ways to do so, and we diligently pursue these,” Meister says.  “One way is through the purchase of materials.”

For 1175 York Avenue, the asset manager at Matthew Adam researched the cost of materials such as carpeting, wall coverings and lighting fixtures and then aggressively bargained with the vendors to get a better price.

“We reduced the designer’s budgeted cost of materials by $150,000,” Meister says.  “The diligence of Martin Traub, the asset manager, paid off for the co-op.”

“Green” initiatives have long-term savings

In addition to installing new carpeting and wall covering, Matthew Adam had energy-saving, compact florescent lighting installed.  While the initial cost is higher for the lighting, long-term there is savings in the cost of the bulbs and energy.  Other “Green” initiatives are found in the adhesives and surface coatings.

“At Matthew Adam Properties we are in the forefront of bringing “Green” materials to the properties we manage,” Meister said.  “In every project we are involved with we see how we can bring our “Green” initiative to bear.”

A Geothermal Well in Manhattan

Matthew Adam Properties is committed to promoting and implementing “Green” systems wherever possible in properties it manages. In fact, points out President and CEO Ira Meister, the firm has its own Sustainability Department headed by a LED certified professional.

One of the more unusual projects for the firm was the installation of a geothermal well in a small, multi-family co-op it manages on East 93rd Street.

“Many are surprised to hear that we were working with engineers to install a geothermal well in Manhattan, and while it is unusual, it is not the first,” Meister says.  “It is estimated there are about 100 geothermal projects in the five boroughs, mainly in institutional buildings, such as the Times Square TKTS Booth, the Brooklyn Children’s Museum and the Queens Botanical Garden.”

In Manhattan, Meister points out, most building sites tend to be small, so the wells are vertical.  The building on East 93rd Street is in the Carnegie Hill section of Manhattan, which is higher than other areas, which facilitated the drilling.  The wells usually go to a depth of 1,500 feet. 

Use the Natural Energy of the Earth to Heat Your Buildings

Geothermal energy systems use the earth’s constant temperature to heat and cool buildings.  They are dug to the level where the earth maintains the water temperature at a constant level.  Actually, the systems are not wells, but a series of pipes.  Here is how it works.  In winter, the warm water is drawn from the earth through a series of pipes using the natural warmth of the water to deliver it to a heat pump inside the property, which transfers it to the air circulated though interior ductwork to heat the interior.

In summer, Meister says, the process is reversed and heat is extracted from the air inside the building and transferred into the earth.  The system also uses some of the heat generated to provide hot water.

Geothermal Systems are More Efficient Then Conventional Heating

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that geothermal systems are 75 percent more efficient than oil furnaces, 48 percent more efficient that gas furnaces and 40 percent better than air source heat pumps.

The expense varies depending on the size of the property and the extent of the drilling, but it is estimated that costs are recovered in from two to eight years.  In addition to the energy savings, tax credits may be available as well as financial assistance from NYSERDA (the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority), which promotes the use of alternative energy technologies.

Other positive factors, Meister points out, are lower maintenance costs since the systems do not burn fossil fuels, which require cleaning and upkeep of the fuel and gas systems.  In addition, the pipes in the system are warranted for 50 years and the above ground equipment of 25 to 30 years, about twice the life expectancy of a furnace or other conventional systems.