The team of property managers at 1st American Management Company handles the needs of nearly 15,000 properties for more than 70 homeowner associations spread across Northwest Indiana.
It is a big responsibility – their work involves the living space for thousands of people. They handle repairs, maintenance, adjust for the changing seasons, and address the needs of ambitious boards and concerns of eager residents. Renee Jeffries, Director of Property Management and Assistant Vice President at 1st American Management Company explained that it is a career where any given day is rarely predictable.
“We rarely have a daily schedule, it’s more of a seasonal ‘rotation of tasks,’” she said. “You might come in with a set of goals that you want to finish, and then have emergencies pop-up, such as a busted pipe or a grounds care company not showing up for a week that you have to take care of. Then there’s helping out people who call or visit us, meeting with vendors – there’s really no day that’s the same.”
Yet that dynamic environment is one of the things she appreciates most about the work.
“I really appreciate the variation; it’s not very structured,” she said. “You make each day what you can, handling what comes in front of you or planning for the future. It’s always different and keeps you on your toes.”
The key to success is to know each and every property inside and out, and to have contingencies – and then contingencies for those contingencies.
“Some days you get to catch up on administrative things, other days you’re just putting out fires,” said Peter Bylen, Property Manager at 1st American Management Company. “You’re just trying to stay ahead of things, and the best way to do that as a property manager is to be as familiar as you can be with the properties. Something as simple as knowing the sun load on driveways for snow removal – like on the north side of a neighborhood the sun is taking care of residual snow, and on the south side there’s a glaze. It helps you empathize with people and get someone out there to do something about it.”
1st American Management Company maintains strong relationships with contractors in diverse disciplines across the Region. Plumbing, snow removal, heating, cooling, and more all require prompt responses.
“We call everyone we can to get a problem solved as quickly as possible,” Bylen said. “Sometimes, they’ll drop whatever they’re doing to come help us out because they know we’re reliable and they can count on us for other business. We also have an in-house staff that can respond to situations like snow removal when another contractor might not be able to handle it until the next day.”
Property managers are also responsible for understanding the different natures of each neighborhood, including the articles and rules that govern how they operate. It is often one of the more difficult parts of first learning the role.
“There’s a lot that goes into learning about each individual property,” Jeffries said. “Then there’s all the different covenants and rules. It’s difficult to learn at first, but as long as you know where to find the answer, you’re good to go.”
The most important and unique aspect of residential property management is that the work directly involves a family’s living space. It is an understandably personal topic for homeowners, something that 1st American Management Company's managers value – particularly Bylen, who originally worked in commercial property management.
“Commercial management was impersonal, and numbers were the only thing that really mattered,” Bylen said. ”Now on the residential side, I’ve been doing this for over 20 years, and the occasional thank you speaks volumes. We’re dealing with real people’s problems, and that’s rewarding. It feels good knowing you’ve solved someone’s problem.”
Jeffries noted that 1st American Management Company, as a locally owned company, puts a strong emphasis on relationship building with both HOAs and the homeowners themselves.
“I think we bring a particularly personal approach to things,” she said. “We form relationships with the board members; we form relationships with the homeowners. When you have larger companies, especially ones that aren’t really local, sometimes you miss that personal touch that we’re able to provide.”
To learn more about 1st American Management Company, visit 1stpropertymanagers.com.