These are hardly the best of times for those who manage condo and homeowner association buildings, charged as they are with overseeing financial well-being, maintenance goals, legal issues and an almost unpredictable kaleidoscope of other daily concerns, in an economy stressed by many months of lean times. On the positive side: When has there been a better opportunity to acquire the kind of experience only challenging times can provide?
In what has become a sometimes-complicated scenario, property managers and building community leaders are seeking broad-based, in-depth training for the many hats they wear. Some have concluded that the trenches aren’t always the best classroom, and are heading for more organized venues. Membership organizations and colleges have responded, offering a variety of options ranging from bachelor’s degree studies to continuing education certification programs. The industry itself offers well-tooled programs to deal with the problems facing managers, as well as offering advanced levels of certification for those making a career of residential property management.
The nationwide Community Associations Institute (CAI) based in Alexandria, Virginia, oversees a system of state and regional chapters, each providing managers with course opportunities and peer contacts. Published materials and continually updated classes are available as well. Frank Rathbun, CAI's vice president of communications and marketing, says the group's certification courses delve into increasingly specialized challenges, critical for career growth among managers—but equally important to those who reside in housing communities.
Ann-Marie Johnson, director of education operations and credentialing at CAI, says residents also have much at stake in having certified managers. “For homeowners, it’s knowing that the manager has the fundamental knowledge in any situation (when to call an attorney, how to handle an emergency)—and that he has to abide by the CAI’s Code of Ethics.”
“There’s no question that most [managers] are doing a very good job,” Rathbun adds, “but clearly those who have taken specialized courses can bring something additional to the table.” Training based on experience provides the foundation for better performance in difficult situations, he continues. “Running a community association is not easy; it’s a professional job that requires many types of skills and different kinds of knowledge. It’s a complicated job, and we have to make sure our courses keep up with the trends.”