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Work Through Change to Survive Crisis and Thrive, Says IREM Panel of Industry Leaders

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Chicago, IL, May 26, 2010 – A group of 12 real estate management industry leaders who lived through the S&L crisis of the late 80s and early 90s are certain that many of the lessons they learned back then still resonate today.  Speaking recently in Washington, DC, at a meeting sponsored by the Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM),  group participants agreed that the current financial crisis is more severe and far reaching than the S&L crisis; also, that the factors that provoked both and the remedies chosen to address them differ greatly.  Nonetheless, the challenge now as then, they concurred, is to segregate what is temporary change from permanent change, what is short term and what is long term, and to manage through the change that is imposed.

Addressing a packed audience of industry practitioners many young enough never to have experienced a serious economic downturn the veteran industry leaders underscored that the basics of successful property management still are proving to be the knowledge base for coping successfully now and going forward.  “Stick to your own plan and core business,” counseled panel member and current IREM President O. Randall Woodbury, CPM.  “And position yourself to pursue new opportunities when the time is right,” some other panelists advised, stressing that this is not the time to let up on the accelerator.

Staff Is Key
An unspoken consensus that ran though the panel is the notion that a firm’s staff is the key to its survival now and prosperity in the future, that “you can get through this crisis if you have a strong corporate culture that keeps morale high.”

Staff must be treated fairly and honestly. And difficult as it may be to do, panel participants advocated maintaining competitive compensation, rigorously supporting ethical standards, and encouraging professional development through education so that you have adequately prepared staff to help you move out of this economic crisis successfully and help capitalize on new opportunities.  This indeed is difficult, the panel noted, as downsizing has expanded the portfolio of current property managers. They are swamped, having to do more of their traditional job with less, as well as to take on even more responsibility for dealing with such things as troubled tenants, rent reduction, and workouts. 

Nurture Outsiders
The IREM panel also addressed the need to nurture relationships with outsiders who are critical sources of referrals, including lenders and owners as well as their advisers such as real estate lawyers and mortgage bankers plus community leaders.

Light at the End of the Tunnel
There is light at the end of the tunnel, panel participants agreed, noting that industry statistics are pointing upward and that opportunities are out there for investors and property managers alike. As one panelist concluded, “our current economic problems will be resolved, not as quickly as they were during the S & L crisis, but they will be.”

Some other observations by the panel:

  • Don’t chase trends as many did 20 years ago, for example, by chasing RTC business and then being left out in the cold.
  • Recognize that the younger generations “want it now,” and get into the trenches with them.
  • Do things in new ways, but also be sure your people know that basics, that they know Property Management 101. 
  • Spread compliments around, however informally, when staff merit it; it’s a very low-cost morale booster and motivator.
  • Be honest with your people and encourage freedom to perform.
  • Be a cheerleader to your staff, and leave your personal and professional problems at home.
    The Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM) is an international community of real estate managers across all property types dedicated to ethical business practices and maximizing the value of investment real estate. An affiliate of the National Association of Realtors, IREM has been a trusted source for knowledge, advocacy and networking for the real estate management community for more than 80 years.

    IREM is the only professional real estate management association serving both the multi-family and commercial real estate sectors and has 80 U.S. chapters, 14 international chapters, and several other partnerships around the globe. Worldwide membership includes nearly 18,000 individual members and over 535 corporate members.

    IREM promotes ethical real estate management practices through its credentialed membership programs, including the Certified Property Manager (CPM) designation, the Accredited Residential Manager (ARM) certification, the Accredited Commercial Manager (ACoM) certification, and the Accredited Management Organization (AMO) accreditation. These esteemed credentials certify competence and professionalism for those engaged in real estate management. IREM also offers CPM Candidate, Associate, Student, and Academic memberships. All members are bound by the strictly enforced IREM Code of Professional Ethics.

    Collectively, CPM Members in the United States manage nearly $2 trillion in real estate assets, including 11.4 million residential units and 10.4 billion net square feet of commercial space. To learn more about the IREM and its chapter network, call (800) 837-0706, ext. 4650 (outside the U.S. call (312) 329-6000) or visit