From real estate investment to property management. From Highcrest to Hillcrest. Joel Garson’s eye for opportunity and endless energy has taken him from a three-person team to over 50 employees, through the fastest-changing time in human history.

From dream to reality

Joel Garson‘s original plan was to be a dentist. But after finishing school, he saw an opportunity in real estate, and took a risk. In 1971, Joel built 176 townhome-style rentals. “Highcrest” was born. These first rentals were in Woodridge, IL, where he followed up with 496 more townhomes. Joel’s small team subsequently converted those into condos. It was then that he realized they could add value managing these properties, from maintenance to accounting, and more. Other communities needed management, too. And so, the Highcrest Management Operation took off.

Apartment and Condominium News Cover Story 1984Humble beginnings

The Highcrest team started out with Joel, a handyman, and a bookkeeper. The first two years in business, the holiday parties had four people. All business was conducted with typewriters and paper files. They had an IBM processor tower the size of an office! Over time, customers and community members often mistakenly called the company “Hillcrest”. Ultimately Joel decided it made sense to change the name.

Modern evolution

The company’s evolution has been marked by changes in technology, growth, and improvements in compensation.

Internet and technology

The internet has enabled clients very easy access to get what they need from Hillcrest. Advances in the technology have also brought the property management industry tools that have improved efficiency and service. This includes internal software as well as tools like Hillcrest’s billing platform Strong Room and property management software Vantaca. These tools have been crucial in serving our ever-growing team and portfolio of communities.

Of course, today’s easy access to information on the internet also poses challenges. Like most companies, Hillcrest finds ways to educate customers who come across confusing or incorrect information online. Joel was educating customers before the internet, by being a part of the Apartment & Condominium News.

1984 cover Apartment Condominium News

Thanks to the ease of publishing online, today we publish a blog. This allows us to share helpful information for boards and homeowners. For example, it is common for community residents to confuse the responsibilities of a property management company with the responsibilities of their association. We wrote an article to clarify.


Compensation packages have evolved over the years as well. Increasingly in recent decades, 401(k) options, insurance, competitive salaries, and other benefits are important factors for businesses. This is very true for us, as we have committed to having a strong team of great talent.

HOA laws

As humans constantly make efforts to improve, the same is true when it comes to homeowners’ associations and the property management industry. Property management credentials emerged, and Joel was a pioneer in the Midwest in earning them.

Joel Garson credentials

A major legal decision changing the industry more recently is the Illinois Appellate Court Order Palm II act in 2014. This act set rules that HOA boards must follow to increase transparency with homeowners, and strengthen the fiduciary liability for HOA board members.

What’s next for Hillcrest?

Today Hillcrest’s over 50 employees are based in Lombard, IL. At the time of publishing, the company is led by an eight-person management team. Joel is as energetic and passionate for his company as ever, and continually striving for the next business goal. The team is proud of their ever-growing client-base, and continues to aim to provide the best service possible. We can’t wait to see what 2020 brings!

The Hillcrest Property Management Team 2019