Property Management in Illinois can be a rewarding and well-compensated career. While a career in this field requires credentials, those with jobs in property management find that the time put in is well worth it. Plus, residential property management has a great career outlook.
A property manager is an individual or firm that operates a real estate property for a fee. The role exists because the owner does not desire, or is not able, to manage the property themselves. Due to the large number of responsibilities, it is common for developments with several residential homes to hire property management services. A property manager’s primary responsibility is to the owner. In the case of developments with several residences, ownership is represented by an association with an elected board of directors.
What do Property Managers do?
Property management services fall into the following key categories. Jobs in property management companies can vary depending on how they serve in each of these categories. Often, the firm has processes in place to take care of the details on many items below. Meanwhile, the individual property manager serves as an advocate, liaison, and “quarterback”, and many items they are directly hands-on with.
Property management firms commonly offer the following administrative services:
- customer service
- software to help manage maintenance, payments, communication, and customer service
- reports/agenda/minutes preparation for board
- leasing support
- maintenance of governing documents
- processing and documentation of resales
The financial services property management companies typically offer can include HOA bookkeeping for accounts receivable and accounts payable, and financial statements. Property managers often manage the collection of assessments and fines for rule violations, and assist with budgeting. They can provide billing statements, closing letters for sale of a residence, and possibly even contract re-negotiation services.
Building maintenance management
A community association manager oversees the maintenance of the buildings and grounds. This includes preventative maintenance, capital repairs, and unexpected repairs. Additionally, the property manager oversees the work orders for the individual units. Additionally, they consult with the board in securing qualified contractors, soliciting and evaluating bids, and scheduling and managing the maintenance projects.
Board of Director support
In addition to the above areas, property managers assist with:
- board meetings
- helping the board effectively adhere to rules and laws
- amending governing documents
Types of Property Management
There are several different types of real estate properties that need property managers. Commercial properties such as retail buildings, shopping malls, sports arenas, and manufacturing facilities are examples. The needs can vary quite a bit between these types of properties.
Residential property management offers several types of opportunities. While not all that relevant in Illinois, vacation rentals are a type of short-term housing with management needs. Other short-term rental properties can include student, corporate, and government housing. Nursing homes and assisted living are another type of housing that needs property management. Additional specialty housing can include mobile home communities, low income housing, tiny home villages, RV parks, etc.
But the greatest opportunities in residential property management in Illinois and many other states are in multi-unit housing. While single-family home HOAs sometimes need property managers, almost all condominium and townhouse developments need the help of one or more professionals. Property managers for these types of developments are also known as community association managers.
In addition, consider suburban versus city property management. Needs and property features often vary between Chicago and its suburbs.
Training and skills
Key skills a property manager needs include:
- project management
- upholding boundaries and rules
- community association legalities, procedures, and documents
- knowledge of how association boards function
Property management training and skills come with both credentials and experience. The Community Association Institute is the key resource for property management education in Illinois. Obtaining an Illinois CAM license requires 20 hours of education and passing the exam.
While credentials are required, experience is invaluable. We recommend interning or otherwise getting a job in the industry where you can learn hands-on. At Hillcrest, we have a history of mentoring candidates new to the industry, and guiding those interested through to becoming licensed. One method is to work as a property assistant under a property manager mentor. As you progress in your education and certification, you’ll gain more and more experience in community association management tasks.
Property Management laws
While community associations should have attorneys for the final word on all legal matters, property managers must have familiarity with laws affecting their association. There are quite a few legal issues to be aware of, and they can evolve over time. It is important that property managers are always abreast of the latest legalities. Some legal areas they must be aware of include:
- landlord-tenant and rental lease laws
- the importance of keeping up to date, and adhering to, governing documents
- common areas of liability concern
- board member fiduciary responsibility
- when to involve law enforcement
Benefits of becoming a Property Manager
Being a Property Manager can be very rewarding. Our own Caree Shtulman recently shared her career journey in property management, and what she takes pride in. Property managers find meaning in helping people live safely and happily in their community, and enjoy the leadership and relationships of the role. The role is relatively independent, and gets to interact with many people.
The outlook for jobs in property management is very good. One measure is that association members in general continue to find their association valuable. In fact, in Community Associations Institute’s 2020 homeowner survey, 94% of community association members say their association’s rules protect and enhance property values.* In addition, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports little to no change on the job outlook for community association managers through 2029. Meanwhile, the field is not flooded with candidates.
Some of the jobs in property management, and their associated salaries, include:
- Assistant Community Manager, with a median salary in Chicago of $46,000/year, according to Payscale
- Community Manager, with an average salary in Chicago of $63,000/year, according to Built In Chicago
- Director of Property Management, with a median salary of $88,000/year, according to Payscale
*Read the full 2020 Homeowner Satisfaction Survey here.