Know Everybody

This post is part of a series on managers

When I worked in New York, I was tasked with negotiating a buyout of some residents in a loft building. For those whose lives continue peacefully despite not knowing about the Loft Law, it regulates the treatment of residents and improvements to buildings that do not have residential certificates of occupancy.

I'm not sure why I was chosen, but I began by learning the names and tenancy of the residents, looking at the improvements they had made to the building to make it habitable, and discussing their future plans. Some wanted to stay in New York, others dreamed of moving to be closer to children, water, something else entirely. It wasn't completely succesful, I had a few doors slammed in my face, but speaking with the residents helped us understand their viewpoints, and we were able to buyout about 75% of the residents.

I remembered that experience two or three years later when, now as an asset manager, I began my first site visit. Located in Reston, this 200-unit community had a steady resident base, long term site team, and a tucked-away location that relied on word of mouth.

As the manager and I walked the property, I noticed that he greeted everyone by name. The women who sang in choir, the fathers who had returned from deployment, the kids walking home from school. He knew who was late on rent, who was expecting a contractor to stop by, and who needed to see him about a lease renewal. I could throw out a unit number and he would know who lived there and for how long.

The point of this is that if your manager does not engage with residents, they cannot tell you who lives there, what they do, or what they'll do at renewal. It makes managers less knowledgeable, their recommendations less informed, and your investments less effective.

The absence of engagement leads to the presence of surprises.