Guest Post by Paul D. Grucza CMCA©, AMS™, PCAM©
If you're looking for an expert in the CAM industry, you can't find better than Paul Grucza. He's worn just about all of the hats the industry has to offer, from successful management company owner to former president of CAI National, and a whole slew of other credentials. From his nearly 30 years experience in the industry, we asked Mr. Grucza to share with us his insights into the industry - where it has come from, and where it is going. Please enjoy!
When one thinks of the relatively short period of time that full condominium and association management has existed (roughly 50 years or less), we have the folks at the Urban Land Institute* to thank for the beginnings of what is now both a major industry as well as a major component of the housing landscape in our country with nearly 1 in 3 people residing in some form of community association. That’s quite a 50 year leap!
A unique industry
As the notion of association management took hold, an off-shoot of multi-family management, and the rapid development of planned communities, this cottage industry soon discovered the nuances of specific differences in association management.
From the beginning association management companies were either a part of a multi-family management business, as the type of housing was just developing or small “mom and pop” shops began to spring up around the country. Many of these would later grow to become some of the larger service providers across the country.
As the housing stock for community associations grew, so too did the proliferation of management providers springing up across the country. By the late 1970’s, association specific management companies (which once numbered less than 100) grew to well over 700 across the country. Some estimates place the number of association specific management companies today at well over 37,000 providers varying from small companies to mega-companies that service clients nationwide under one named umbrella.
A Need for Education & Certifications
Concurrent with the development of management companies so too the development programs for managers unique to this industry took hold. Community Associations Institute was inaugurated to address the needs of this industry and become a national resource developing education, information and guidance for boards, members, managers and other service providers with curriculums that have morphed and changed over the years to meet the needs of an ever-changing constituency. Information on such education can be found at www.caionline.org.
Along with recognizing association management as a bona-fide industry, many states including Florida, California, Colorado and Virginia, among others, have recognized and now require its practitioners to be licensed or certified to be participants in the field. Other states are looking closely at these requirements in order to raise the bar on professionalism that our industry desires in the markets it serves.
Advances in Technology
Technology has also evolved since the inception of association management as a segment specific form of management. From first using software designed for apartment use, numerous companies across the country have developed software, such as TOPS Professional to specifically address the unique tracking, financial and data retention needs of the industry. As the industry grew and changed, so too did the software providers - to the point where today a practitioner can do real-time inspections in the field, embed photos of violations right into the software and return to the office to find their letters ready to go out and in perfect order and condition. This is a far cry from the old school drive and note methodology so many companies had used for years.
No doubt this form of homeownership and the ancillary businesses it has spawned will continue to evolve over the years. Technology is a large driver of this evolutionary curve. With the advent of email, communication is now instantaneous and immediate. Owners can be notified of meetings, emergencies or other types of important communication, electronic balloting can immediately tabulate the results of board elections and hand-held communication devices literally allow the manager to take the office with them to the field.
The largest single change I see coming in the evolution of our industry is the immediacy of expectation of owners and boards in today’s technological world. Answers are expected immediately, the economy has forced boards and members to have higher expectations of its service providers and vendors have segmented their business’ to focus and specialize on the needs of the association industry.
The Future of Community Association Management
The virtual office, the ability to work remotely and the ability to use items such as web-conferencing all are bellweather elements that portend the future of where the business is going. It is not inconceivable that someday there will be “virtual managers” to attend to the needs of clients. One thing however will remain constant: the need to provide superior customer service; and no system, electronic or otherwise, will replace the need for skilled professionals who can have the necessary requirements to service and assist this ever growing, ever changing component of the housing industry.
*Ed Note: The Urban Land Institute and its Community Builders Council played a large role in providing the blueprint for early planned communities. Of particular historical importance were the Community Builders Handbook, published in 1948, and the Homes Association Handbook, published in 1964 (often called the Community Association Bible).
Mr. Grucza has been actively involved in the Apartment, Association Management and Training field for well over 29 years. He is currently Director of Educational Services and Client Integration at The CWD Group, Inc. AAMC® in Seattle, Washington. His professional experience includes conventional and subsidized apartment management, association management including luxury high rise condominiums, large scale HOA and cooperative units, commercial financial management, mortgage banking, asset management, training and adult education.
Among his many other accomplishments, Mr. Grucza is a Past- President of the Community Associations Institute (CAI), having been elected to that office in 2004.