Netintegrity Blog

The Pitfalls and Windfalls of Managing Mixed-Use Condominiums

By Sandra Zimmerman

mixed_use_condo.jpgThe trend towards urbanization is still going strong in most major cities across the country, driven by a high number of young, talented people migrating to city cores for both employment and entertainment opportunities.  And residential developers are fiercely competing for these buyers by giving them what they love — convenience and community. This takes the form of blending residential and commercial components in the latest condominium developments, with commercial spaces that include retail services such as food markets, restaurants/cafés, salons and more.

Creating a micro-community of residential and retail within a single development offers enticing benefits to both condo buyers and commercial tenants. Residents have convenient access to essential products and services — practically in their own living room! While commercial tenants pretty much have a captive market, which greatly increases their chance of business success and profitability.

It sounds like a match made in heaven right? However when it comes down to actually managing a mixed-use property, that may be where the honeymoon ends and the life sentence begins. There are a number of issues that can arise when residents and retailers co-exist in the same development.

Here are five of the potentially most painful ones:

Maintenance Fees

Maintenance fees are often a sore spot for condo owners and investors to begin with, as they often wonder where exactly their money is going and sometimes suspect that they are being taken advantage of and paying more than their fair share. However, when you throw commercial tenants into the mix, the waters become muddier — and sometimes more turbulent. Owners may wonder if their maintenance fees are subsidizing the commercial spaces and possibly other amenities that they don’t use. Plus when their fees go up, which they inevitably will, they may become even more vocal and inquisitive about where their money is going.
 
Having the right property management software in place makes it quick and easy to satisfy such questions. The program automates the filtering of what’s owed for each section and performs error-free calculations. These details can be instantly presented to any customer making an inquiry, to accurately explain and justify the allocation of maintenance fees. The additional and significant benefit of error-free maintenance fee calculation is that you never have to sort out the complications that arise from either over or underpayment of maintenance fees.

And when a fully integrated owner portal is in place, owners can conveniently self-serve by looking up their maintenance fee allocations online, thus saving your organization both time and money.

Parking Spaces

When retail stores and residential units occupy the same footprint, parking spaces are in high demand. To be fair to both parties, it’s critical for property management staff to maintain tight control over parking spaces, to ensure that owners who are paying for those spots or have reserved them for guests, are not inconvenienced by unauthorized vehicles taking those spaces. At the same time, it wouldn’t be fair to retailers to have their designated customer spaces taken up by condo residents or their guests. A property management platform that is mobile-ready, makes it easy for parking security to look up plates and verify if vehicles are authorized to park, as well as document and send notices to the owners of vehicles that are in violation.

Paying Vendors

A likely scenario for vendors providing services such as window cleaning, floor cleaning or snow removal, is that they will submit a single invoice that covers all work done, whether it pertains to residential, commercial, or shared spaces such as the lobby or parking garage. A property management software with comprehensive accounting functions will automatically allocate the correct percentage of the total invoice to the corresponding mixed-use sections, as was designated in the system set-up.

Complaints & Incidents

It’s inevitable that with more traffic and persons who are there for different purposes, there will be an increase in complaints and incidents that property managers will have to deal with. Condo owners in particular, who are paying big money for the convenience and luxury of condo life, may get quite territorial and exacting about what goes on inside their community.

The right property management software is an indispensible tool for tracking and handling the potential barrage of complaints and incidents that come through. A centralized database of complaints and incident reports helps ensure that issues are resolved as quickly as possible and that nothing falls through the cracks. Plus an accurate and instantly searchable record of all events is automatically created, making it easier to identify recurring issues and resolve disputes.

Letters & Notices

With mixed-use properties there is likely to be more to manage and more to communicate to various stakeholders. A huge time-saving feature available with quality property management software, is the ability to generate letters and notices that are automatically populated with content specific to the individual contacts, and then send those communications en masse, with the click of a button. Letters and notices are also saved for future reference and re-use.

To summarize, there are a number of unique challenges that come with managing mixed-use properties. However, the right property management software can go a long way to keep everything organized and automate time-consuming processes, which results in higher profit margins and enhanced customer service.

WRM. (Whistler Resort Management) uses INFO-Tracker™ Property Management Software to manage its mixed-use properties, one of which includes a Gondola as a section!

"With the increased efficiency we've found from using the INFO-Tracker™ software, we're at a point where we can grow the business without having to hire additional staff. This system will enable us to take on additional properties and cement our place as an industry leader in condominium (strata) management." — Alex Hoelk, Managing Partner, WRM. Strata Management & Real Estate Services Ltd.
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Tagged Productivity, Blog, Technology, Property Management, Customer Service, Accounting