WILLMAR -- Jodi VandeSteeg has been in the field of property management for four months. Her employer, Lloyd Management, has many years in property management and is helping VandeSteeg as she learns the job of site manager at Cardinal Manor Apartments in Willmar.
VandeSteeg is also benefiting from educational classes offered to property owners and managers by the Minnesota Multi Housing Association, located in Bloomington.
The association holds classes in the metro area and in outstate Minnesota, including Willmar, on a variety of topics ranging from fundamentals of rental property management and legislative updates to fair housing laws.
The association was established in 1967 to promote the highest standards in development, management and maintenance of rental and owner-occupied multi housing. The association's nearly 2,100 members together own or manage more almost 300,000 multi-family units in the state.
The association's mission, according to its web site, is to support the multi-housing industry through public policy leadership, educational opportunities, and communications and marketing in ways that enhance the industry for its members, its residents and its communities.
The goal is help managers and owners become more professional, says Carla Bush, association vice president. She says the membership spans the entire spectrum of people in the industry.
"Our members are everybody from the very large management companies that own and manage thousands of units to the small mom and pop who perhaps own a single family home that they couldn't sell so they chose to rent it out, or they bought a duplex or 4-unit as an investment property,'' said Bush.
One of the association's aims is to teach people in the business how to professionally manage a building. A good example is a class held in Willmar on the fundamentals of rental property management in Minnesota.
"That class is a nutshell of what it means to be a property manager or owner. What is a lease and what should be included in a lease? How do you protect yourself? How do you comply with Minnesota laws that govern rental housing?'' said Bush.
"We talk about fair housing and screening applicants and protecting your investment in terms of rules and regulations you would perhaps want to have in place,'' she said. "If you need to evict somebody, how do you go about doing that?''
The goal, said Bush, is to make sure that managers and owners understand what they've gotten themselves into.
"A lot of times people will see this as a hobby and they find out it's really not a hobby. It's really making sure that people are aware of the laws that govern the industry as well as ethically and professionally how to run a building,'' she said.
Also, classes such as those focusing on leasing skills help managers and owners get better at what they do.
"It's really the sales end of it and particularly for those smaller owners who are not the ones who work for the management companies but the smaller independent owners,'' Bush explains.
"They're seeing residents not as tenants but as customers, going through the sales process of knowing how to speak to someone on the telephone and giving someone a tour of your property and the apartment. Some of those sales skills you need to help close the sale as well as to really develop that professional relationship from the first interaction that they have with the resident,'' she said.
Bush says the classes have a good reputation and instructors are primarily member volunteers who are also owners and managers and living the same experience as their students. Even long-time owners and managers can pick up useful information, says Bush.
"Things are changing all the time, even the sales process of prospective residents coming in via the Internet, not necessarily calling or walking in the door like they used to,'' says Bush. "They are looking for your presence on the Internet, going through Facebook. The whole social media phenomena has changed our industry and the way we communicate with our residents and that they communicate with the world if they're not happy.''
VandeSteeg, who manages four buildings with 107 units, says there is always something to learn and the association provides the latest information and programs.
"It's like a profession,'' she says. "You have to be up-to-date and you have to be aware of the rules and regulations and that's what they offer is the up-to-date knowledge we need in order to make it a success.''