Now hiring: Employment growth projected for community managers

Community association management is becoming a sought-out career for those entering the job market for the first time or those considering a change late in their professional lives. The role is expected to see growth for new hires in the coming decade, according to recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

There were about 363,000 property, real estate, and community association managers working in 2018 with employment forecast to grow 7% through 2028, faster than the average for all occupations. BLS attributes this growth to more people choosing to live in condominiums, cooperatives, planned communities, and senior housing.

“Community associations are a true economic engine, and there’s a need for talent at all levels,” says CAI’s 2019 President Cat Carmichael, CMCA, PCAM, who has made it her mission to open channels that can bring in talented individuals to common-interest communities. “We are striving to find new talent where the talent is and increase awareness of the benefits of community association service.”

Employers typically prefer to hire college graduates with a degree in finance, accounting, real estate, or public administration, but workers with a high school diploma and less than five years of relevant experience also can be considered for entry-level positions, according to BLS.

Employers also may require that community managers participate in training programs or workshops from professional trade associations (like CAI’s Professional Management Development Program) to develop their management skills and expand their knowledge on topics such as insurance and risk management, governance, homeowner relations, personnel management, and reserve funding.

BLS calculated the median pay for a community manager in May 2018 at $58,340 per year. This amount is higher than the median compensation reported by assistant community managers ($43,340) and portfolio managers ($52,500) in the Foundation for Community Association Research’s 2017 Community Association Manager Compensation and Salary Survey. Compensation increases significantly as managers gain more experience and responsibility. According to the Foundation’s research, on-site managers earn an average of $71,560, high-rise managers earn $86,500, and large-scale managers earn $100,000.

Community managers oversee the daily operation of residential properties. In addition, BLS lists some important skills that community managers should have to excel in their role:

  • Communication. Managers must understand contracts and real-estate documents to clearly explain the materials and answer questions raised by residents or board members.
  • Customer service. Managers must provide excellent customer service to keep homeowners happy and expand their business with new clients.
  • Interpersonal. Because community association managers interact with people every day, they must have excellent interpersonal skills.
  • Listening. Managers must listen to and understand residents to meet their needs.
  • Organizational. Managers must be able to plan, coordinate, and direct multiple contractors at the same time, often for multiple properties.
  • Problem-solving. Community association managers must be able to mediate disputes or legal issues between residents, homeowners, and board members.

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Aging America: How older adults hope to age in place

More and more, older adults favor aging in place, preferring to remain active and independent beyond middle age while still having access to transportation options and healthcare services they can use as their needs change.

About 77% of Americans age 50 and older say they would like to live in their community as long as possible, but just 59% anticipate being able to remain in their current home or a different place in the same community, according to AARP’s 2018 Home and Community Preferences survey. While most adults age 18 and older—63 percent—own their homes, about one-third expect having to make major modifications to accommodate their aging needs, AARP says.

Because of changing attitudes related to affordability, accessibility, and mobility, the survey finds many adults age 50 and older are willing to consider alternatives such as home-sharing (32 percent), building an accessory dwelling unit (31 percent), or residing in communities that provide services to enable aging in place (56 percent).

For example, the Jefferson, a 55-and-older condominium in Arlington, Va., offers older adults a unique option as they age in place: the ability to own their unit plus independent living, skilled nursing, and continuing care. High-end amenities, numerous activities, a maintenance-free lifestyle, and quick access to the cultural highlights of Washington, D.C., add to the community’s appeal.

Residents have the option to purchase their home without any buy-in fees beyond the price of the unit, the only senior community in the area with this distinction, notes Executive Director Juli Swanson.

“All of our competitors are either a continuing-care retirement community or a life-care community. That’s just a very different structure than what we have here with the condo,” explains Swanson, who has worked at the Jefferson for the past eight years. “At all those other places, you don’t get to own your home. Here at the Jefferson, you do. That’s one of the biggest selling points, after location.”

Making itself a community where older adults can live long term is something that the Jefferson has made a priority for its residents, who feel that the frequent socialization is one of the main aspects that allows them to feel at home.

“You never feel lonely here. It’s just so wonderful when you sit down to eat with different people, and they tell you their life story,” says 84-year-old retired nurse Julia Jeffries.

And Therese “Terri” Rae, a 75-year-old retired psychiatric nurse who has lived at the Jefferson for the past two years, perfectly captures what it’s like to live in the community: “We have independence, and if we want company, we’ve got it. And that’s the best thing.”

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Be ready: How to prepare your community for a natural disaster

Hurricane Dorian devastated the northwestern Bahamas and has unleashed heavy rain, strong winds, storm surge, and tornadoes as it has tracked along the East Coast. While the Atlantic hurricane season officially runs from June to November, the peak of the season is now—from mid-August to late October.

With September being National Preparedness Month, Americans can take action to promote emergency planning and disaster relief in the event of hurricanes, wildfires, and floods, which have caused an estimated $414.4 billion in damage across the U.S. from 2013 to 2018, according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. As natural disasters become more frequent and destructive, it’s important that community associations adopt a comprehensive plan to prepare, respond, and recover from these extreme weather events.

Community association residents and leaders also should be aware that the Federal Emergency Management Agency does NOT reimburse community associations that remove debris from private roads. CAI strongly encourages board members and managers to review the guidelines for removing debris.

In addition, here are some guidelines to prepare your community against a natural disaster.


  • Gather supplies in an emergency kit to last at least three days, including food, water, flashlights, batteries, cash, first aid supplies, and medications. Also gather supplies for pets, if any, and store important documents.
  • Bring inside loose, lightweight objects that could become projectiles in high winds (e.g., patio furniture, garbage cans) and anchor objects that would be unsafe to bring inside (e.g., propane tanks).
  • Take refuge in a designated storm shelter or in a secure room inside your home that is windowless and not at risk of flooding.
  • Cover windows with wooden panels or storm shutters.
  • Document any property damage with photographs. Contact your insurance company for assistance.


  • Know the types of flood risks in your area by visiting the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Flood Map Service Center.
  • Purchase or renew a flood insurance policy through the National Flood Insurance Program. Homeowner’s insurance policies do not cover flooding.
  • Keep important documents in a waterproof container. Create password-protected digital copies.
  • Protect your property. Move valuables to higher levels. Declutter drains and gutters. Install check valves and consider a sump pump with a battery.
  • If trapped in your home, go to its highest level. Do not climb into a closed attic, as you may become trapped by rising floodwater. Go on the roof only if necessary and signal for help.


  • Fireproof your home by covering outdoor vents, removing dry leaf and tree debris, mowing and watering lawns regularly, and using fire-resistant materials to make repairs or replacements.
  • Keep fuel sources at least 100 feet away from your home.
  • Keep important documents in a fireproof safe and make digital copies.
  • Designate a room that can be closed off from outside air. Close all doors and windows. Set up a portable air cleaner to keep indoor pollution levels low when smoky conditions exist.
  • Review insurance coverage to make sure it is enough to replace your property. Document damage with photographs.

For tips on how to make an emergency plan fit for your community association and prepare for other types of disasters, visit CAI’s Community Disaster Preparedness & Relief page and

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A place to call home: Americans favor homeownership over renting

Despite a competitive housing market and current concerns about housing affordability, 70% of Americans still see owning a home as a clear sign of success in adulthood, according to Wells Fargo’s 2019 “How America Views Homeownership” survey.

Seven in 10 respondents of the survey of 1,004 adults 21 years and older say that owning a house is on par with having a career as a sign of a successful adult. Those surveyed note that they see homeownership as a clearer sign of success over getting married (32%) or having children (34%).

Close to 90% of the respondents say that the benefits of homeownership outweigh the drawbacks. If they could do it all over again, current homeowners say they would still choose to buy their home (93%) instead of continuing to rent, and nearly all (95%) note that owning a home is a better financial decision in the long run than renting.

Affording a down payment is seen as the primary hurdle to buying a home, according to 27% of those surveyed, with 38% of aspiring millennial homeowners naming it their biggest challenge to achieving homeownership. Wells Fargo notes, however, that some mortgage lenders allow qualified buyers to put as little as 3% down on a home.

Nearly 8 in 10 homeowners would be willing to move to a smaller city or town to afford their home, and 74% say that they would consider buying a smaller home with fewer amenities.

First-time homebuyers frequently look to condominiums as a lower-cost housing option. Roughly 40% of the 347,000 community associations in the U.S. are condominiums, according to the 2018-2019 National and Statistical Review for Community Association Data from the Foundation for Community Association Research. Recently updated requirements from the Federal Housing Administration should make lending easier for condominium unit buyers.

More than 73 million U.S. residents currently live in a community association—up from 62 million in 2010. Community associations are growing due to the value of collective management, privatization of public maintenance services, and the expansion of affordable housing options.

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Safeguarding finances: 9 steps to prevent fraud and embezzlement in your HOA

Community associations fall victim to theft and embezzlement too frequently. Board members should know the warning signs and institute preventive measures before the community is left with a difficult recovery. Combining these safeguards should help to keep your association and homeowners from being victimized.

1. Know the association’s Federal Tax Identification (FTI) number. Use it to obtain periodic listings of all bank accounts and account numbers, and make sure they are all under the association’s name and FTI number.

2. Use a lock box system for deposits. A lock box allows owners’ payments to be mailed or transferred directly to the association’s bank accounts. This reduces the chance that the association’s money will be deposited into the wrong account.

3. Safeguard your association’s reserves. Like checking accounts, the reserve account(s) should be under the control of at least two people. Do not give one board member total control over reserve accounts.

4. Require duplicate operating and reserve accounts statements be sent every month. One statement should be sent to the management company (or, if self-managed, to the treasurer or bookkeeper) and the duplicate to a board member who does not have authority to sign the checks or make any type of transfer or withdrawal.

5. Check invoices against checks paid and the original receipts for credit card accounts, if any. If the association has professional management or a bookkeeper, the board treasurer should conduct this review. If self-managed, a board member without access to the bank accounts or credit card privileges should check for any unauthorized use.

6. Shop around for bank services. Unfortunately, some banks do not enforce dual-signature requirements or prohibit electronic transfers between accounts, despite being under different FTI numbers. If the bank wants your business, demand that it demonstrates the safeguards it has in place to minimize theft, especially through electronic transfers.

7. Insure the association’s money. Obtain fidelity coverage on the board members and the management company or bookkeeper, if any, in an amount that equals or exceeds the association’s reserve fund and several months of operating funds. Even with coverage through the association’s insurance carrier, the board should require evidence that the management company carries its own fidelity coverage, which would provide the first line of recovery in the event of theft by one of its employees.

8. Make sure the management agreement includes specific terms to require these safeguards. A professionally managed association should have its legal counsel review the original agreement and any renewal prior to execution, so the agreements are not riddled with lopsided terms that are detrimental to the association.

9. Regularly have an independent certified public accountant conduct an audit. While it may be too costly to conduct an audit every year, the board should commit to having one performed every few years. In the interim, the association should have an annual review performed, with the stipulation that the bank balances be independently verified.

This article was originally published on, which provides information and tools to community association members living in condominiums, homeowners associations, and housing cooperatives. Read the full version here.

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Elevator safety: Deadline looming for NYC condos and co-ops

Condominiums and cooperatives in New York City have until Jan. 1 to comply with a safety regulation from the city’s Department of Buildings that requires installation of door-lock monitoring systems to prevent an elevator from moving if the doors are not fully closed, The New York Times reports.

This safety regulation, adopted in 2014, was prompted by a fatal 2011 incident. It’s estimated that about 44,000 automated elevators in the city need to be fitted with door-lock monitoring systems, says Donald Gelestino, president of elevator maintenance company Champion Elevator.

The installation cost of the door-lock safety systems depends on the elevator’s age, with newer ones needing only an activation of the device that is likely already in place or a software update compared to elevators that are at least 5 years old, which would either need to go through a retrofit or a complete upgrade.

Dennis DePaola, an executive vice president and director of compliance at New York City-based management company Orsid Realty, says the company communicated early on with approximately 170 condo and co-op clients in the city to let them know about updating the systems.

“The cost could be anywhere from $15,000 to $25,000 per elevator, and many of our buildings have four, five, or six elevators, so it could be a costly endeavor,” explains DePaola. He adds that because the safety devices do not contribute to the operating life of the elevators, Orsid provided boards with evaluations about the remaining useful life of the equipment before they decided whether to either retrofit or upgrade.

Orsid got the discussion started early at each of its properties, but DePaola says that there has been “a lot of anxiety through the management community in New York City about the ability of elevator maintenance companies to go and retrofit all the elevators in the city. There’s only so much personnel and equipment to go around.”

Several trade groups have been in talks with the Department of Buildings to request an extension for some buildings that cannot complete retrofits or upgrades before the Jan. 1 deadline.

The city’s Department of Buildings also is requiring elevators to have a secondary emergency brake installed by 2027, which is prompting many boards to contemplate a complete elevator modernization project for systems that are more than 20 years old, according to The New York Times.

DePaola recommends that condo and co-op boards looking to modernize their systems hire an elevator consultant to find out what specifically needs to be upgraded or brought up to code. The consultant will typically suggest that boards get bids from three or four maintenance companies before undergoing a modernization project.

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Be flexible: Steps for effective and consistent board governance

By Katie Anderson, CMCA, AMS, PCAM

Community associations have rules and regulations to provide certainty, order, and safety. Regardless of size or shape, every community association should strive to enforce its rules properly. And if they’re necessary and reasonable, they promote community harmony.

The goal is simple for association boards: Follow the rules and enforcement procedures detailed in the governing documents. Yet conflicting views and misaligned expectations can create complications. If your association is too rigid or too flexible, your board can follow a few steps to ensure your governing process is effective and consistent.

Transparency. If the board is to be taken seriously, it needs to be inclusive and transparent. You should hold public board meetings and annual elections, add open forums to agendas for owner feedback, and be available and visible in the community.

Clear guidelines. The governance process typically requires the board to develop policies related to enforcement and fines. It is extremely important that these policies are clear about what happens when a violation exists—from communication steps, grace periods, and the process to request exceptions to what the owner needs to do to reach compliance.

Communication. Different people require different forms of communication. Be dynamic in your approach. Sending a letter meets the requirements in most states for communication, but if compliance is the goal, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone or send a text message. It instills trust between the association and the owner. Additional communication tips include:

  • Kind language. The first communication an owner receives about a potential compliance issue should emphasize that it is a courtesy notice and you are just reaching out to help educate them about the guidelines. Offer to discuss the issue in person and be open to answering questions.
  • Newsletters. If you’re seeing an increase in a specific violation throughout the community, send out an e-newsletter to educate homeowners on the issue.
  • Town halls. If the board is seeing an increase in neighbor-to-neighbor issues or a spike in noncompliance, hold a town hall meeting and talk it through. This will engage residents in finding a solution and create some responsibility in solving the problems.

Hearings. In many states, the requirement for a hearing may be mandatory before fines can be assessed. This process must be conducted impartially, and all parties need to be respectful. Each party needs know what information should be prepared prior to the meeting, given equal time to speak, and know when to expect a decision will be reached. The board or hearing panel should not favor a one-size-fits-all approach, as it creates more conflict in the long run.

Compromise. Having these foundations is important, but they will not prevent compliance issues in your community. So how does the board move toward a consistent but flexible process? By having face-to-face conversations with owners who are noncompliant and coming to a compromise—one that works for the owner but also meets the community’s guidelines.

Katie Anderson is founding owner of Aperion Management Group, AAMC, in central Oregon.

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Breathing clear: Adopting smoke-free policies in your high-rise community

Smoking bans in the U.S. have become commonplace over the past three decades. Policies have been adopted by local and state governments to make workplaces and public spaces completely devoid of smoke from cigarettes and, more recently, vaping devices. Secondhand smoke concerns have ignited efforts to completely ban smoking in high-rise residential buildings too.

Of the estimated 80 million people in the U.S. who live in multiunit housing, including high-rise condominiums and cooperatives, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note that each year, approximately 28 million of them are exposed to secondhand smoke in their homes, inhaling many of the substances that can cause emphysema, heart disease, and lung cancer.

“The problem is that even when smoking outside, if you’re close to the building, the smoke is actually pulled into nearby windows and doors. Even if they are closed, the smoke still comes in because buildings are not air-tight,” explains Esther Schiller, executive director of California-based nonprofit Smokefree Air For Everyone. The CDC adds that secondhand smoke also can spread through cracks in walls, electrical lines, ventilation systems, and plumbing.

Many condominiums have opted to adopt no-smoking amendments in their covenants, conditions, and restrictions to eliminate smoking in all indoor and outdoor common areas and inside individual units. Schiller’s organization provides resources, such as survey templates, to find out if most residents “want the whole complex to be smoke-free.”

If a community association’s documents do not have a stance on smoking, a unit owner may be left with a remedy of a claim for “nuisance” against neighbors who smoke and act against the board to stop the smoking, says Stephen Marcus, a partner at Marcus Errico Emmer & Brooks in Braintree, Mass., and a fellow in CAI’s College of Community Association Lawyers.

Schiller says that tobacco smoke qualifies as a nuisance because it interrupts an owner’s enjoyment of their home. While condominium board members may know that tobacco smoke is dangerous, “they may not understand how dangerous it is, and they don’t understand the fact that they have liability,” she notes.

Liability insurance frequently has pollution exclusions—including tobacco smoke—in its coverage, Schiller adds. “So if there’s a lawsuit and the condominium loses, they have to pay out of their reserves.”

When determining if a no-smoking amendment is the right decision for a community, Ken Jacobs, a partner at Smith Buss & Jacobs in Yonkers, N.Y., explains that it’s important to consider residents’ complaints and the problems regarding secondhand smoke, the potential costs to the association if the building’s HVAC system needs to be revamped, and the latest government and medical studies regarding secondhand smoke.

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Kickstart saving: Millennials turning to crowdfunding to buy homes

Millennials are buying homes later in life or forgoing the purchase altogether compared to previous generations. Between student loan debt, the high cost of living in large cities, and rising housing prices, buying homes has become less practical for young people, according to Investopedia.

Nearly 70% of millennials identify saving for a down payment as the biggest barrier to purchasing a home, according to Bank of America’s 2019 Spring Homebuyer Insights Report. When entering the job market, college graduates with student loan debt must save for an average of 12 years to afford a 20% down payment, compared to 7.6 years for those without student loan debt. For millennials without a college degree, that number rises to nearly 17 years, research from Apartment List finds.

Crowdfunding could be the means to make owning a home a reality for millennials.

Touting itself as the first crowdfunding platform for homebuyers, HomeFundIt offers millennials a way to enlist friends and family to help fund their down payment and other closing costs associated with owning a home. Once they complete a conventional financial agreement with a bank or a mortgage lender, millennials can tap into their networks to start saving.

HomeFundIt offers aspiring young homeowners two ways to boost their savings:

Crowdfunding. Homebuyers can encourage friends and family members to donate to their fund directly. They can tap into their networks by sharing a personal story on social media along with the link to the down payment fund. There are no transaction fees, and funds are available immediately. The program also gives young homeowners a grant of up to $1,500 for closing costs and offers free homebuyer education. The crowdfunding option is limited to one year before buying a home.

Cash-back rewards. The program, called UpIt, allows the potential homebuyer, their friends, and family members to have a portion of the money they spend on everyday purchases placed in a savings account for a down payment. Up to 20% of everyday eligible purchases at participating retailers such as Walmart, Macy’s, or Expedia are applied to the crowdfunding goal. The homebuyer doesn’t need to be prequalified, and there’s no time limit on when to have the funds raised. The money is available within 24 hours.

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Pump the brakes: How some communities slow drivers

When CAI’s Common Ground magazine asked readers whether they have problems with drivers speeding in their communities, a staggering 98% of respondents reported that they do, and nearly all (95%) use at least some form of speed control measures—from signs and speed humps to ticketing and cameras. 

The most effective solution to slowing drivers is probably unique to each community.

Bent Tree Community Association, a self-contained, gated community of 1,200 homes about an hour north of Atlanta, regularly uses radar to monitor drivers’ speeds. The 20-mph speed limit on the community’s 55 miles of roads is part of the association’s bylaws, as is the fine for exceeding that speed, according to Tom Fowler, CMCA, AMS, Bent Tree’s general manager.

If a homeowner doesn’t pay a fine levied for speeding in the community within 30 days, the bar code on his or her entry decal will be deactivated. Without automatic operation of the community’s lift-gates, the driver must enter and exit the community through the guest gates, which are manned and operated by security guards.

Dunes West Property Owners Association in Mount Pleasant, S.C., started using radar about five years ago to gather information about residents’, visitors’, and contractors’ driving habits within the community, according to General Manager John Watkins, CMCA, AMS.

Just north of Charleston and bordered by U.S. Route 17 on the east and the Wando River to the west, Dunes West covers 3,000 acres and includes 33 miles of tree-lined roads and 100 named streets. The roads throughout the community are intentionally curved, which—like Bent Tree— challenges even the most capable drivers to slow down.

The association shares radar data with local law enforcement, so police know when and where drivers are most likely to speed. It also encourages local law enforcement to issue tickets on the community’s private roads.

Dunes West’s radar also has been effective in controlling contractors who drive within the community, Watkins says. Several homes are still under construction in Dunes West; builders can purchase coded decals that open Dunes West’s automatic liftgates so contractors’ vehicles can come and go efficiently from the community. If radar indicates contractors are habitually speeding, the codes can be revoked, which could be costly for a builder.

A pilot Pace Car program has been slowing speeders down in the Riverview Community Association in Cochrane, Alberta, since 2017.

The program, which has been used successfully in other Canadian communities for years, relies on individual volunteer residents to commit to driving the posted speed within the community, to stop for pedestrians crossing the road, and to be courteous to cyclists and vehicles other than cars. Drivers place a decal on the rear window of their cars that says, “Community Pace Car—I drive the limit,” and signs are posted at either entrance to the community alerting visitors that “We are a Pace Car community.”​

“The idea is that any driver driving behind a Pace Car will notice the decal and … will drive the speed limit as well,” says Jennifer Foy, board president of the community of 400 single-family homes about 30 miles west of Calgary. She adds that to prevent road rage, Pace Car drivers are encouraged to pull over and let other drivers pass rather than confront them. “If (a Pace Car driver) gets someone on their bumper who’s honking or being aggressive, they just pull over and let them go around,” she says. “We’re not the police.”

No matter what solution your community develops, communication and transparency with residents are critical. Remind them about speed limits and the consequences of exceeding it frequently.

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