COSTA MESA, CA—What makes the difference between a goodproperty manager and a great one? That topic andothers related to property management were addressed at yesterday'sIREM Orange County's Asset ManagementRoundtable: “A View from the Top: What do Asset Managers ReallyThink?”

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GlobeSt.com and a packed room of attendees listened as moderatorChris Hite, president and CEO of CorelandCos., asked panelists what makes a great property manager.Drew Stepanek, VP of asset management forStockbridge, said it's important to “have anopinion. A property manager has their eyes and ears on the ground.It takes a strong personality and an open partnership with theproperty owner. Communication is important—talk to me like you'rean expert on the property.”

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Scott Felix, EVP of Hutton DevelopmentCo., agreed that personality is important, as well asattitude. But integrity is a property manager's most importantasset, he added.

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Scott Murray, VP of asset management forGreenlaw Partners, said knowing what's going onwith tenants' businesses is key. “It's about relationships.Sometimes you have to be the bad guy, but turn it into a positivefor the tenant. And provide tidbits of information for the ownerthat are useful.”

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Allison Lynch, VP of asset management forWatt Cos., added that in retailit's important to understand how the retailer is doing and what hisbusiness model is. “What are they spending their time doing?” Agood property manager will also present solutions to challengingsituations and leverage their firm at the table.

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The panelists agreed that a great property manager never losessight of the fact that the property is aninvestment. Piling on landlord projects andCAM charges is not good business, and they shouldbe more aware of the financials now than they were 10 yearsago.

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Transparency and truthfulness are also important. “It's not agood relationship if you're not getting the truth,” said Stepanek.“Don't hide anything.”

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Felix admitted that being a property manager is “a toughjob, and it's easy to get buried in detail.” But, he added, it'simportant to know how to “manage up” and clue the owner in to thethings that will save him money, like talking to a tenant beforehis lease expires.

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When asked what their “go-to metric” was for asset management,panelists said dealing with “cash-on-cash” and meetingdistribution. Stepanek said he doesn't have ago-to metric, but deals with situations on a case-by-case basisbecause “different investors are looking for different things.”

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Hite interjected that “communication is important,” and Felixcommented that it depends where an asset is in the life cycle. “IfI had to use a single metric, it would be 'Where are you in theaggregate overall vs. where you were when you started in thetransaction?' ”

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Some of the panelists most challenging issues were dealing withdark stores across the street from a great retail center owned bysomeone else, understanding Title 24 and thepotential TI costs involved and making thetransition from construction through stabilizationsince “nobody knows where retail is going,” said Felix. Lynch saidto expect more diversification of portfolios over time, and Murraysaid, “Know enough to make a recommendation on a solution to aproblem.”

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Carrie Rossenfeld

Carrie Rossenfeld is a reporter for the San Diego and Orange County markets on GlobeSt.com and a contributor to Real Estate Forum. She was a trade-magazine and newsletter editor in New York City before moving to Southern California to become a freelance writer and editor for magazines, books and websites. Rossenfeld has written extensively on topics including commercial real estate, running a medical practice, intellectual-property licensing and giftware. She has edited books about profiting from real estate and has ghostwritten a book about starting a home-based business.