Industrial N Illinois

Industrial property managers do it all from finances to 4am crisis calls

  
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Property managers have to be experts in all different aspects of commercial real estate. They scramble to find quick solutions, deal with emergencies in the middle of the night and field unusual tenant questions.

"Outside the industry, not a lot of people understand what I do. Sometimes I'll get a blank stare from them. My job isn't just maintenance, it’s a little bit of everything—customer service, asset management, crisis situations," said Elena Jimenez, a property manager at Missner Group.

Jimenez started out at Missner more than 17 years ago and had the chance to learn from every department which prepared her to tackle the challenges of property management in the industrial sector. Much of Jimenez's responsibilities include maintaining the common areas, parking lot maintenance, taking care of lighting and handling requests from tenants. Something new happens every day and Jimenez enjoys all the obstacles that arise.

She recalls one time when the phone rang at 4 a.m. and she had to find a towing company to remove trailers that were blocking the entrance for a tenant who was a trucking company that needed to get inside.

"You have to think quickly to problem solve. If there's an emergency you have to decide immediately who to send out and what people to notify," said Jimenez.

The hardest part about being a property manager is knowing that you'll get pulled away throughout the day for time sensitive issues, Jimenez said. It's rare she finds an entire day to focus on one project so she's learned how to juggle tasks in order to make sure everything gets done.

Alex Genova, a senior associate at Transwestern in the industrial sector, said a huge part of property management is about anticipating what could go wrong.

"When your dealing with huge industrial facilities you have to pay attention to managing environmental concerns. Without a property manager, some of these family-owned businesses might not be up to date on maintaining these policies and problems. It's really important to know what is going on in your building and take a proactive approach," Genova said.

One of the biggest problems he runs into is with solvents. Many facilities use solvents in the cleaning process to dissolve oils, he said, and if they're not stored properly they can cause damage or contaminate the building. It's not uncommon for tenants to call asking him if they can pour something down the drain to dispose of it, and his answer is almost always no.

Examining property management from a wider perspective, there is a lot more activity on a national scale. John Humphrey, an associate director at CBRE, oversees property management teams that mainly work with clients who have national portfolios.

"Lots of investment and money are being driven into the industrial sector, and its creating a larger demand for management," Humphrey said.

In addition to increased demand, Humphrey also said that transactions are closing a lot quicker which puts pressure on building owners to find property managers. Once a buyer is found, the compressed time frame is very aggressive and can be as little as 30-45 days to close, he said.

Technology plays a large role in helping property managers stay organized and get information for their clients quickly. When everything is done digitally, property inspections can be done by phone or tablets, photos are synchronized instantly and notes taken in the field are immediately available in the office, said Humphrey.

CBRE property managers are also well versed in finances and have a very good understanding of accounting, tax expense in submarkets, operating expenses and insurance expenses, said Humphrey. They help tenants navigate the financial challenges and process insurance claims.

Property managers organize and take care of so many different aspects in commercial real estate, and they're an important part of the business. "Buildings need property managers to be the face of the ownership. We minimize problems and gather valuable information for owners. Ultimately our job is to build trust with tenants so we can better serve the owners and the asset," said Humphrey.