COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | AMY WHITE

Taking on property and project manager roles

These days, more than ever, property managers are finding themselves in the role of project managers. The commercial real estate market in San Diego, while slowly improving, is still struggling with high vacancy rates and low revenues, leaving building owners and managers in a situation where resources are limited and property managers are asked to wear more hats than ever.

Some of the most common situations that lead to this frequent circumstance are:

· Properties in almost every submarket are struggling with high vacancy rates. Empty space provides owners with the opportunity to do needed capital projects, building renovations or spec suites, but there is no money for outside construction management. Owners are looking to their property managers to handle these projects, both large and small.

· Owners are competing hard for every tenant in the current leasing environment, resulting in lower lease rates and tenant improvement allowances. Again, owners are looking to their property managers to handle the tenant improvement process for the new tenant.

There are many similarities between the skills a property manager already has and the necessary skills needed for construction project management. So fear not when your property manager doubles as a project manager — they are fully capable.

The most important aspects of project management are understanding contracts, budgeting and scheduling. Each of these is a commonplace practice of every experienced property manager.

Being comfortable understanding leases will prove invaluable for project management. The lease should contain all the most critical information regarding the tenant improvement.

Budgeting is the cornerstone of every property manager and also critical to every construction project. Knowing all costs upfront is essential. While change orders may be inevitable, one must have a budget as a foundation.

Scheduling is key to the construction process and goes hand in hand with the budget. Each represents the starting point and must be revisited and updated as the project progresses, as milestones are met or when unexpected lead times on materials affect the schedule.

There are many resources available about the construction process, with one of them being CREW San Diego. CREW has a large, diverse network of members from all aspects of commercial real estate. The contacts made at CREW provide all members with being a phone call away from a solution. In addition, CREWbiz is an online tool made available exclusively to CREW members that has a tremendous amount of resources and links with valuable information.

For property managers suddenly facing project management tasks, trust your innate property management skills as a start, explore your existing network connections to find answers to questions, and meet other qualified and experienced contractors and learn from each project. Next thing you know, you will be volunteering for project management assignments. Adding project management to your skill set will boost your professional growth at your current job and make you more marketable for future positions.

For those working with a property manager/project manager, you now have the best of both.

White is the vice president of operations for Southern California at Pacific Office Properties and a member of CREW’s Education and Programs Committee.

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