Not all condo management teams are equal. If you want to live in a condominium that stays well-maintained through the years, you better pick a good one.
Actually, what does an MCST do and how do you assess whether it’s good or bad? We all know that property developers only advertise the “88 facilities” and being “a stone’s throw away from important landmarks” but not the MCST that takes care of the property afterwards, but management and maintenance are important.
What is the MCST?
The Management Corporation Strata Title (MCST) refers to the managing body of your condo. It’s formed under the Building Management and Strata Management Act (BMSM), Chapter 30C.
The name of the managing body is always presented as MCST No. XXXX, where the serial number is issued by the Building and Construction Authority (BCA).
For new condos, the property developer finds a condo management company within two months of the Temporary Occupancy Permit (TOP). After the first Annual General Meeting (AGM), control of the management committee is turned over to the property owners.
From there, property owners are free to:
- Appoint a professional condo management firm
- Form a management council from the existing property owners (if enough of them will volunteer and be accepted)
- Keep the existing condo management
In the event a management council is formed from the property owners, it’s common for them to hire a Managing Agent. A Managing Agent is an employee with experience in property management, and he or she runs the day-to-day administration of the condo.
While you can go about your day to day life without caring about what your MCST does, remember that you are paying management fees and have a right to know whether your property is being properly stewarded.
What exactly does the MCST do?
It may vary based on the property in question, but here are the basic responsibilities that most MCST have:
- Manage the payroll of the staff (cleaners, pool technicians, administrators, etc. Some higher end condo management firms may also have concierge services)
- Electing the security company
- Basic building maintenance. Keeping walkways clean, maintaining gym equipment, maintaining intercom systems that no one in the history of Earth has found useful
- Community building, through organising flea markets, New Year parties, open bulletin boards, etc.
- Asset enhancement. Upgrading of current facilities, landscaping, or even creation of new facilities.
If the management team lets those responsibilities slip, you’ll see the effects. The pool gets murky, the car park becomes a used furniture dump, and the gym locker rooms have mouldy spots on the wall. In short, bad condo management results in lower property values.
Spotting a good MCST requires some effort and time on your part. Here are some things that you can do.
Here’s how you can spot a good MCST
1. Attend the AGMs
Property investors who own and flip condominium units share that it is important to attend the Annual General Meeting (AGM). Mr Charlie Sng says, “I know it’s very troublesome, I find those non-professional councils quite irritating too. But if you can, try to stay informed. Usually, I attend to hear from the managing agent.”
From AGMs, you would be able to hear things like pool filter not being fixed or extra repairs needed for the property. If the issue repeats next year, maybe the management cannot afford to replace these things.
In that case, you can work to vote the MCST out. If you’re unable or don’t want to spend the effort to rally enough people to do so, you can factor in this point into your decision to sell your property.
Before buying any property, it also helps to ask residents about their management council. If they reply that they don’t care or never took the effort to attend the AGMs, it’s usually a sign that things are still fine. If they complain, then it’s a sign of a potentially incompetent MCST.
2. Get tenant feedback if you’re a landlord
By “tenant feedback”, I don’t mean tenants yelling on the phone about broken air-conditioning, cracked windows, etc. Trust me, you’ll hear about that whether or not you seek it.
I’m talking about the things tenants don’t usually think to mention. Is the gym well maintained? Are the stores or cafes in the condo (if it has them) worth a damn? Do the cleaners leave dog poop to bake on the walkway for hours? And if they’ve ever complained about the neighbours being loud, how did the condo management respond?
Your tenants are there every day. If it’s clear the condo is going to pieces, they’ll see it long before you. Just don’t expect a situation report; take the initiative and ask.
3. Look for asset enhancement, not just maintenance
Maintenance is the most basic task of the MCST. But good condo management goes beyond that.
You should look at how the common areas have been enhanced over the years. Some examples would be optimisation of facilities. If you noticed that a very empty clubhouse became partitioned for a movie room, or there are improvements to the equipment in gym, these are signs of a good MCST.
Asset enhancement definitely contributes toward capital appreciation.
4. Check the management corporation’s other clients
Before buying, ask the agent who’s managing the condo. Then check up on the management agent, corporation, etc. and see what other places they’ve worked on. Check out this MCST list of who governs what in Singapore.
Generally, most established property developers will not pick lousy MCSTs. Also, if the management has not changed from the first year, usually there is no need to ask.
Otherwise, you can take note of other places that the management agent or the firm has worked on. If there were complaints there, there will probably be complaints here. If the place is run by the property owners, then of course you just have to take a risk.
Had any good/bad experiences with your condo management? We’d like to hear them here!