Sure, there are good condo management teams out there. They’re just about as easy to find as UFOs, Bigfoot, or the Loch Ness Monster dancing a cha-cha in a kilt. They’re rare, is what I’m saying. But if you want your property to keep appreciating, and don’t want live in something resembling a Half-Life sewer level, you’d better pick a good one. Not all condo management teams are equal:
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 Control 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 she runs the entire damn co…uh, the day-to-day administration of the condo.
What Exactly is the MCST Meant to Do?
I’d write you a complete list, but I suspect that’s impractical because I expect to die before the age of 110.
Instead, you can e-mail the MCST directly, and ask for a list of that MCST’s specific responsibilities (it may vary based on the property in question). Let’s cover the basic responsibilities most of them have:
- Manage the payroll of the staff (cleaners, pool technicians, administrators, etc. Some higher end condo management firms may also have concierge services)
- Pick 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 (about as common as a midget NBA all-star team)
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 invite World Health Organization probes. In short, bad condo management = lower property values.
Here’s how you can spot a good MCST:
- Attend the AGMs
- Get Tenant Feedback (if You’re a Landlord)
- Look for Asset Enhancement, not Just Maintenance
- Check the Management Corporation’s Other Clients
1. Attend the AGMs
I talked to property investor Charlie Sng, who has flipped (and owns) his fair share of condo units over the years. He believes that…
“You should attend the AGM. I know it’s very troublesome. Sometimes I find those non-professional councils are even quite irritating. But if you can, just try to stay informed. Usually I want to hear from the managing agent.
If you hear that certain things like plumbing or the pool filter are not fixed, and you hear the issue repeated next year, maybe the management cannot afford to replace things.”
Okay, and let’s say they can’t. What then?
“You can try and vote them out, good luck to you…it usually won’t work because they have their own cliques…
…you can factor it into your decision to sell. And you better save up to pay for maintenance issues; get ready to pay your own repairman for everything. When condo management cannot balance the books, any maintenance will take forever. If you rent out the place, it can tick off your tenants.”
If you are thinking of buying, Charlie suggests you ask the residents about their management council.
“Usually they will say ‘don’t know, don’t care’. To me that still means okay. But if they complain, then my eyes will open very big, and my ears will perk up.”
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 (e.g. using part of the very empty clubhouse for a movie room), improvements to equipment in locker rooms, gyms, etc., or new facilities for resident needs.
“If the management is good, I can see it straight away,” Charlie says, “They will be always changing things, always trying to improve things. Not just sit in one corner quietly, and only show their face when something is broken.”
Asset enhancement can contribute toward capital appreciation. For more on issues affecting property value, follow us on Facebook.
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.
“Usually I don’t ask, if the management has not changed from the first year,” Charlie says, “because most property developers will not pick those lousy ones.
Otherwise, I will 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; no samples to see!”
Had any good/bad experiences with your condo management? We’d like to hear them here!
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