Battle of Britain – 75th Anniversary Tribute

With the 75th anniversary of the “Battle of Britain” at hand I would like to pay tribute to our Dad, Anthony E. Hilditch who, at the age of 22, served in the RAF defending England at that time. He was awarded the DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross) from King George VI assessed as a pilot with “exceptional” skills.

Dad was a Squadron Leader in the 53rd Squadron based in south-east England tasked with strategic reconnaissance, anti-submarine, and anti-shipping patrols off the Atlantic coast of occupied France. 53-Squadron-Adjust2He participated in  night bombing raids on Saint Nazaire at the estuary of the Loire River.    This port was crucial to the German U-boat operations in the Atlantic and  the only port with a dry dock capable of handling the largest German  warships Bismarck and the Tirpitz. The port was heavily fortified with  anti-aircraft guns and he returned from these raids with flak damage to  his aircraft on at least three occasions.

In 1942 his Squadron became one of the few British units to operate directly from the United States.  They flew anti-submarine patrols off the Eastern seaboard to counter the heavy threat to shipping from U-Boats. RAF-Trinidad - AdjustThe Squadron patrol extended as far south as Trinidad protecting bauxite shipments, crucial to the war production of aluminum.

In 1943 Dad was attached to the Royal Canadian Air Force as Chief Flying Instructor in the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan showing pilots to fly the de Havilland Mosquito.  In 1945 he was returned to the RAF as Squadron Leader in the 280 Squadron with air-sea rescue duties in the North Atlantic and English Channel.


Posted in Personal

Condo Meeting Minutes – A Valuable Skill

I’m often curious about property managers who resist the task of taking meeting minutes.  During job interview it’s a frequent question – Do you take minutes?  Throughout my career the answer has been a resounding YES!  There is a great deal of literature available to guide you on this task.  Advice ranges from a minimalist view – recording just motions and votes to a more expansive process with detail suitable for legal review.  I fall somewhere in the middle and here a few thoughts based on my experience in the industry. Producing minutes in an ongoing and consistent manner is a hugely helpful tool for successful property management.

Zirkim Bridge - Boston

Zirkim Bridge – Boston

Creating a set of meeting minutes requires that you take notes of ongoing discussion and debate. I strongly advise that you resist using a tape recorder.  Notes should not be an accounting of “he said then she said” but rather capture the nature and direction of the discussion being held.  It’s often better to sit back and listen to what is being said rather than taking furious notes during a fast moving conversation.  What is important is to capture the essence of the issue at hand, understand the various viewpoints being expressed, and accurately record the motions and votes taken to bring the topic to conclusion.  Your notes during this process should be brief and just enough to refresh your memory when writing up the final minutes.

I would make the case that the property manager is in a much better position to record the minutes. The task is sometimes assigned to a Trustee in the position of Secretary for the Board.  Often this individual is inexperienced and does not grasp the complexity or history of the issue under discussion.  The manager is then later consulted to provide explanations to flesh out the Secretary’s incomplete notes.  Alternatively, the manager is in a much better position to distill a long winded Board discussion into a clear and succinct record of conversation.

Producing minutes is a helpful tool for a successful property manager.  In my mind, the process engages the manager to function a higher level.  Our daily work is fast paced jumping from one task to another with many balls in the air.  Taking minutes forces the manager to step back from the daily routine – to develop their understanding and clearly articulate the detail of any given issue.  It helps the manager refine an action plan for the upcoming weeks and appropriately connect with the Association concerns and priorities.

Posted in Condo Management, Photographs

Remembering Fall days before the Great Snows


Posted in Condo Management

Condo Fires Remain Very Much a Concern

This is a follow-up on a previous post regarding the constant threat of fire.  I personally have encountered only three fire in my entire career – so infrequent that the threat rests in the back of my mind.  Some quick research, however, reveals that from national perspective condo fires are a common occurrence despite all the precautions mandated by fire ordinances and common sense.  A random sample of events in the recent week include:

Louisville, Kentucky – An individual burns down his condo building started while boiling an egg.

San Diego, California – A Carmel Valley man is killed in a fire in his condo.

Seattle, Washington – A fire started on a third floor patio engulfs several condo units.

Jacksonville, Florida – 70 firefighters battle a blaze which started in a vacant condo and destroyed three units.

Sarasota, Florida – A fire in the upper floor of a condo displaced 50 residents

Hartford, Connecticut – A firefighter was injured while battling this blaze

This is just a sampling of fires over the week – there were many more.  So even if you didn’t check out each of these links just remember to keep fire safety in mind – it could happen to you and any of your residents.


Posted in Condo Management, I.R.E.M, News

Green Apartment Living : Will Condos Follow the Trend?

Economic conditions have placed a strong demand for apartment living.  Reports are that the multifamily housing industry has been doing well with even better projections for 2015.  Gen Y tenants with sustainability awareness are shaping the multifamily market and effecting the best practices of property managers in apartment communities.

Wind turbines in Palm Springs, California.

Wind turbines in Palm Springs, California.

The question is whether this trend flow over to the condominium world.  Will a green HOA increase property values and attract buyers?  A move to implement sustainable practices is more difficult when management only has control over common areas – a significantly smaller portion of the overall carbon footprint of the entire community.  Planned strategies offering an organized approach such as IREM’s  Sustainability Program are geared more towards multifamily apartments leaving Condominium managers on their own. It’s up to us to determine an effective approach engaging a broad range of owners with a common goal.

Posted in Condo Management, I.R.E.M

Condo Living for Some: A Nuisance for Others

Managing a condominium association is difficult enough without acquiring the task of “Condo Police”!  Protracted involvement with neighbor to neighbor disputes can be a draining experience.  One owner’s lifestyle can be another owner’s nightmare and who is to define the parameters of nuisance?  There are many nuances in gaining cooperation to follow condo rules and regulations.

NYC-02 The heavy handed enforcement approach, while effective in the short term, can lead to unintended results.  The saying “Good fences don’t make good neighbors” comes to mind.  Donna Burger has written a thoughtful piece on Defining a Nuisance in Your Community featured in The Community Association Law blog well worth reading.

Posted in Condo Management, I.R.E.M

CPM Awarded Property Manager of the Year

The Certified Property Manager (CPM) designation is offered by the Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM) after completing a rigorous study curriculum and meeting portfolio requirements.  Fort_PointIREM, an affiliate of the National Association of Realtors, is an international community of real estate managers dedicated to the advancement of professional property management through ethical business practices, maximizing the value of investment real estate and promoting knowledge sharing throughout the industry.

The Business Wire announced that the Florida West Coast Chapter 44 recently awarded their Property Manager of the Year award to Holly Costello, Vice President of multifamily operations at Balfour Beatty Communities of Philadelphia.

Posted in I.R.E.M

Fire: A Constant Threat in Condos

Having recently avoided a major disaster from fire I decided to conduct a little on-line research on condo fires across the country.

It appears that fires occur more frequently than I imagined – In the past week alone there were three fires – A Dana Point Condo in Orange County caused $500,000 damage, a Middleton, Ohio fire caused $65,000 damage, and the Spicewood Condo in Austin, Texas experienced a fire with as yet unknown amount of damage.


The point here is that it’s really important to ensure that your units have fire alarm devices that are properly working – fresh batteries and free of dust and lint.  If they are hard wired into a system make sure that you get at least semi-annual inspections – carefully observe the fire monitoring requirements in your municipality.  Try to ensure that your residents have a fire escape plan for their family.

Posted in Condo Management, News

IREM Panel Focus on Energy Benchmarking

Rising energy costs matched by growing concern for greenhouse gas emissions is driving major cities to implement Energy Benchmarking laws to achieve greater sustainability for the immense amount of energy consumed by the buildings within their jurisdiction.

The City of Boston, for example,  has a goal of reducing reducing greenhouse gas emissions 25% by 2020 and 80% by 2050. Its ordinance affects 1,600 building and requires all commercial buildings over 35,000 square feet and all residential buildings with more than 35 units to annually report whole-building energy and water use.

Building Energy Benchmarking

Owners that correctly benchmark their facilities will achieve lower energy usage resulting in a lower environmental impact, enhanced economic performance, and a competitive market presence.

This presents a major challenge for property managers charged with task of  implementing the process and was the topic of discussion  at a recent conference of the Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM) reported by Paul Rosta, Senior Editor of the Commercial Property Executive.

Posted in Condo Management, I.R.E.M, Sustainability

Millennials Lead Revitalization of Urban Cores

Urban sprawl has apparently peaked or ended.

Commercial clients are using real estate to integrate millenials into the workplace using core urban office space  for recruiting and retaining young workers.  The Millennial generation values places that are close to everything characteristic of the live/work/play environment of urban centers.

Millennials in Urban Core Districts

These are trends expressed at the recent Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM) Fall Leadership Conference in Orlando, Florida.  Full coverage by Paul Rosta of  the Commercial Property Executive magazine. 

Posted in Condo Management, I.R.E.M