Property Manager vs. Community Manager: What’s the Difference?

On a recent phone call with a prospective client, I found myself once again explaining that, at least in Oregon, there is a significant difference between property management and community management, and most of those outside my industry (and some of those it in) are surprised to hear this.  While there are firms who do both property and community management, it’s hard to do both well as these are not the same job.  So what are the differences?

Property managers deal primarily with tenants, reporting to the individual owner of a unit (or units) and doing the day-to-day tasks needed for keeping that unit maintained and rented.  This means that on any given day, the property manager might be showing a vacant unit to a prospective tenant, arranging for repairs to items inside the unit (a malfunctioning stove or washer/dryer, as an example), or simply collecting rents.  The property manager may be inspecting the unit after the current tenants move out to determine how much (if any) of their deposit will be refunded and what repairs are needed to make the property ready to rent again.  Property managers, at least in Oregon, are also required to be licensed by the state through its real estate agency, and the requirements to obtain such a license are detailed on the state’s website:  property manager licensing.

Community managers, on the other hand, deal not with individual units but with the community as a whole.  Instead of reporting to one owner, we work with a board of directors for the association, who provides us with overarching responsibilities for the community as a whole, and our responsibilities are highly dependent on what is included in the management agreement as well as the areas of responsibility in the governing documents for that community.  If the association maintains the landscaping of all of the front yards in the community, for example, the community manager may locate a landscaping firm who can do that work, pay them as the work is performed, and relay any issues or concerns that owners relate.  We may also develop an annual budget as well as run annual meetings.  Community managers are not required to be licensed by the state, so it’s very important to check to see that they have sufficient experience in the field and education (through Community Association Institute, our national professional organization:

While there are firms in the Portland area who provide both property and community management services, most managers do one or the other, but not both.  If you are an owner with a unit that you want to rent, a property manager is what you need.  If you are a board member of an association, though, a community manager should be your choice.

Bridgetown Community Management, LLC, provides management services to community associations and their boards.