On Episode 4 of Ciminelli Chats, “The Rise of Residential,” we sit down with special guests from Ciminelli’s Residential Property Management Team to discuss the company’s residential history, trends in the Buffalo market, and best practices for residential management.
We’re sitting down today with Artie Vanderpool and Noelle Hofmeyer from our Residential Property Management team. Do you want to start by sharing a little bit about Ciminelli’s residential history and how we’ve operated with Residential throughout the company in the past?
Noelle: Frank Ciminelli, our patriarch, began by building affordable housing in downtown Buffalo and the surrounding areas. Fast forward to when Paul takes over the company, he jumps right into the residential development in Buffalo, redeveloping old factory buildings into luxury apartment living with Bethune Lofts, Mentholatum, and the Sinclair, which led to our property management team becoming one of the top providers in residential management in Buffalo. We’re always striving to be the top provider of management services in the area.
So, what’s the difference between commercial property management and residential property management?
Artie: I think they’re a lot alike. We’re both responsible for managing the real property and the assets—physical and professional—while achieving occupancy numbers and the rates that are going to drive revenue for the investors and the owners. But people in the commercial setting, once they’re in that space, typically are not as connected to that space as they are their own personal living environment. I think an example of that is if you’re working in office, let’s say 40 hours a week, and you go into the restroom there that’s for you and your colleagues, and one of the stalls is broken. You may think to yourself, “Oh that’s been broken for a couple of days,” or “Maybe I should say something to someone in my office, right?” You’re not going to ever let that fly in your home, right? If you come home and your toilet’s broken, you’re going to call somebody right away. I think that that’s really the key difference between commercial and residential; there’s more of an expectation, people are more connected to their spaces and in their environments, and so the management style has to be that way. You have to be more personal.
So it sounds like it definitely could be more challenging. What are some ways that you exceed those higher expectations or try to meet people where they’re at in their residence?
Artie: I think first we have to know what they need right we have to know what they want. We know how the space is living for them and if that’s changed since they moved in because oftentimes people will move into a property and then renew with us for multiple years, and three or four years down the line that apartment just doesn’t live the same way for them as it did when they first moved in. One, we have to identify that there is a need that that needs an action, and then we own it. We fly right in to correct any problem that we have. We stay actively engaged from start to finish with that tenant in that issue, making sure that we’ve resolved everything and that we’re proactive in the future and understanding whether or not that maybe their issue is not isolated to them. Maybe that’s something that as a building, overall, we need to look at offering to all of our other tenants.
Noelle: We’re always looking for increased ways to provide better customer service, better conveniences, better maintenance, and of course, being at the very top of professionalism and all of our interactions with our residents.
If you have three different buildings, it’s a lot of different residents and expectations to manage. How do you ensure that residents are heard?
Artie: That’s a great question. We have always invested in the resident experience through surveys. We do have a survey partner in Who’s Your Landlord at some of our buildings, where tenants can go 24 hours a day seven days a week and leave a review that we will be able to see on any facet any number of things that they may want to review in their building. But, we’ve also done our own in-house surveys which have been incredibly well received, and I think that we typically have gotten at least 50 percent, which is a large number over our whole portfolio, of people responding back and what they’re looking for and what they need.
Noelle: I think what really distinguishes us from the competition is that we don’t just survey for surveying alone. We genuinely care about what our residents think about our service, the homes that we provide, and what’s important to them. I think that we do a really great job by actually taking action based on those surveys.
Artie: And holding ourselves accountable to the survey responses. They don’t go just out into the ether. When we get them, we really put them together – they’re all quantifiable. We know exactly how many people ask for what, or what needs we need to jump on right away, and what we need to look at as far as a budgeting platform to increase services and amenities, to Noelle’s point, so that we stay absolutely the number one provider of residential housing in Western New York.
Noelle: I think that Ciminelli does a great job of offering a multitude of ways that folks can interact with us. Whether that is quickly calling our service center here at our corporate offices, whether it’s running into the property management team that’s on site every day, from our property managers who are plugged-in and engaged, tackling the issues of not only the ownership but also for the residents that live and breathe in the community, setting up attendant engagement. Oftentimes, we’re having events there, whether it’s for the pet lovers in the building or the foodies, we’re looking to engage both in a positive way, in a proactive way, but also we’re there for the complaints, the concerns, and the issues. It’s very easy to get in touch with us. You can text us, you can email us, you can run into us into the hallway, we’re there to provide a level of service no matter how you reach out to us.
Artie: Yeah, and I think that building, that sense of community through all of those actions really makes people feel at ease when they’re sharing things that they need taken care of or even positive things – just compliments – we get a lot of those too.
That must take a lot of hours and a lot of different hands. Can you tell us about the team and what kind of sets you guys apart as a residential team?
Noelle: Wow there’s a lot. I mean I think Ciminelli as an employer is unique. I mean they really are entrepreneurial. They’re always looking for an edge in this market, and they’re looking to hire the best talent there is around. So starting off with a strong team is going out and recruiting with the help of our HR department to find the most qualified people, and then really putting them in roles that they’re suited for. Artie, you’ve got a very diverse team of property managers and leasers, you know they play a very important role each and every day, where a lot of companies, it’s kind of one and done. You have one person who’s wearing many hats, and they’re just unable to provide the level of service that we’re going for.
Artie: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, what sets us apart? We care. We care about our residents, we care about our buildings, and we care about the experience that residents and their guests will have in our buildings. We’ve got an incredibly powerful team of residential property managers, not only for our market rate residential properties in Bethune, Sinclair, and Mentholatum, but also for the homeowners’ associations, the condos, and cooperative buildings that we manage. I think collectively on our team we’re somewhere at over 100 years of combined experience working in the residential property management industry. I don’t know that there are a lot of other companies that could say that.
Noelle: Our team is driven. I mean, they’re out there getting certified as real estate salespersons, they’re getting certified association management accreditations, they’re getting NAA accreditations. They’re striving to be the best possible team that they can be and provide the highest most professional level of service to our customers that you can find.
Artie: Yeah, and they do. I think that they embody that innovative entrepreneurial spirit that Ciminelli cultivates from the top down.
Noelle: Yeah, absolutely.
It’s super impressive. What’s the current reach of the residential team?
Artie: We manage a really diverse portfolio, like I said, including condos, cooperative buildings, homeowner associations, residential class A luxury property downtown, and just a little bit feeding out into sort of those first-tier suburbs. I think right now we’re at 24 properties that we provide management services for throughout Western New York, reaching as far north as Niagara Falls and as far south as West Seneca.
Noelle: 3,500 residents, I believe, collectively. Each with their own unique need and expectations to management. We have everything from, again, Artie said co-ops and condo buildings to multi-family luxury apartment living, so as you can imagine across those different sectors of the market there is a need to tweak and change our management style depending on the goals of each community.
Is there a market leader in managing residential properties in Buffalo?
Artie: I think that there’s probably no clear market leader in Buffalo right now in the residential space. I think Ciminelli is definitely the market leader as far as commercial is concerned. We are aiming to be that market leader in Buffalo and in Western New York. I know that we are the best at what we do. I don’t have any doubts about that, but when you think about a household name and residential management, I think that Buffalo lacks that.
Noelle: Absolutely. I mean, certainly we have folks from the outside trying to come into our backyard and provide a high level of property management services. I think they will struggle because Ciminelli is homegrown – we’re right here. Paul and Frank and the whole Ciminelli family has been entrenched in Buffalo for a lot of years, and I think we have an edge on knowing what those folks in Buffalo are looking for and how we can get ahead and be the top provider of residential and commercial management around.
Artie: Yeah, I mean, Ciminelli is Buffalo. I think it’s that easy, right?
Artie: COVID was a struggle, it’s still a struggle for everyone, it certainly set businesses like ours back. We recently had a conversation about the level of customer service that people were experiencing outside of norm. I think the actual reference was about being on an airplane and where has customer service gone? Or, you know, maybe it was after they got off the airplane, I’m not sure, but when you think about it, it’s true. Are you getting the same level of service at the grocery store that you had before COVID? Are you getting that same level of customer service from a hotel or a an airplane? Probably not. Some of that comes from businesses who’ve reacted to COVID with shuttering the shop. Essentially just saying, “We’re not gonna try to overcome it, we’re just gonna say we’re done.” We didn’t do that. We never hit pause, and in fact, we grew through COVID. I think in finding out whether or not we’ll be the market leader, I think you’ll probably find out pretty soon because we’ve been revving and ready to go for quite a while.
Noelle: We never hit pause. We’re about providing value to our customers, both our residents and our tenants and our owners. We really believe that service is the way to get there, and I think service will take us to the top of the market here in Buffalo.
Artie: Sure, yeah.
So, what’s next for the residential team at Ciminelli?
Noelle: What’s next for the Ciminelli team here on the residential side? I think it’s to continue to refine our skills, to continually train our team, and to go out and let the world know that we’re the provider that they want taking care of their asset. Paul Ciminelli has taught us the Ciminelli way, which he was taught by Frank Ciminelli. If we’re not going to do it right, we’re not going to do it at all. So, we’re really dedicated to thoughtful growth. We don’t want everybody as a customer. We’re not best provided to tackle every management need in Buffalo, but for those who are going to see the value in hard work, dedication, partnership, and loyalty, we’re the right folks. I think what the next step is, is us getting in contact with those folks that share our values and providing them with great property management services.
Artie: And continuing to invest all of our resources and our commitment to excellence to keeping our current projects at the top of the market.
Thank you Artie and Noelle for sharing a little bit about the residential side and taking time to talk with us today.
Artie & Noelle: Thank you. Yeah, thank you very much. It’s not often that people want to sit down in a room with us and talk residential property management.
Interested in learning more about what our Residential Property Management team has to offer? Read more here.