In Strata, Bigger is Never Better

I feel like I’m shadowing the “Stratafied” column in The Vancouver Sun. That’s a hats off to the writer, Suzanne Morphet and her editor because she writes about important issues and the newspaper publishes the subject columns in a very timely manner.But for all the respect I can spread for the effort, I always find a reason to blog about some of the assertions that glare at me from the newsprint.

Take last week’s column for example.

It appears a well known property management company is teaming up with an American company based in Florida.That in itself is not comforting at all but it is the reason for the excitement that just makes me shake my head in disbelief: the value-add. Apparently, Canadian strata owners are figuratively starving for —-wait for it…..”concierge-like technology”. The example shared in the column discussed how a larger American company was better equipped to broadcast an emergency to large numbers of owners quickly. Are you kidding me?

Strata owners cannot even get basic service from property management. These guys don’t return calls, send auto-replies to email, are always away on course or in meetings, and always, never fail always,defer to the council who only communicate with you if you like brown stains and stench.Boy oh boy, no wonder management gushes with the word, concierge – they’ve never seen the word in action let alone within the scope of software.

I recall not too long ago we hosted the Olympics. I believe two very large corporations battled for the communications contract. To even play in that arena, companies would have to be very tech-savvy. I’m also very aware that Vancouver is a very technically proficient city and that includes many brilliant software engineers within companies sought after by American companies eager to stay up-to-date. I guess the small, local property management company only did due diligence down south with a fish eye lens.What’s up with that?

I’ve never been one to believe property management was the diamond in the real estate jewel box but I did believe a well known company would be aware of the strata technology in its own locale,patiently waiting for an invitation to the table.

I am not the owner of a license earned through the Real Estate Council of BC but I know of many “concierge-like technology” options right here in beautiful British Columbia. I guess once you get a license you need to look out of the country to effectively serve your local market. I’d rather deal with a Canadian techy company any day, especially when it comes to my asset management. Geez we can’t get a handle on the management companies we do have without sticking a big ole American company in the fray. It’s a nagging feeling actually the combination of real estate, big management and American. Whatever could I be thinking of that is making me so suspicious?

Anyway,the article suggests the local company would not be able to develop a similar “concierge-technology” product in terms of time and money.Florida of all places,shares the same vision of a small but well-known Vancouver company. Imagine that! A company with a portfolio of buildings that number 250, housing 25,000 residences thinks as big as the company that services,”… 1.3 million strata units in 5000 communities.”.

But hold the train!

All I get from property management is that they work solely under the direction of council. Council controls and directs everything.Yet, this particular broker is gushing at the prospect of being swallowed by the bigger fish. What can an American property management company do for a strata owner in BC that a Canadian management company cannot do, because, I’m led to believe nothing of substance. Why would I want my Canadian money serving an American fund anyway? Aren’t we supposed to be serving our own citizens? Keep it in Canada?

Let me give you another one of my experiences. My property management company likes to think big just like the one in Suzanne’s article.An owner sold his unit and his strata fees were up to date based upon his reconciled bank statement. On the day the owner went to sign final documents, the papers indicated a hold back of funds for strata fees owed. Assuming a clerical error, the owner provided the attorney with a copy of the cancelled cheque. It didn’t matter. Apparently the small, local, big thinker property management required 90 days for one department to advise another department that fees owing had in fact been received. What nonsense! I understand if cheques are in the mail or in process but holding money because you are a disorganized, poorly run business and don’t recognize a cancelled cheque is not “industry standard” as the owner was told. Furthermore, if owners are expected to accept the management company serves the council, then the management company needed to be dealing with the owner through council in a timely manner – not in the eleventh hour.

Either way, small strata corporations seek property management primarily for accounting. Until small companies can figure out how to communicate internally, it baffles the mind that another small, albeit well known company, would seek to advocate the minimal service they do provide to a computer. I mean really, if a computer is so “concierge-like” whatever do we need people for? What we really need are data inputers, right? At least as soon as data is added anyone in the company can see it. Might have saved my owner some headache come to think of it.

If you ask me, the strata clients of this small, well known Vancouver company will pay for the Florida association in increased fees for services that software does in addition to the lack of service already prevalent. What will be the big management excuse for a computer glitch? Distance from the mothership or simply the best fall-back ever, “We only do what the council directs us to do”.So again, the paid professionals will serve the unpaid volunteers who lead busy lives without extra strata burdens of education and thoughtful, reasoned approaches based upon knowledge. Uh-oh….there I go getting all redundant for sentiment.

If your management company wants you to gush about American software and technology based out of Florida you’d be wise not to renew the management contract by letting your council know – in writing- that you feel so strongly about it.Especially consider whether or not your management company, at present, understands concierge-like by their standard of service. Then,search online strata software, online strata documents,property management online, online access in Canada so you and your council can in fact make a more reasoned decision based upon the needs of your corporation and not the larger than the business portfolio of one small business owner’s vision that leads outside Canada’s borders and away from Canadian entrepreneurs and talent.

Smaller is supposed to mean more connection to clients. Until smaller companies -regardless of how well known they are- can hold their service standards up to higher scrutiny, the last thing they should be considering is greed hopping with American technology to serve the bottom line. In strata, bigger and US based is never better for Canadian strata owners.

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One comment on “In Strata, Bigger is Never Better
  1. Johnny Stork says:

    I agree with all of your points StrataLife! IMHO there is absolutely nothing of value (other than the growing bank accounts of Crosby owners) by shifting local, BC/Canada based strata management to a US company! This is bad on so many obvious levels, including the incompatibility of Canadian Privacy Laws with the US Patriot Act. In other words, Canadian strata owners who utilize the services of a US management company give up many of their Canadian privacy rights, over to the US Patriot Act. There are also many, many technological, management and collaboration tools available to BC management companies, which would significantly improve, streamline and reduce costs for strata corporations, while also improving transparency, collaboration and SPA compliance. If they were so inclined that is.

    “Once Canadians’ personal information is transferred to the United States, it is subject to U.S. law, including the Patriot Act.” (http://library.findlaw.com/2005/May/10/245866.html)

    “Those who handle individuals’ personal information, including financial details, in the course of business are required to treat that information in accordance with Canada’s privacy laws. This includes obtaining each individual’s consent to the purposes for which, and persons to whom, this information is disclosed. If this information is transferred for storage or processing, or otherwise shared with a U.S. or U.S.-controlled Canadian company (collectively, a “U.S.-linked” company), there is a risk that the U.S.-linked company could be compelled to disclose that information to U.S. authorities without the individual’s knowledge or consent.”
    (http://library.findlaw.com/2005/May/10/245866.html)

    Canadian Privacy Laws and the US Patriot Act:

    http://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/pubs_pol/gospubs/TBM_128/usapa/faq-eng.asp

    http://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/pubs_pol/gospubs/TBM_128/pm-prp/pm-prp01-eng.asp

    Like

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