100 Years Young Old Traditions and New Technologies Assure Management Success

100 Years Young

The New England landscape has changed considerably since the first condominiums opened here some four decades ago.

And the attributes of the condominiums themselves have morphed over the years; there are now high-rises and mid-rises; townhouses and lofts; condos in the heart of the city and condos surrounding sprawling golf courses.

But through the years of expansion and maturation of community associations here, one tenet has remained firm: solid management is the key to successful communities. That concept is well understood by C. Jerry Ragosa, CPM, and his team at The Niles Company.

After all, the Quincy, Massachusetts—based company has been in the management business for 100 years. Condominiums may be a relatively new model on the real estate scene, but good management is never out of style. "What has set us apart," Ragosa, said, "is that we have all the latest technology, and systems in place for communications and accounting. We still—as we have for the past 100 years—approach each account with a personal service and a personal interest that our involvement helps the community's reputation and enhances the value of the property. We don't just pay lip service to that, we actually do take the time, and pay the extra attention, to every property."

What that means on a practical level is that each month, the Niles staff discusses every property, "because some things that people may be experiencing, others may have experienced previously." Managers can share ideas and problems, and suggest vendors that have worked out well at various communities. And, the Niles president notes, it means that there are more than a couple of people familiar with each pro-perty so there's never a break in service in case of unforeseen circumstances.

With a century of experience under the company's belt, Ragosa says, "we've probably seen and dealt with any situation a community is likely to come in contact with. Experience does count."

With the explosive growth of community associations in New England, many owners and trustees are entering the condominium scene for the first time, and in recognizing their own lack of experience, are looking for a solid background in their management firm. Sidney Levitsky, who chairs the board at the Grandview in Boston, a mid-rise community of 63 units on Boston Harbor, had no experience in community association management when he moved into the new development. And, he adds, neither did other members of the board.

But they were pleased with the way The Niles Company had managed the property for the developer, and when the time came to transition to the association, that success weighed heavily in the process. They worked with a leading community association attorney, Richard Brooks of Marcus, Errico, Emmer & Brooks, PC; brought in experts to evaluate the building and to look at the property's finances; and even took courses to learn about serving on an association board.

And they decided to keep The Niles Company in place, creating what Levitsky called "a very peaceful transition" last fall. "We could have looked at other companies," Levitsky says, "but Niles was doing very well, and we decided to keep them."

With that decision, they joined scores of communities relying on the expertise of the company that Louville V. Niles launched in 1907. The firm expanded during the Great Depression, managing property for banks and other owners who faced financial problems during that period. Over subsequent decades, the company's reputation in the real estate arena grew, and when the conversion of apartments into condominiums boomed in the 1970s and 1980s, The Niles Company was transformed into a full-service real estate firm. Ragosa, who arrived on the scene in the 1990s, became co-owner, and eventually, owner of the firm as it cemented its leadership position in the industry.

The list of Niles clients is expansive, and includes both large communities, like the 374-unit Tremont on the Common, the 276-unit Longwood Towers in Brookline, and the 278-unit Hingham Woods Condominium; and smaller condominiums like Longfellow Manor in Brighton, with 75 units, and Sunset Place condominium with 44 units in Hull.

And community association management can include a broad range of duties—not the least of which is coor- dination of construction projects. "We supervise quite a bit of work at our properties," notes James T. Collins, CPM, Executive Vice President. That "quite a bit" amounts to millions of dollars of work each year, running the gamut from repainting to elevator refurbishing to major installations of heating and ventilation equipment. Those efforts have included a $2 million garage masonry restoration job, a $1.2 million balcony repair and exterior masonry work program, a $240,000 roof replacement, and $800,000 window replacement project.

When a Boston condominium needed a new cooling plant, "we get on board in the concept phase, to plan the job, to make sure there's proper engineering review, to make sure there's property legal review, to make sure there are funds available to pay for the project either through existing funds or bank loans or a combination thereof, or by phasing a project over several years," Collins said.

Scott Turner, who serves on the board at Ocean Place Condominium in Hull, said Niles worked with that association on a $135,000 roof replacement and waterproofing project. "It's obvious," he said, "they've been around and have expertise in these areas."

That background played well, too, at Seal Harbor in Winthrop, which needed masonry repairs, elevator replacement, work on the sea wall and more. "The property is 20 years old, and we've had ongoing projects," said long-time board member Janet Cristello. "We really needed someone with knowledge, who could coordinate, follow up and oversee the projects. "With Niles managing the property, we had knowledgeable people we could refer to, who would be there when we needed them, and who were flexible. They've been very accommodating. Jerry [Ragosa] wants to be involved, and if need be, he gets involved."

With its 100-year track record, the fact that Niles has "been around" can't be ignored—and neither can the longevity of individuals involved with the company. Collins has been on board for 25 years, Ragosa for 24, and others on the team have been with the firm for three decades or more. "We know that change is difficult; a lot of trustees complain that with other companies, managers move every few years. Our company has longevity when it comes to personnel," Collins said.

And, he noted, the company has a knack for matching managers and properties. "We want to see that there's a good fit" between manager and association. We don't want to short-change communities; we're looking for a long-standing relationship." It's a long-range point of view befitting a company that's putting 100 candles on its birthday cake.

Related Articles

Businesswoman climbs on a stack of books to knowledge. Education and professional career concept. MBA. Modern vector illustration.

Continuing Education for Managers

Informed Managers Are Better Managers

Hand with a magnifying glass to search for important documents vector

Updating Bylaws & House Rules

Keeping Pace With Tech & Culture

Man at hiring company smile for interview, with manager or boss to join team of workers. Young professional male in group of people, for job recruitment at business or office for growth in career.

Hiring Building Staff & Professionals

It’s About Chemistry