New England Condominium’s Condo Expo was the place to be on May 22, as thousands of community association board members, homeowners and industry professionals gathered at Boston’s Seaport World Trade Center to meet vendors, get free advice, and sit in on a wide range of educational seminars covering everything from pest control to foreclosures.
“Our primary goal is to present attendees with information and products that will make running their communities easier and more efficient,” says Yale Robbins, President of Yale Robbins, Inc., Expo producer and publisher of New England Condominium, “but we also put a great deal of thought into the bigger picture, anticipating trends and trying to broaden and build on our offerings from year to year.”
Henry Robbins, Executive VP and Director of Sales for Yale Robbins, Inc., added that despite a sluggish economy, overall attendance and interest in the Expo—both from vendors and attendees—has grown each year since the show was launched in 2007. “It's really our exhibitors and our attendees who make this show what it is,” says Robbins. “Their enthusiasm and interest is contagious—the fact that the event grows and draws more people each year is proof of that.” The 2012 Expo included 120 exhibitors and attracted over 1,500 visitors.
One of those visitors was association board member Dr. Paul W. H. Tung, who gave the event high marks being well-organized and informative. “It was my first visit to such an exposition and I enjoyed meeting the vendors and having discussions with them,” he said. “[Our board] plans to further our discussions regarding future projects with these vendors.”
Head of the Class
Beyond the exhibits featuring community essentials ranging from alarm systems to roofing, the New England Condo Expo offered seminars designed to enlighten attendees about key issues affecting both condominium and apartment building management.
Attorneys Richard Brooks and Janet Oulousian Aronson from the law firm of Marcus, Errico, Emmer & Brooks, PC, kicked off the seminar series with a program on “De-Fault: Exploring the Legal Aspects of Foreclosure,” looking at the intricacies of dealing with the challenges that condominium boards face in today’s economic climate.
“You don’t realize how fortunate we are in Massachusetts” to have the Superlien law, Aronson said, calling it the best in the nation. Rhode Island and New Hampshire have also passed super lien law, which are slightly different from the Massachusetts law, she added.
Focusing on the day-to-day efforts of association boards and managers, principals from the Law Offices of Goodman, Shapiro & Lombardi presented a standing-room-only program on “Who Gives the Orders: The Board’s Interaction with Management” and “The Effective Conduct of Meetings.” Attorneys Ellen Shapiro, Frank Lombardi and Henry Goodman outlined methods for association boards to govern efficiently as well as effectively, speaking about the relationship between the board and its manager and how to conduct effective, efficient meetings.
With every community keeping an eye on energy costs, attendees listened attentively to Monica Tawflik from National Grid and Vincent Graziano of Rise Engineering at a seminar on “Energy Efficiency in Apartment Buildings & Condos — New Strategies and Services” Tawflik spoke about the various lighting and heating upgrades available for property owners and building managers, zero percent loans, and financial incentives. Energy assessments offer “lower energy and maintenance costs, more durable and comfortable buildings, and lets you be a leader in social responsibility, and there’s lot of environmental benefits for property owners and for the tenants living in those properties," said Tawflik.
Living in Harmony
And association trustees learned about maintaining harmony and avoiding litigation at “Mending Fences, Resolving Conflicts,” a seminar sponsored by New England Condominium. Attorney Gary Daddario of Perkins & Anctil; Deborah Jones, PCAM, from American Properties Team; Bob McBride of The Dartmouth Group; and Richard Tillberg from the New England Association for Conflict Resolution served up food for thought for community association leaders.
“One of the ways to deal with disputes, Daddario said, “is to try and avoid them in the first place.” And when disputes do arise, he noted, it’s important that a board be consistent in the way it handles them. “Our goal,” McBride agreed, “is to keep you away from legal action. The role of the manager is to try and get the problem resolved calmly and peacefully, ideally.”
Seminars for Apartment Managers
Although designed for apartment managers, a new series of seminars attracted an audience from both the condo and apartment sides of the multi-housing industry — notably with “Roaches, Bedbugs & Mice, Oh My!” a discussion of all things creepy-crawly. “Up until about ten years ago I had never even seen a bedbug, now it's a major challenge for the pest control industry,” Michael Bensche of Braman Pest Control told the audience. Pesticides and heat are the two main tools used in fighting bedbugs, as well as roaches and meal moths, he said.
The “Full House: Strategies for Attracting and Retaining Good Tenants,” seminar featured James Butler of J. Butler Property Management, Cheryl Piper, Director of Marketing for First Realty Management, and Mark Kelly of Maloney Properties, “Internet advertising has really helped to effectively market properties,” Piper said, adding that “it's very important that you are constantly updating and checking your internet advertising.”
And having attracted tenants, maintenance and personal attention are the keys to keeping them and avoiding turnover. “You want communication with your tenants,” Kelly agreed....newsletters, surveys … you want to know how they're feeling, you want to respond to issues. On-line reviews have become important; a lot of people rate their buildings, you want to read these reviews and you want to respond.”
In “Maintenance Matters: Who’s Responsible,” led by Linda Stearns, portfolio manager for The Niles Company; attorney Jeffrey Turk of Marcus,Errico, Emmer & Brooks; and Sharon Breighner of Barkan Management Company, property managers were advised to be sure that all repairs are made in a timely fashion, and to document the condition of apartments before tenants move in. “If you are going through eviction proceedings the landlord is still responsible for any repairs in the unit due to health concerns,” Breighner cautioned. “Often times when we raise the rents, that's when we find out that there's a problem in the apartment; that's why routine inspections are so important.”
Gifts & Giveaways
As with previous exhibitions, the 2012 Expo delivered more than information, too. In addition to putting their products and services in front of association and building decision-makers, exhibitors offered a host of gifts and prizes to attendees. Exhibitor-sponsored prizes included an iPad, Red Sox tickets, vendor services and gift cards. A highlight of the event was the grand prize, a $2,500 contribution to an association’s Reserve Account, courtesy of Yale Robbins, Inc., and New England Condominium.
Next Year’s Expo ….
Even before the 2012 Expo closed shop and exhibitors started taking down their booths, planning and preparation began for the May 21, 2013 show, which promises to be bigger and more intensive than ever. Stay tuned to www.ne-expo.com for dates, more information, important deadlines and online registration.