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Rising to the occasion

Meet IREM’s 2020 REME Award winners

By <i>Journal of Property Management</i> staff
Rear View Of Business Team Climbing Stairs Go To A City. Business Concept

In this time of extraordinary challenges, it’s good to know that real estate managers have risen to the occasion with creativity, innovation, and commitment to professional excellence. IREM celebrates this year’s best of the best with the REME Awards, recognizing exceptional performance by companies and individuals.

CPM of the Year: Michael DiGiacomo

Michael DiGiacomo, CPM

Like many property management professionals, Michael DiGiacomo, CPM, stumbled into real estate when he took a job as a resident director at a student housing community 14 years ago. Today, DiGiacomo is vice president of student and senior housing with United Plus Property Management, LLC (UPPM), covering more than 3,000 units and 2,000 student beds across eight states. He credits his quick rise within his company to the skills he’s learned through his IREM education. But IREM can’t take all the credit—his colleagues describe him as charismatic, approachable, patient, and a natural born leader.

DiGiacomo joined IREM early in his career (in 2010), achieved CPM certification in 2017, and became IREM New York Capital Region Chapter president in 2019. With a primary goal as chapter president to grow membership, 58 new members have already joined IREM under his leadership. He brings his energy and enthusiasm for IREM to industry events, seminars, and conferences, and he always mentions the boost IREM has given his career in media interviews.

His motto, “We work where you live,” is meant to give the residents under his management comfort—he believes their homes should be safe, happy, and comfortable, and they should be proud to call their community home.

ARM of the Year: Brody Sheets

Brody Sheets, ARM

This year’s ARM of the Year, Brody Sheets, ARM, HCCP, and management systems specialist with Pedcor Management Corporation in Carmel, Indiana, believes IREM is all about making a difference, and that it starts in your own backyard. He would know, since he actively gives back to his community and has been involved with locally sponsored events that include:

  • A Million Meals Movement to package meals for local Indiana food pantries
  • Bowling for Rebuilding Lives and Cornhole for Rebuilding Lives, benefiting the Ronald McDonald House
  • IREM Indianapolis Heroes for the House 5k, which benefits Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Indiana
  • The 2019 IREM Indy Golf Outing benefiting Agape Therapeutic Riding Resources

In his professional role, Sheets and his team have developed and implemented an online resident portal that allows residents to update their personal information and emergency contacts, submit maintenance requests, as well as view and pay their balances. The project was a massive undertaking for the company, and one that was met with successful results and elevated customer service satisfaction.

As an IREM member, Sheets believes ethics are an integral part of both personal and professional practices. Real estate managers are trusted with a wealth of property and data, and tasked with managing investor assets, owner property, tenant businesses, and resident homes. But if these key stakeholders are successful and well served, then so are their property managers.

AMO of the Year: Ayre & Oxford, Inc., AMO

Ayre & Oxford, Inc., AMO, celebrating 25 years in business, delivers exceptional results because of its great team. Since achieving AMO status in 2014, the company has had three main improvement goals for employees: maintaining ethical behavior, having a clear understanding of how each individual fits within the organization, and improving client and tenant relations. With the implementation of these initiatives, employee turnover has been minimal, and many of the new hires have been referred by current staff members—a reflection of the firm’s success.

With ethics training high on the list of priorities, all staff members rate the company’s success in each of the four categories of IREM’s Real Estate Management Service Best Practices. Room for improvement was found in the following areas, with corrective action taken to address employee concern:

  • Strategic planning: Management has strengthened the company’s strategic plan and communicates updates regularly
  • Management planning, financial budgeting/forecasting, and reserve fund planning: In-house training sessions have been implemented for impacted employees
  • Site emergency preparedness plans: A standard template to individualize emergency preparedness plans for each site is now available
  • Tenant and resident insurance requirements: New leases have incorporated insurance requirements
  • Code of ethics: All new hires must sign an agreement to adhere to the AMO code of professional ethics, along with other proprietary ethical codes

The company hopes that launching these initiatives, which have worked out so well for them, will elevate the professionalism of the property management profession and advance the real estate industry overall.

Innovators of the Year: Cortland, AMO, and Ohio Capital Corporation for Housing

Cortland, AMO, strives to please residents from day one, and that means ensuring a pest-free environment. One particularly elusive pest is the bedbug. They can go undetected for long periods of time and have been reported not only in homes, but in hotels, cars, theatres, and even on airplanes. The issues related to bed bugs can affect all aspects of life and business, and cases will only continue to increase due to:

  • Limitations and the cost of effective remediation processes
  • International travel from regions with limited or negligible remediation resources
  • The stigma that surrounds the reporting of bedbug issues

Until now, bedbug remediation was a costly and difficult process. But Cortland studied the natural triggers that cause bedbugs to feed—a radiant temperature of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, CO2 production and the expression of human pheromones—and set out to exorcise these demons. Armed with new knowledge on the ways of the bedbug, a device was designed for use in vacant units, before a new resident moved in.

Results have been so positive that the device has been patented and is currently in use. Cortland has revolutionized pest control and the real estate industry beyond apartment living.

Ohio Capital Corporation for Housing (OCCH) anticipated and responded to resident needs just as the country’s stay-at-home orders took effect. The company promptly decided to commit $1 million from retained earnings to provide rental assistance, and reached out to investor partners to see if these organizations wanted to join this initiative. An additional $800,000 was raised from investors for a total of $1.8 million committed to a Resident Impact Emergency Fund.

But OCCH’s response to COVID-19 did not stop there. A COVID-19 committee was established to innovate and respond to this fast-developing landscape. This committee raised awareness of funds available to families with children who were on free or reduced-cost school lunches, and also drew attention to local agencies that are offering rental and other assistance during the pandemic. Operating reserves were made available immediately for properties with an urgent need. OCCH’s response to the pandemic has helped many families stay in their homes and provides security and stability when they need it most.

In this time of historic turmoil and uncertainty, IREM is honored to recognize these exceptional companies and individuals as the best of the best in real estate management. They raise the bar on excellence and elevate our colleagues everywhere.

Journal of Property Management

Written by <i>Journal of Property Management</i> staff

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