B.C. property manager joins bigger league

Jane Thorne and her partners at Crosby Property Management weren’t looking for a large, multinational company to buy into their relatively small property management company in Vancouver, but when the phone rang one day last August, Thorne was intrigued.

“What piqued my interest was the value-add that they were going to bring in to the industry and to Vancouver that I had not heard of here,” says Thorne, the company’s president and CEO.

“They” were FirstService Residential, the largest manager of residential communities in North America -according to the company’s website -with 1.3 million strata units in 5,000 communities.

Thorne and her partners flew to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., the headquarters of FirstService Residential, to find out more, and liked what they heard. “For one,” says Thorne, “they had technology; it’s a concierge-like technology they call Connect, that integrates the residents, the strata council, the site staff and the property-management company. For instance, in an emergency, a strata manager can record a phone message and send it to up to 1,000 residents in less than five minutes.”

Thorne had been looking for such technology for a couple years, but hadn’t found anything like it. Developing it on Crosby’s own would take a huge amount of time and money.

“So when FirstService called, it was ase use the fo cific versions like ‘Oh my gosh, there’s somebody that shares my vision.’ ” A few months later, a deal was sealed and Crosby Property Management became the first B.C. company to partner with FirstService Residential. (In April, FirstService Residential announced it has also bought majority interest in Vancouver Condominium Services.)

FirstService Residential was founded by American Gene Gomberg, but its parent company – FirstService – is Canadian and based in Toronto. First-Service also owns commercial real estate giant Colliers International and has a large property-service division.

When it comes to residential property management, its strategy is to buy a majority stake in companies, but allow its partners to manage as they see fit.

“We’re very, very selective with who we partner with,” Gomberg told me from his Fort Lauderdale office. “We’re looking for people who’ve maintained their clients over long periods of time, retaining their business. We look at people who are well thought of in the industry and they have to have the energy . they want to keep growing their businesses, they’re excited about the future.” That seems to sum up Thorne, who gushes with enthusiasm about the road ahead, and Crosby Property Management itself, one of the oldest and largest property management companies in Vancouver, managing more than 25,000 residential units in 250 buildings.

Now Crosby is part of an even bigger league. “What it can give to the client is just amazing, in purchasing power,” says Thorne. So, for instance, when Crosby property managers want to contract for garbage removal, elevator maintenance, etc., they can bring a lot more weight to bear. Explains Gomberg: “We administer more than $6 billion in operating budgets, which gives us tremendous negotiating ability on behalf of our clients.”

No doubt other Vancouver management companies would love to have FirstService Residential come calling, but Gomberg says that’s not about to happen. “We’re very, very content right now where we are in the market; we’re very comfortable.”

Neither Thorne nor Gomberg will divulge details of their partnership, except to say that Crosby’s founder, David Crosby, sold his majority interest in the company to FirstService. ite is; loured

SION black & wh und colour or multi-co It sounds like a win-win for Crosby Property Management and FirstService Residential. But what about strata owners whose properties are managed by a FirstService subsidiary? I’ll look at what they can expect next.

Source: The Vancouver Sun

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