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Implementing a successful intern program.

Implementing a Successful Intern Program In early 1989, a review of the capital projects for the 26 properties managed by Realty One was completed. The review indicated that several major projects, ranging in estimated value from $80,000 to over $1 million, were scheduled for completion through the balance of the year.

Our managers each had full portfolios and burdening them with capital projects of this magnitude might endanger their effectiveness. A decision was made to provide some type of temporary support for these managers.

At the time this decision was being made, we had been receiving a number of resumes from young adults who were interested in pursuing full-time careers in property management. We reached the conclusion that by instituting one or two temporary internships, we could take advantage of the talented applicants who needed to gain some work experience while at the same time providing our managers with assistance.

Budget estimate

Once it was determined that there was some interest in employing interns, the rest was easy. The budget was drawn up for the program as follows:

The program was presented to Joseph Aveni, CPM [R], president of Realty One and former national president of IREM. He appoved the project, and we were on our way.

Announcing the program

The next step involving notifying the public about the program and providing sufficient detail to attract interest from potential candidates. We had not budgeted any funds for advertising the program. However, we anticipated that a properly worded news release, which would focus on the benefit of this free educational opportunity, would be sufficient to attract media attention.

A one-page letter explaining the program was forwarded to Habitat, Cleveland REALTOR [R], and Properties magazine, all local real estate publications, Crain's Cleveland Business, a local business weekly, and the Plain Dealer, the major daily in the Cleveland market. The Plain Dealer picked up the story five days later and printed it in their Saturday real estate magazine. The response was terrific. Within a few days, several dozen telephone calls were received and in a little over a week 18 resumes had been accumulated.

Interviewing and hiring applicants

Responses were varied although all were from college graduates or college juniors. Among the respondents were an attorney, a third-year law student, a practicing pharmacist, a recent M.B.A. graduate, and several candidates with backgrounds in advertising and public relations.

Our selection process reduced the number of candidates to five applicants who through their work experiences and cover letters indicated a genuine interest in establishing themselves in property management. All five candidates were called in for interviews, and two were selected for the program.

John V. Hribar was the first candidate hired. He is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati where he earned a degree in business administration. Following completion of his education, Hribar worked on oil exploration vessels for several years. He then began a brief carrer in property management. When the permanent position for which he was hired failed to materialize, Hribar obtained a real estate license and began selling real estate. He remained active in sales while working through his internship.

Lisa Virost was our second intern. Her hiring was delayed while she completed her bachelor of science degree at Kent State University: Virost came to us with considerable previous property management experience, having worked her way through college in the positions of resident assistant, coordinator of maid services, rental agent, and finally resident director of a student housing complex.

When both interns were hired, a second news release was forwarded to the local media. THe second release provided information on the two interns, discussed their future duties and responsibilities, detailed the interim program, and included a brief outline of the services provided by Realty One. This news release was picked up and printed in Habitat, a local weekly real estate magazine.


Near the time that the interns were scheduled to start, we drew up a set of guidelines for assigning work to the interns.

* Interns were not permitted to supervise any employees.

* Interns could draft product and/or contract specifications.

* Interns could meet with outside contractors, review specifications with outside contractors, inspect work with outside contractors, and under limited conditions, direct the efforts of outside contractors.

* Interns were encouraged to attend all condominium board meetings and committee meetings. Interns were paid on an hourly basis, and if they worked overtime, they were given compensating time off or overtime pay.

* Interns were permitted to draft responses to written tenant correspondence. However, it was recommended that all final correspondence be mailed under the signature of the property manager.

* Interns could provide input and research on the 1990 property budgets.

* While all communications with residents were to come through the property managers, interns could be present during such communications and could under limited circumstances handle such communications at the direction of the property managers.

* Interns could pick up time cards, distribute pay checks, and be assigned to other "running around," provided such work did not constitute more than 25 percent of their time.

The purpose of the Realty One 1989 intern program was to promote property management as a career of choice among recent college graduates. During their period of employment, we wanted to impart as much information and practical experience as possible. Therefore, we were concerned that each intern have well-rounded work experience.

Actual work experiences

Frequently an intern program is looked upon as a baby sitting job by the experienced property manager. While our managers initially did not openly express their reluctance to support the program, their feelings became apparent when the sign up sheet was returned with only one time slot filled in.

To overcome this initial reluctance, we selected one of our managers who had a very heavy work load because two of his resident managers were away from their positions due to vacation or illness. His initial reluctance was quickly forgotten when he realized that he could use the intern to perform a number of routine tasks and thus reduce some of his strain. By the time his resident managers had returned, the intern had proved her worth and was able to assume some more meaningful management assignments.

* John Hribar's experience. The actual experiences of the two interns turned out to be completely different as each worked under a different set of circumstances. John Hribar was assigned permanently to assist the manager of two high-rise condominiums, The Carlyle and The Berkshire, in Lakewood, Ohio. A $1.2-million garage renovation project was scheduled to commence in early July at the 549-unit Carlyle.

Being assigned to only one manager who had his hands full with major construction activity somewhat limited John Hribar's experiences. Hribar began working on locker assignments at The Carlyle. Over a period of time, the ownership of the contents of each locker had been lost. It became his responsibility to develop the communications, forms, and procedures to re-establish ownership and control of the 549 storage lockers. This project occupied approximately one-half of his time.

A second equally important responsibility was to develop and maintain a resident communication center for the purpose of providing regular and current updates on the status of the garage restoration project at the Carlyle. This was a full-blown assignment, which included maintaining and updating several bulletin boards, writing regular resident news releases, posting signage in the parking areas, and recording a designated telephone message for daily project updates.

Under the property manager's direction, Hribar implemented a very successful program. The low number of complaints at the biweekly residents' meeting and the tone of those complaints were indicative of the relative success of the communication program.

John Hribar received 21 weeks of intensive training in the management of two large-scale condominium projects. He was pleased with the opportunity to work and gain experiences in the management of condominium projects. However, the time spent allowed him to realize that he would not choose to manage residential property. John Hribar has gone back to his residential sales position, which was held open for him. He will continue to seek employment in the management of commercial properties.

* Lisa Virost's experiences. Lisa Virost had the opportunity to work with our other six managers on a variety of residential and commercial properties. In one way, her experiences were limited because she proved very adapt at working on annual operating budgets.

One of her first assignments was to assist in the preparation of a 1990 property budget. When it was discovered that she had the ability to follow the budget instructions, word spread quickly, and she rotated from manager to manager in the development of budgets for a number of our properties.

Virost also participated in a wide variety of other management experiences. Probably the best way to summarize her experiences is to copy a portion of her resume.

May 23, 1989-October 6, 1989: Realty One Property Management Division Intern: A 20-week program. Participated in the daily activities of the six property managers. Assisted in preparation and attended board of managers meetings, unit owners' committee meetings and merchants' association meetings. Participated in assembly and formal presentations of capital improvements projects to investing partners. Assisted in overseeing capital improvements projects, and in absence of property manager, acted on his or her behalf. Aided in preparation of 1990 budgets. Prepared correspondences including several newsletter articles. Completed several indpendent projects as assigned.

The detail in Virost's resume not only summarized her experiences, but clearly illustrates her interest in pursuing a career in property management.


While we were fortunate to bring aboard two young people with genuine interest in advancing their careers, we realize that there were obvious pitfalls to avoid. We cannot emphasize too much how much care should be taken to select the right candidates. Find people who want to become interns as a possible first step in a property management career.

Avoid students who are only looking for a summer job or who are only interested in earning a paycheck. Such a candidate is not going to benefit from the program and will in all likelihood hinder your managers. Our interns were told during their interviews that we were offering experience and the wage we paid would cover their lunch and gas.

An added benefit of an intern program is the free advertising which can be obtained through the local real estate media. When we announced our intern program, we received a 5-column article in The Plain Dealer and a quarter-page article in Properties magazine. When we announced the hiring of the two interns, Habitat published 1-1/2 column inches in their "People in the News" section. If we had hired internally for these two positions, there would have been no reason for the first two articles to be picked up by the media.

As we review our intern program, it is apparent that some of the reasons for establishing such a program were achieved:

* To provide assistance to our property managers who were facing significant capital expenditure programs on top of their normal work loads.

* To provide actual job experience for young people who were considering property management as a career.

We have made some new friends in the real estate field, we have provided l some young people with career choices which will allow them to more fully understand the field they are pursuing, and we have received some positive publicity in a field where an emphasis on the negative may be more common.

Based upon the results of the program, we anticipate that our intern program will be repeated in 1990.

William L. robinson, CPM[R], is the director of property management for Realty One Property Management Division. His prior management experience includes the position of manager of properties for First Union Management Company, a Cleveland-based REIT where he managed fourteen enclosed shopping malls, eight high-rise office buildings, and five parking facilities. In addition, he was assistant director of Cleveland Hopkins International Airport for a two-year period. He is a graduate of George Washington University in Washington, D.C., where he earned a B.A. in international economics from the School of International Affairs.
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Author:Robinson, William L.
Publication:Journal of Property Management
Date:Jan 1, 1990
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