Property Management vs. Community Management: The Similarities and Differences

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Despite the jobs featuring related tasks, property management and community management have some differences worth examining

Key takeaways

  • Property managers and community managers have similar responsibilities
  • Scale is the main difference between the two
  • Community management often deals with more extensive projects
  • Examining the differences helps you understand the scope of these jobs

The terms property manager and community manager are sometimes used interchangeably. It’s easy to make this mistake because both jobs can involve handling the day-to-day operations of properties on behalf of a client.

However, marketing yourself as a property manager when you actually offer community management services could confuse HOAs and lead to fewer opportunities for your firm. Community managers typically do a bit more because they’re working on a larger scale, and that’s what HOA boards will be looking for when making a hire.

Knowing the similarities and differences between these jobs will help you market yourself to the right clients. Here’s a closer look at property management vs community management.

The role of a property manager

Property managers are more focused on the day-to-day than the big picture. For example, a property manager might manage rental units within an apartment complex, dealing with individual tenants and their needs. This job often includes handling repairs, collecting rent, distributing notices, and assisting with anything else the property owners require. As a result, the property manager functions as a representative of the landlord. 

A property manager might also fill vacancies within a complex, delegate tasks to employees, hire cleaning crews and contractors, and maintain individual properties. Coordinating move-ins and move-outs, inspecting units for damage, and collecting and returning security deposits are also part of the job. 

In short, a property manager does everything an individual landlord might do. They just act in the landlord’s place. The job seems large, but it’s actually smaller in scale than a community manager.

What a community manager does

Community managers have a broader focus than property managers because they’re responsible for the community as a whole. While a community manager can work within an apartment complex, you can also find them managing HOAs, COAs, and resort communities with significant amenities. 

Community managers might interact with residents, but that isn’t their primary duty. Instead, they consult with the association’s board, overseeing issues that apply to the community rather than individual units. Maintaining common areas such as swimming pools is also typically part of the community manager’s job.

While a property manager often deals with tenants as a landlord’s representative, community managers are usually in charge of owner-occupied units. So, the job doesn’t involve representing a landlord but instead maintaining the interests of the entire community for the individual owners. 

Because community managers work with community boards, they’re often involved in some financial decisions, too. For example, a community manager might assist with establishing a budget or handling the accounting. They can also bid out capital improvement projects and hire service and maintenance contractors.

If there’s a big project within a community, such as replacing a road or constructing a clubhouse, the community manager might take care of the job from start to finish. This project could involve acquiring the necessary permits, hiring contractors, keeping tabs on the project’s progress, and relaying updates to the board.

A community management firm is also often in charge of enforcing community rules. So, if a particular resident insists on parking in a guest parking spot, the community manager might have to issue fines per the board’s bylaws.

By hiring a community manager to handle all these jobs, the board is free to deal with other issues around the community. You might think of a community manager as the on-site supervisor of a business, assisting with any operational issues that arise and allowing the board to focus on leadership.

The main similarities and differences

Property managers and community managers both work on behalf of their clients to maintain a residential complex or neighborhood. They’re both interested in the general well-being of the property and do everything they can to help their clients earn a return on their real estate investments.

However, the scale of the two jobs is much different. Property managers are like a landlord, caring for individual units and keeping them in good shape. In some situations, they might even be responsible for an entire apartment building, maintaining the property and collecting rent for the owner.

A community management job, on the other hand, is much more like managing a business. A community manager must be prepared to handle countless situations, depending on the property. For example, if the community has a pool, the community manager might be responsible not only for cleaning and maintaining it but also for hiring and managing a lifeguard. 

The community manager can also outsource certain jobs to professional firms, such as when a community requires security. The same goes for landscaping that requires expert attention or a parking lot that needs repaving. 

If you’re running a full-service firm that offers community management services, make sure you market yourself as such, so you don’t sell yourself short. You’ll also want to ensure you know where to find the contractors you need to keep the community operating smoothly.

Where to find contractors

As a community manager, identifying and hiring the right contractors to handle the tasks you’re responsible for is essential. You don’t want to disappoint the board or put community residents in danger, so vetting any workers you bring in is a critical part of the job. You also want to make sure these contractors have experience working within an HOA, so they know what to expect and how to handle any challenges that arise.

VendorSmart is a platform that community managers use to find the right service providers. Our team of industry professionals will vet every vendor before you hire them, providing peace of mind as you handle this challenging part of the job. Contact VendorSmart to learn more about our vendor management platform or request a demo.