Local property managers tell customers to expect nothing short of a 24 hours a day, seven days a week response by trained capable personnel, and then to expect much, much more.
By Ann Zimmerman
Property managers are an integral part of any resort community, and as a premiere destination, Aspen attracts a skilled field of experts that are defining standards and expectations for the industry nationally. This is not a profession that was on any business graduate’s job radar 40 years ago. Interestingly, it is a profession born out of need, and these needs demand a wide spectrum of skills, experience, education, and abilities atypical for a niche market. By talking to three top local leaders in this field, we seek to familiarize readers with what is being offered and what customers can expect here in the Roaring Fork Valley. These professionals continue to set the bar locally and for other mountain resorts.
Clients time is valuable
Chuck Frias, whose company Frias Properties of Aspen is in his 38th year of providing property management services, agrees completely that high-quality service must be available around the clock. “We know our clients’ and guests’ time is valuable. We strive to have everything in order so they can enjoy their favorite activities during their Aspen visit.” And should the unexpected happen? “We have the resources to respond to service requests 24/7 to meet our customers’ high standards,” Chuck adds, referencing the company’s 120 employees and the relationships the company has with specialty service companies that gain impetus from the sizable company’s buying power.
“Among destination resorts, Aspen remains very special, and our customers expect a high level of service,” Frias explains. “Rental management requires a unique set of experience and abilities to market the properties and provide good reservations, as well as maintaining the properties. We were the first company to use a web interface for online booking 24 hours a day.” Frias Properties manages 35–40 buildings, and properties include luxury resorts like the Dancing Bear, Hyatt Grand, St. Regis Club, and the Ritz-Carlton, as well as private residences. When asked what services sets Frias Properties apart, Chuck Frias mentions the company provides all services that a hotel would provide, such as daily maid, concierge, and airport-pickup services, as well as offering full health club privileges. In addition, Frias Properties is a real estate firm and provides all services expected of a licensed brokerage.
During Chuck’s decades of working in Aspen, he has seen a number of changes in the property management field. “Certainly our clients are more sophisticated and expect full service. Some smaller firms couldn’t provide the services expected or the marketing service to maintain strong occupancies, and they have been absorbed or gone out of business. Also, Aspen is losing rental inventory because property values increased, as did the quality of improvements, and owners did not want the wear and tear nor lack of availability for their own use. In addition, owners spend extended periods in their unit, and this makes them unavailable for rental. The rental pattern is also different. In the 1970s, all units were fully rented for winter by Labor Day. Now, properties rent on average 60 days before arrival.”
Transparency and Communication
Charles McCartney of McCartney Property Management, Incorporated, agrees with the change in rental pattern. “I definitely see trends to shorter duration stays booked closer to the arrival date. I have also observed summer occupancy and rates rising steadily each year.” Charles McCarthy has been in the property management business in Aspen since 1987. In his three decades, he has discovered that people connect better to family, friends, and generations by staying together during their vacation in a rented private home or spacious condo. “It is an experience they treasure and want to repeat.”
McCartney Property Management manages short-term rentals, services non-rentals in buildings it manages, and manages condominium associations. McCartney credits his staff for creating good relationships through communications and transparency. The staff includes a field manager that has been with him for 17 years, internal housekeeping, in-house maintenance, and a team of contracted specialists that includes an arborist. He reiterated that 24-hour on-call service is essential. “It’s vital to be available and to be current with Internet technology. We reach out with additional information on community events and vacation advice, and identify babysitting through our concierge services.”
When asked what makes a good property manager, Charles McCartney responds that it is a broad sweeping background. “Among other things, it helps to have a background in light contracting, a good understanding of business law, and a willingness to stay on top of statutory requirements such as the measure the Aspen City Council recently passed for property rentals by owner to abide by the tax laws.” McCartney actively participates in national, statewide, and local professional organizations to stay abreast of his field, including Vacation Rental Managers Association, the American Hotel & Lodging Association, Colorado Hotel & Lodging Association, International Marketing Alliance, Aspen Lodging Association, and others, and he notes he has even checked out classes at CU.
Matt Haag and his business partner Pete Voorhees have seen the quality of property management services rise in the valley since starting in business seven years ago. “I don’t know if expectations have changed, but the quality of service is certainly higher,” remarks Haag. He and Voorhees founded Aspen Property Management to provide full-service management for single-family homes. The company does not get involved with rentals or multi-family units. “We started out checking in on homes for friends, and we began the business because there was a demand. Now we cater to a specific clientele that has very high expectations. Our business model is one-call service, meaning that we simply take care of everything.”
Everything means Aspen Property Management takes care of the outside and inside, provides concierge services inclusive of concert tickets and organizing parties, maintains homes ready for arrival at any time, and takes on construction. “We recruit from the construction industry,” explains Matt Haag. “They have knowledge of homes from the ground up, and they identify the potential for problems before they arise. We have carpenters for maintenance and small remodels on staff. In addition, we employ our own housekeeping staff to ensure our standards.”
When asked how he would advise a homeowner seeking to retain property management services, Matt’s advice was quick and direct. “More than anything, look for a professional company—one that is run like a business. Accept no weak areas including in-house services, billing, and communication. Check up that the company has the ability to respond quickly and immediately. Services must be available 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, and seven days a week. It is a necessity.”