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Growing real estate market to yield dividends for property management

CMS CEO and founder Jovany Antonio says it's an exciting time to be working in real estate in Cambodia, with growing residential supply set to raise the bar for the level of professional property management on offer. Photo supplied
CMS CEO and founder Jovany Antonio says it's an exciting time to be working in real estate in Cambodia, with growing residential supply set to raise the bar for the level of professional property management on offer. Photo supplied

Growing real estate market to yield dividends for property management

After working in Los Angeles’ cut throat world of real estate investment for 15 years, Jovany Antonio saw an opportunity to take his skills and experience to Cambodia. Establishing boutique property management company, Capital Management Solutions (CMS), last year, Antonio and his partners Pily Wong and Thierry Tea have already secured close to 200 units representing more than $50 million in assets under management. Post Property spoke with Antonio about the company’s aim to provide high quality management services to real estate investments in Cambodia.

Tell me about the company and why you decided to establish in Cambodia?
I’ve been in Cambodia a little under three years, and prior to that I was working in real estate and management in the US. While working for a prior client here in Cambodia in operational property management I noticed the need for a property management system. Once my contract was due, I decided to stay in Cambodia and basically expand on what I was doing in the US and create a property management company, which is what I have with CMS. We started putting the foundation for the company together about one year ago. What we want to do is make sure that we have all the support that the property owners are going to need and require in the coming years so we have taken our time and, at this moment, we are gearing up to start launching and working with developers and clients.

What work has the company done to date in terms of testing the waters prior to the company’s official launch?
We have worked with quite a few consultancy clients assisting in current construction and development in terms of improving the operational structure that they are looking for in the building. We have also done some consultancy work for [property] owners who are ready to launch. Now, we do have a few contracts under our account which we are also going to be launching by April.

Is the demand for property management services concentrated predominately in Phnom Penh or outside of the capital as well?
At the moment we’re specialising in Phnom Penh because it is the central hub right now for professional property management system. Later on, I think we will expand out to areas like Sihanoukville where you are going to have a lot of developments that have been negotiated or are underway. But for CMS now, our focus is really specialising in working with developers, condominium and apartment owners, and investors that are purchasing individual units in Phnom Penh.

Is there a gap that the company is aiming to fill in the property management market?
We are able to offer a consistent level of service for an apartment or for a property owner. There are a few really good companies that have really created a good example of what property management can do, such as CBRE and Independent Property Services. We are seeking to enter the market, focused on adapting the strengths of the current property management system being used now first, then adapt into it our international experience accordingly, hopefully giving us a way to best cater to the needs of the market for the coming years.

Do you see the property market becoming too overcrowded?
No, not at all. I think, if anything, creating a professional standard for property management and having more companies in the market starts to raise the level of standards for the industry in general and with what’s happening now with a lot of new developments coming into play there’s going to be more of a demand for customer service satisfaction from tenants. And I think raising that bar would actually open up more opportunities for the existing property management companies that are already operating. I think if you’re networking with other businesses that have the same level of standards as your own company, then it allows for a better understanding of what the system actually offers and how it benefits property owners. In turn that actually helps the industry itself produce a better type of product for the developers to maintain their buildings and also for renters to have satisfied services.

With background in property management in developed markets such as Los Angeles, what are your observations of property management in more of an emerging market like Cambodia?
At this moment, one of the biggest differences based on my previous experience is that Cambodia favour tenant services such as housekeeping and front desk services a lot more. So property management in general would be just making sure the integrity of the building is being maintained and making sure you have a system in place to take care of that and take care of the due diligence of tenant responsibilities. That is one thing that actually creates more value out of a property management company; if you can support a full package of housekeeping services with maintenance and front desk.

What are some of the short-term and mid-term goals for the company?
Right now, our focus is really on being able to show that we have the capability of managing property apartments, condo buildings and units. So what we are looking to do is create relationships with developers to be able to network and work with the units that have been purchased as rentals so we can assist in the management process of that. Part of our goal right now is to work and get into the condo market in property management, and with that, we are looking to launch a website that is a marketing tool for property owners to actually promote and market their units. We are looking to simplify the way renters are able to find units that are going to be available in the coming years. We are looking to launch the website in April/May.

The Cambodian real estate market is developing at a rapid pace. Do you see any challenges or opportunities with that?
With challenges comes opportunity. The biggest topic of conversation right now is supply. So once those developments are actually complete, the next question is how can we properly maintain them and provide proper property management services to make sure that the integrity of what the customer is purchasing is maintained for years to come. The challenge right now is of switching from more of an informal system of property management to something that’s a little bit more thorough as far as support goes. We are looking to offer something that at this moment hasn’t really truly picked up or been accepted by property owners yet. Supply is just multiplying at this moment.

What I see is that there will be more shifting of tenants finding units that satisfy them both from the quality of the building and also the service provided. With that type of challenge, property owners will have to start working with some form of property management service that allows them to improve their customer service to either maintain the tenants that they have and/or keep the price point that they have to make sure it stays consistent for the coming years. I think in these times, professional customer service is going to be highly sought out and that’s definitely good for the industry.

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