By Rochelle Broder-Singer | 11/03/2008
The Continental Group made its name managing condominium and homeowners associations -- it now manages 1,300 across Florida. Now the Hollywood-based company is expanding into the trickier business of managing condo units for rent.
Trickier, because there are thousands of condos for rent competing for tenants. Continental's clients, often strapped for cash, have small marketing budgets. And Continental must try to persuade associations looking to pare expenses to invest dollars into sprucing up the building and grounds to lure renters.
So the company must get creative, using back-to-basics techniques such as posting flyers at retail strip centers and paying people to stand on street corners with big signs advertising free rent. Such techniques have helped bring them to 1,120 units in South Florida alone.
When Continental, a subsidiary of publicly-traded FirstService, got into the business in 2004, they figured developers needed someone to manage rental units for a short while -- while they converted rental buildings to condominiums or to rent out units awaiting a new buyer.
But as the real estate market faltered, the conversions and sell-outs failed and Continental stayed to manage the units. Lenders who took over units through foreclosures also began to approach the company to manage for-rental condos, and Continental started marketing its services to banks, receivers and institutional owners.
Last year, this division brought in 4.4 percent of Continental's $281.5 million in revenue. While small, the business is an opportunity for Continental to branch out as many of its association clients cut back. Foreclosures have left associations unable to collect the dues they need. Some 20 associations have dropped Continental's services in the last six months, said Stephan R. Titleman, president of property management for Continental.