New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community
Bill Morris in Board Operations on July 14, 2022
After disastrous experiences serving on three condo boards in Brooklyn, Lindsay Liu told herself there has to be a better way to run a building. Before we get to the better way, let’s revisit the disasters.
The first was a newly constructed, six-unit condo that was self-managed. “One of my fellow board members worked in accounting, so she had a forensic background,” Liu recalls. “She discovered that all the utilities for the commercial spaces — a cafe and a gym — weren’t separated from the residential units’ utilities. We got lucky that we had someone on the board with financial experience.” The residents recovered about $10,000 — and learned a lesson about sponsors and self-management.
Liu’s next home was in a 20-unit condo that was just nine years old but already in need of major repairs. To make matters worse, poor record keeping made warranty claims difficult, and the board’s relationship with the property management company was “unhealthy.” The biggest surprise of all: “The day after closing,” Liu says, “we got told there was a special assessment the seller hadn’t told us about. There were problems with the balconies and the roof.” Due to cascading problems from leaks, including mold remediation, assessments became an annual fixture.
And finally Liu moved into another self-managed condo. “I ended up doing a lot of the managing — filing taxes, getting the roof inspected,” she says. By 2020 she had had enough. She sold her apartment and bought into a two-family townhouse.
Which brings us to the better way to run a building. Liu, 34, had been working as a consultant, helping clients such as Google, Amazon and the National Basketball Association develop websites and mobile apps. She also bought, renovated and sold real estate on the side. After developing software for a stock-trading startup, Liu decided it was time to meld her interests in technology and real estate, and so she approached a college friend and former roommate, Vika Kovalchuk Zamparelli, who was leaving a job at Facebook. Together they decided to start a company called Super that would offer software designed to streamline the work load of boards and property managers at co-ops, condos and homeowners associations.
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“We have built an operating system for buildings,” Liu says. “We started by looking at day-to-day maintenance tasks and compliance with city regulations, inspections and filings. We developed governance tools — for planning meetings, recording minutes, polling board members on such decisions as hiring a contractor and then conveying those decisions to the property manager.”
The software also has a system for consolidating all in-house emails and texts and creating a historical record. “That data,” Liu says, “should be the property of the building, not just one individual.” There are also compliance trackers and reminders, and an automated system to create and assign basic maintenance and repair tasks.
Super’s website also features articles designed to help boards find the right loan, bid jobs and manage the work, peg monthly maintenance, and much more.
On July 20 the fledgling company will open enrollment to its website. There is no software to download, and the website’s tools will be available to property managers and to boards at self-managed and professionally managed buildings. For buildings with a manager and fewer than 500 units, the monthly cost is $6 per unit; for self-managed buildings it’s $20; and the “enterprise” rate for larger buildings, developers, management companies and other large entities will be negotiated case by case.
Soon Liu will know if she has succeeded in turning her disastrous experiences on condo boards into useful tools for boards and their managers. “I’m extremely excited to get customers onto the platform,” Liu says. “I’m confident we’re solving some real problems, and as we continue to build, we’ll solve even more problems.”
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