After disastrous experiences in the service of three condominium boards in Brooklyn, Lindsay Liu figured there had to be a better way to run a building. Before arriving at the best path, let us return to the disasters.
The first was a newly built six-unit condo that was self-directed. “One of my fellow board members worked in accounting, so she had a forensic background,” Liu recalled. “She discovered that all the utilities in the commercial spaces – a cafe and a gym – were not separated from the utilities in the residential units. We were fortunate to have someone on the board with financial experience. Residents recovered approximately $10,000 – and learned a lesson about sponsors and self-management.
Liu’s next home was in a 20-unit condo that was only 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”. Biggest surprise of all: “The day after the shutdown,” says Liu, “we were told there was a special contribution the seller did not tell us about it. There were problems with the balconies and the roof. Due to cascading issues of leaks, including mold remediation, appraisals have become an annual fixture.
And eventually, Liu moved to another self-managed condo. “I ended up doing a lot of the management — filing the taxes, getting the roof inspected,” she says. In 2020, she had had enough. She sold her apartment and bought a two-family townhouse.
Which brings us to the best way to manage a building. Liu, 34, worked as a consultant, helping clients such as Google, Amazon and the National Basketball Association develop websites and mobile app. It also bought, renovated and sold immovable on the side. After developing software for a stock market startup, Liu decided it was time to merge her interests in technology and real estate, 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 business called Great which would offer software designed to streamline the workload of boards of directors and property managers of co-ops, condominiums and homeowners associations.
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“We built an operating system for buildings,” Liu says. “We started by looking day by day maintenance tasks and compliance with city regulations, inspections and filings. We have developed governance tools – to schedule meetings, record minutes, question board members on decisions such as hiring a contractor, and then escalate those decisions to the property manager.
The software also has a consolidation system for all emails and SMS and the creation of a historical record. “This data,” Liu says, “should be the property of the building, not just an individual.” There are also compliance follow-ups and reminders, and an automated system for creating and assigning basic maintenance and repair tasks.
The super website also features articles designed to help boards find the right loan, offer job openings and manage work, manage monthly maintenance and more.
On July 20, the young company will open registrations on its website. There is no software to download, and the website tools will be available to property managers and boards of self-managed and professionally managed buildings. For buildings with a manager and less than 500 units, the monthly cost is $6 per unit; for self-managed buildings it is $20; and the “corporate” rate for large buildings, developers, management companies and other large entities will be negotiated on a case-by-case basis.
Soon, Liu will know if she has managed to turn her disastrous experiences on condominium boards into useful tools for boards and their managers. “I am extremely excited to get clients on the platform,” says Liu. “I’m confident that we’re solving real problems, and as we keep building, we’ll solve even more problems.”