Q&A with Barbara Barron, president and broker of The Equity Group

New York native Barbara Barron moved to Las Vegas in 1990, and has spent the last 23 years managing commercial properties. As president of The Equity Group, she is responsible for managing a portfolio of more than 6 million square feet of retail, office and industrial space. The Equity Group has ranked among the top three property management firms in Southern Nevada for several years.

“People often think property management is an easy job. It isn’t,” says Barron. “There are lots of details involved, and that’s why we’ve done well, because we dig into all the details. We abstract all the leases, send out the invoices, do the collections and oversee the vendors. We take care of any problems, act as liaison between the tenants and the landlords, and take care of after-hours emergencies. We wear all those hats.”

With 29 employees in its management division, Barron’s group represents owners based all over the country and even abroad.  “We’ve managed properties as large as 600,000 square feet and as little as 5,000,” she explains. “We manage properties for all types of owners, from mom-and-pop companies to large real-estate investment trusts.”

How did you become involved in commercial real estate management? 

After working for a title company for many years, I decided I wanted to learn about the commercial market, with the goal of becoming a commercial appraiser. I completed all the required classes, but had to find a firm that guided interns on the real world of appraising. A friend suggested a temporary assignment at The Howard Hughes Corp., so I took a detour into commercial management that ended up lasting eight years. There went the appraisal goal, and I never looked back. With the experienced tutelage of Ron Brooks and Gary Ray, I blossomed in the world of commercial management and am where I am today because of these two supportive gentlemen.

How has your job changed since the economic downturn? 

Becoming more knowledgeable about bankruptcy, foreclosures and receiverships is a must. Actually, 2012 was the best year we’ve had since I joined TEG 15 years ago.  In our business, properties still need to be managed whatever the vacancy rate, and our numbers have been extremely good. It’s tough to talk about success when many folks still struggle in this economy, but our business is healthy. 

What’s your biggest challenge?  

Right now it’s managing vacancies.  One would think without tenants the workload would be less, but that’s not the case. Vacancies entice break-ins and copper theft. Water leaks left undetected cause mold, and unattended P-traps can cause foul odors. It’s a little better now that tenancy has increased, but when we were really struggling, we had a lot of copper thefts. Sometimes entire HVAC units would disappear during the night.

Have you seen any signs that the market is turning around?

It’s inching up. Confidence levels have gotten better and more of the properties we manage have leased up. It’s not where it needs to be, but it’s going in the right direction, especially the retail market. There’s been increased interest from out-of-state investors.

What’s the most important quality a good property manager needs? 

Being able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, and juggle five balls at once while wearing thick skin and a broad smile.