The Woman Driving Smarter Property Management In New York

Quote from Chantel Figueroa, Owner, CLF Property Mananement: "Updates in Yardi Breeze happen in real time, which is incredibly beneficial. It’s like having an accountant, CPA and maintenance compliance officer all in one."

Chantel Figueroa is the owner of CLF Property Management, a company she founded in 2018. With a career spanning over two decades in real estate and property management focused mainly in New York and New Jersey, Chantel has a reputation for personalized, hands-on management, handling everything from property acquisition to day-to-day maintenance. She now manages over 70 units, a mix of condominium and rental properties. We spoke to Chantel about her unique approach as well as how she implements technology to drive her success.

Chantel Figueroa, owner of CLF Property Management

Interviewer: Tell us about your role at CLF.

I am the owner of CLF Property Management. I started the business in 2018 and have been involved in real estate and property management in the Tri-State area since 2003. As my portfolio expanded, I began receiving inquiries from homeowners and potential investors curious about what it takes to own and manage properties. I aim to provide a realistic perspective on the demands of property management. Interestingly, I have never spent a day or a penny on advertising via social media or Google ads. My company has grown organically. I regularly receive calls from homeowners seeking advice or assistance about the area.

Doing things differently

Interviewer: What makes the way you run CLF unique?

My business aims to offer a personalized approach to property management. I operate a turnkey property management company, meaning I handle everything from helping clients purchase their properties to preparing them for tenants. I also manage day-to-day maintenance issues and tenant inquiries.

I’m selective about the properties I manage and the owners I represent. Right now, I manage about 70 units with Yardi Breeze. I treat every property as if it were my own, which means I go above and beyond the basics. This personal approach means I highlight aspects of property management that owners might not have considered. Unlike other property management companies that may see compliance issues as a nuisance, I prefer to be proactive rather than reactive.

Small team, big portfolio

Interviewer: Do you run your business by yourself?

I have a small team of about five or six people. I have a bookkeeper and contract work when necessary. But one factor that sets my company apart is that it’s a woman- and minority-owned business. There aren’t many women in property management leadership, especially those with an extensive construction background. I know a bit about plumbing, HVAC, carpentry, electrical and more. This allows me to inspect and evaluate properties with a contractor’s eye, identifying potential maintenance needs, day-to-day issues and long-term capital improvements that might be necessary.

For quite some time, I’ve often remarked on my role as the lone woman navigating a predominantly male-dominated field. My focus has primarily been on the construction aspect, where I often found myself as the sole female member among the teams I oversee and lead. Further, in the realm of property management, most people lean on external parties such as vendors or contractors. However, I prefer to possess a breadth of knowledge across various domains, allowing me to undertake a wider array of tasks independently.

I always meet the owners of the properties I manage and walk the premises before agreeing to draft a proposal. I need to ensure both parties are passionate about the property and the work required to maintain it. The working relationship will not be successful if I’m the only one bringing the energy and commitment to the tasks at hand.

Why Yardi Breeze?

Interviewer: Speaking of commitment to success, what was the main driver in looking at Yardi Breeze?

Initially, I had a list of about 15 potential property management systems that were recommended. I conducted an in-depth analysis of their support offerings and integration capabilities, which helped me narrow the list down to five. I saw a demo of each one, and Yardi Breeze stood out due to its user-friendly system and excellent dashboard presentation.

Some systems felt outdated, reminiscent of old-school DOS interfaces, but Yardi Breeze’s interface stood out. I was particularly impressed with how information from previous property management systems could be converted. What truly distinguished Breeze was its customer service and the onboarding process, which allowed me to transition my focus from operational logistics to financial accounting. The task was initially challenging, but Yardi was incredibly supportive during this shift.

They provided personalized, one-on-one training sessions, which were invaluable. It wasn’t just a Zoom chat or a webinar. It was real-time feedback and assistance, which I also extended to my bookkeeper. Any questions we had were promptly addressed with dedicated coaching. The support system felt robust. I worked directly with team members who were always responsive and helpful.

My decision around Yardi Breeze was never about price. It was about the level of support provided, and Yardi’s support is the best. When someone asks for a software recommendation, although I have a list of 15 companies I’ve vetted, and I always suggest Yardi Breeze.

What property management software can accomplish

Interviewer: What were some of the challenges you were looking to solve?

I needed a one-stop shop to manage all my financial tasks, from inputting an invoice to cutting a check. Often, I get requests from an HOA for a board meeting where they need the current ledger, cash flow, income statement and other financial documents on short notice. Yardi Breeze is excellent for this because it can quickly generate these reports with real-time information. It’s easy to navigate, so I’m not fumbling around trying to find or create the necessary information. Updates in Yardi Breeze happen instantly, which is incredibly beneficial. It’s like having an accountant, CPA and maintenance compliance officer all in one. The system can manage requests and present the information in a way that makes sense to tenants, homeowners, the HOA board and myself.

Getting started with new tech

Interviewer: How would you describe the implementation process?

The implementation process took about six to eight weeks, mainly because I only had one to two hours per week to dedicate to training and learning the system. This included setting up my tenant accounts, launching RentCafe and getting everyone onboarded. One building had an older demographic accustomed to paying by cash or check, so there was a bit of a learning curve getting them used to paying rent online. But they weren’t against it once they saw how easy it is to use.

The most challenging part of setup for me was putting on my financial hat to set up GL accounts. As I worked through it, I took diligent notes and created my own step-by-step guide for many of the setup functions. This manual proved very helpful when onboarding my bookkeeper, who found it quite comprehensive and user-friendly.

I consider myself a bit of a financial novice, particularly with the intricacies of setting up accounts at the start. But the fact that I could manage it and then hand off the tasks to my bookkeeper, who picked them up easily, was really beneficial. Additionally, I saved a tremendous amount of time being assisted by a tech who could screen-share to help me navigate the system.

One year later

Interviewer: What benefits have you realized after using Breeze for about a year?

My bookkeeper now handles a lot of tasks, such as inputting invoices and updating tenant information for move-ins and move-outs. She also ensures all reports and reconciliations are up to date. This allows me to focus on other aspects of my business. At any time, without needing to disturb her, I can access the system and print a real-time report of our current financial status, including delinquencies, expenses and pending invoices. This capability has been a tremendous time saver. I can handle these tasks outside of typical business hours, quickly print reports, create PDFs and email clients without involving my bookkeeper.

When processing end-of-year tax forms for each property, my accountant can easily specify what forms and information are needed, and I’m able to send the information over quickly. The time saved and the reduction in stress have been remarkable. I know other property management companies still manage their properties manually using Excel, and I’ve had conversations with others about switching to Yardi. The benefits in terms of saving time and reduced aggravation make it a no-brainer.

Everything is simpler with Breeze

Interviewer: What are the biggest improvements you’ve seen in your work?

The biggest improvements revolve around significant time savings and efficiency. For example, a task like generating a report that used to take me an hour or two can now be done in minutes. Considering I manage multiple properties and perform numerous tasks daily, the time savings adds up quickly.

If we were to quantify it, the process of waiting for a report or manually inputting data to generate and then edit the report could easily consume an hour or two of my time for each instance. Multiply that by the number of properties and tasks I handle in a day, and it’s clear how substantial the time savings are.

Moreover, I always like to fully understand and be proficient in the systems I use before delegating tasks to others, like my bookkeeper. This approach ensures that if my bookkeeper is unavailable, I can manage the system on my own. Thinking about the monthly reconciliations that she now handles, the hours of work saved are not just hours — they add up to days of time saved every month. This reduction in time and effort significantly alleviates the burden on me, allowing me to focus more on strategic aspects of my business rather than getting bogged down in administrative details.

Meeting business goals

Interviewer: What goals have you been able to achieve since implementing Breeze?

Breeze is saving me considerable time that was previously spent on the detailed aspects of bookkeeping. I started out in property management with just 25 units, and I’ve been able to expand incrementally. The time I’ve saved using Breeze gives me the opportunity to focus more on business development. I now spend more time on activities that generate new business rather than just focusing on my existing operations.

Future growth: planning for the road head

Interviewer: What’s on your roadmap for the future?

I want to steadily grow, but I don’t want to ramp up too fast. Right now, higher interest rates and limited inventory are increasing demand for property management — owners are holding their assets longer. During times like these, owners are not really looking to sell. They just want to manage what they have.

Breeze allows me to grow while concentrating on the crucial aspects of my business such as safety, compliance and customer service. It enables me to engage meaningfully with homeowners and focus on their needs without being overwhelmed by the operational or administrative aspects of property management. This strategic focus is essential as I plan for the future growth of my business.

Support matters

Interviewer: What would you tell someone who’s considering Breeze?

The defining factor for me was the exceptional support offered by Yardi Breeze. Yardi goes the extra mile by providing complimentary phone assistance to facilitate setup, address questions and ensure users feel at ease with the system. Their prompt responsiveness, whether through email or phone, distinguishes them from other providers. This level of support proves particularly advantageous for individuals less familiar with technology, easing the transition from traditional tools like Excel.

Breaking away from long-standing property management practices can be daunting, but Yardi Breeze simplifies this process. I wholeheartedly recommend Yardi Breeze to anyone seeking a straightforward solution.