In 1997, just after Barbara Hoffman moved to what then was called Fort Monmouth to begin law school at George Washington University, Beth A. Ford was hired as the Memorial Estates community’s marketing coordinator.
Hoffman, who teaches accounting at George Washington, knew then that she had stumbled upon an indispensable resource: a former fire-rescue deputy who had moved to Virginia Beach, Va., but would give her referrals for apartments in Washington.
“And my life has never been the same since,” Hoffman says.
Ford left soon after graduation to take over the seven-building community that she started as her own rental business, a post that she held until 2002.
The Board of Commissioners called her on the day that she moved into the most recent property, and informed her that Beth For Homes, LLC, her company, was wanted for the job of buying, maintaining and marketing all the condominium properties in all Memorial Estates’ buildings. By the next year, she was the condominium’s chief executive officer.
In the past 17 years, she has bought and sold 230 condominium properties; she is putting 20 more under contract this year. In October 2015, with another one-year charter ending, Ford announced she would not return to the General Assembly for another term and had accepted a position with Land O’ Lakes C.E.O., a company in Atlanta.
In her experience, Ford says, strong boards are essential to condominium board operations. “The board sets the direction, and developers should consult with the board and make sure that it’s in line with the direction of the condominium,” she says.
With Ford at the helm, she expanded and modernized management services to comply with standards set by the National Association of Residential Property Managers and the Professional Board of Councils.
I did my best to break it down to the nitty-gritty for real people and save money so they could get rid of expensive paper and start over with me.
Ford would not discuss board expenses, but said that she found the best vendors and paid them as little as possible.
“I did my best to break it down to the nitty-gritty for real people and save money so they could get rid of expensive paper and start over with me,” she says.
The mortgage market — “only 15 years ago it was nothing” — also contributed to the growth of the condominium market, Ford says. She recalls working with a lender who was “trying to help someone buy, but the board had asked him for more time” and he didn’t know what to do.
“That lender today is close to me, and he’s a building sales representative. The president of Land O’ Lakes is such a good friend of mine. Everything I’ve ever done or know about real estate I’ve learned because of him,” Ford says.
Like all good salespeople, Ford equates a contract to real estate. “It’s important to say ‘The contract is in writing,’ because in the process of writing it you can change your mind,” she says.
I will look long and hard at any condominium before I buy or sell because I have a story to tell.
When Hoffman gets wind of a potential buyer coming into the office for a meeting, “I will look long and hard at any condominium before I buy or sell because I have a story to tell,” she says. She recounts a successful transaction in which a prospective owner would only complete the purchase if the condominium purchase was made the same day as the apartment purchase, along with a complimentary bathroom remodel for the apartment buyer.
Ford’s handling of the situation with the deal with the condo buyer, who wished to pay him the same in cash that she paid her condominium deposit, was not just strong business ethics but also encouraged the buyer to own the property, Hoffman says. “She was able to say that money goes along with owning a home,” Hoffman says.
Nowadays, Ford concentrates on management services, making sure that the division is still competitive.
“There are condominium boards who are very reactive to the market. One trustee has a hard time seeing the long term,” she says. But Ford, a former firefighter, says that “landlords” should like living in their units so that they need to do whatever it takes to keep them in better shape.
On the importance of maintenance, Ford says, “I’m