Company: Maryland Multi-Housing Association (MMHA)
Position: Executive director
Education: Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York
Adam Skolnik is the executive director of the Maryland Multi-Housing Association.
Adam Skolnik has worked in the real estate industry since he was a young man fresh out of college.
He was a property manager at apartment communities, and later started his own residential home building company.
Today, Skolnik represents and advocates for professionals in the types of positions he once held. As executive director of the Maryland Multi-Housing Association, it’s his job to be the voice of rental housing providers around the state.
The organization also recently launched a free training academy that gives individuals the training to become maintenance technicians. Within two months of classroom instruction, the students are taught basic plumbing, electrical and carpentry.
MMHA then helps them secure an apprenticeship at an apartment community, and later, a job. The Service Training Academy’s first class of six graduated in January and have all been hired full-time by the companies they apprenticed with, and a second class of 10 is underway.
What about working in the real estate industry kept you there for so many years? And why make the switch to work for MMHA?
I loved being a property manager, it’s a job where you never do the same thing every day, there is always something new happening. I actually segued from the property management business and started my own real estate development and home building company in 2000 that was pretty successful until kind of the crash of ’07, ’08, which put me out of business.
And then I ended up as the executive director of the Maryland Multi-Housing Association. I had been a board member of MMHA for many years. The organization started in 1996 and I joined the board in 1997 and stayed on the board even while I had my own home building company because I just loved being involved in the industry, especially on the political side of things. The when I was in need of a job when my company went belly up I made a pitch to the board of directors and they hired me. And that was January of 2009.
As someone who lived through and was affected by the crash, how have you seen the industry come back from that point?
On the rental side of things, it bounced back really quickly. I think investors looked at apartment communities as a much more stable investment than other types of commercial real estate, and of course the much more speculative home building world. The apartment industry bounced back very quickly and has stayed strong and I would argue right now it might be even overheated. People are paying numbers for apartment communities that I find astronomical, but they are seeing good investments. I think what people are seeing, and it will start to wane because as interest rates go up people will look for other investments, but clearly when interest rates were low, people could get a decent return on an apartment community and know it was a stable return. If they picked a terminal value in five or 10 years they would still get some appreciation built into it so they are getting good internal rates of return.
Where do you see that market headed over the next few years?
I am far from the economist of the group, but I will say I see the industry staying strong. I think that on the transactional side of things I wonder if there is going to be a little bit of pullback. I wonder if properties can continue to appreciate at the rates they are appreciating. But I think Baltimore metro in general is always going to stay relatively stable. Rents have been increasing, but they haven’t been increasing stratospherically, unless you’re in the really high-end stuff that they are building downtown. I think the workforce housing stuff is going to stay pretty strong in terms of rent staying strong and occupancy rates staying high. But I wonder transactionally if there is going to be some, I don’t know that it will be a bubble bursting, but I would guess there will be some type of retraction of some sort. But people have been saying that for the last 10 years and it hasn’t happened yet.
You describe the main role of the MMHA as being an advocate for the state’s rental housing industry. What does that mean?
We are kind of a leading voice for rental housing providers in the state whether it’s in Annapolis or City Hall or Towson. Wherever the location we are working on the behalf of housing providers throughout the state to try to positively influence legislators to do the right thing and leave us alone and realize what good corporate citizens our members are.
How is the Service Training Academy going so far? What is the benefit of that program?
We feel we are going to be successful 80 to 90 percent of the time [with getting the students jobs] because there is such a need in the industry for trained service technicians. These are good paying jobs with full benefits. These are jobs that pay $15 to $20 per hour, they have 401(k)s, they have health benefits, they have sick leave, they get paid overtime if they work overtime. What we are doing is we are not training you to get a job, we are training you to have a career in an industry that desperately wants them in the industry.